Friday, 30 December 2011

A Very Hoardy Xmas

Well it was and it wasn’t.
Tensions usually arise in November for planning the Dragon Family festive celebrations.  Major Dragon hates leaving the Hoard house.  She treasures hopes that after a couple of days effort, Christmas can be had here.  The rest of the Dragons remember the previous years that involved either 3 months hard labour for me in a desperate effort to find the dining room or all Dragon visitors prepared to do a couple of hours panicky clean up while Major Dragon fetches Elderly Dragon.  A particular highlight was the year when MD had actually sorted ten binbags of clothes for charity.  I spent more than six months jumping over them in the hall as she found more and more reasons not to take them to the charity shop.  Finally on Christmas day, all the dragons lifted and threw them in the garage so we could all get freely in and out of the door. Five years or so later they are still there and the leaking garage probably has destined them for landfill sadly. 
After that Reformed Dragon began the campaign to just have Christmas at her house since it had been cleaned up. Took two years to achieve it by dint of much arguing but the last 3  or 4 have been held there.  We know it will be, MD knows it it will be but she still likes to dig her heels in and argue against making a decision till we are in the December Dash (feels like more of a 100m sprint by then) and RD swears hugely about getting the food in in time and everything that is needed for a family of mostly picky eaters.  And MD panics about driving over, what if it snows, rains, fogs? This year we added to the drama by instead of buying physical gifts for MD and ED (one to save the Hoard and second to save money since ED covets things, never uses them and will give them back to you about a week later) we booked a hotel room for them just down the road from RD. No driving home and MD would get the chance to sleep on a bed that isn’t half covered in boxes (she sleeps on about a third of it) and ED loves hotels and most importantly hotel breakfasts. She is getting to the age of not bothering to eat due to the effort it takes. MD panicked about getting lost, what if they didn’t let them in after ten, what if there was no staff over Christmas.  She panicked so much about that, that come Christmas Eve at 10pm she still wasn’t actually prepared for Christmas. No clean clothes (hadn’t handed them over for washing despite reminders all week) and she had lost everyone’s Christmas gifts.  Not that this is any surprise.  In general if there is somewhere we have to be the following day, party, family gathering, holiday, I resign myself to no sleep that night whatsoever. By the time I have aided MD and sorted myself out I usually get a couple of hours nap in the morning if I am lucky. I am so used to catching up on sleep on a journey the sound of train noise on one of those ambient sound apps knocks me out in about ten minutes.
But fear not Readers! Tiny Tim The Harassed Dragons had their Christmas. With gifts. And the dinner was only slightly cold and dried out after Major Dragon went on a small hotel hunting tour with Elderly Dragon.  Still, they were only an hour and half late.  Which is pretty good going.  I could tell you hair curling stories about the 8 hours for a 1 hour journey the last time I let them wander off by themselves. This grey hair is not due to age.
So what did we achieve in the Hoard since this post was mostly taken up with the Digging for Freedom we generally do to escape it temporarily?
Oh yes. And hopefully the first of many. I stride towards the new year, binbags in hand and a burning light in my eyes.  But the Saga of the Rubbish Uplift is a Homeric Hymn for another day as this post is quite long enough.
Our New Year Resolution is to have next Christmas back at the Hoard. (I promised this if MD agreed to Christmas at RD’s this year)
I hope that 2012 brings you everything you need and the appropriate storage place to put it.
I hope it brings me that too.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Ding Dong Avon Hoarding

Major Dragon is an Avon Lady.  Not your hoof the streets, ringing doorbells one, just selling to workmates and friends. So every three weeks or so another couple of boxes of stuff arrive in The Dragon Hoard.  You know where this is going don’t you? That is right. MD gets a sale book and gets spending.  She used to have dreams of a sale or an Avon party when she sold it all off.  Only it turns out when she tried to sell sale items, of course, there had been a reason they were cheap.  And of course, no party.  (Well maybe little elves could have one in the microwave. I would like some elves in here)  Very little was sold. And most of that wasn’t particularly sold at a profit as the folk she was trying to sell to regarded something for a pound as not cheap enough. So in a box it went. Then another box. 5 years later… well I am not brave enough to count it up.  I just stacked the boxes so I could get past them and carried on. It got to the stage that MD had no idea how much stuff she owned. She still doesn’t.
My sister (she should really have a dragon name like the rest of us shouldn’t she? Reformed Dragon? RD?) on one of her break and bin missions to the Dragon Hoard turned to Major Dragon while she was running through the excuses, about to shout, stopped and started to think. She went home and rang back. “Right. I am going to get my boyfriend to give me a lift over in a week. You have the Avon stuff ready to go and I will take it away and sell it on ebay”  This is a pretty big thing to offer since RD IS really a reformed hoarder.  Unfortunately she had to have a bit of a breakdown to do it.  Taking boxes of extra stuff into her home is no easy thing for her. MD gratefully accepted. But nothing happened. Gentle prodding got nowhere. I rang RD and said “maybe you should leave it this week.  There is nothing ready to go.”
And we waited.
A fortnight later RD lost patience and started shouting at MD on the phone who was all defensive and pointed out RD hadn’t been over anyway. This dragon hid in the kitchen till they finished snipping at each other.  A day was finally set. RD was going to get her boyfriend to drive her over after his work to collect stuff.  MD had another week to put together some Avon boxes to leave.
And we waited.
Two days before RD was due to turn up nothing had been done.  I was really torn.  It really isn’t my stuff.  It has value.  She buys it as xmas gifts and that is bearing down on us at great speed.  She really buys a lot of it for herself.  I wanted her to sort it in to vague price ranges. Say like 5 quid or under, £5 – £10 and £10+.  Three boxes and just lob each item in one according to value till you needed a new box.  In hindsight this was a serious mistake.
See, part of hoarding is being stymied by where to start to fix it. MD has a thing that she can’t begin something till she has made space for it.  Something that, with the current state of the Hoard is completely impossible. So she makes a grand plan. Then gets discouraged as her mind will not head to the really crucial bit of the grand plan, the actual point of it.  Which is probably somewhere round number 3 or even 5 on the list.
How did MD stop herself this time?
MD’s Grand Plan
1) Clear dining room (a room that is currently completely out of commission) this was to -
2) Clear living room (a room reduced to a single hamster track through and one free seat.) so MD could -
3) Empty out the sets of storage drawers filled with Avon.
4) Then sort it.
5) Then stack it up for RD to collect.
She of course, had added in a load of side “quests” like finding the expensive iron she has lost, possibly in the dining room. She put it somewhere as she hadn’t wanted to use it till the Hoard was cleared. About 3 or 4 years ago. Then her iron broke this year. So she bought another cheap one as the expensive one has wandered off.  But she hates it.  Most of the Hoard discussion is never really focused on since if you talk about clearing an area she sits wondering out loud if that is where the expensive iron is.  By the time we find that damn thing I will have to restrain myself from breaking and binning it so I can stop being haunted by the ghost of it drifting above the Hoard on little puffs of steam.
So we have an argument.  Where I point out it would be a hell of a lot simpler if she just tipped the drawers into boxes or bags and never mind 1) and 2) since WTF is she doing etc etc. (note: wrong thing to do. Great for a good yell, pointless for progress)  And she went into teenager mode of how much we bully her and her stuff and she can make her own decisions and WHERE IS SHE SUPPOSED TO PUT THE SORTED STUFF THEN.  Since sidling around it for a couple of days is far more traumatic than setting off a stuff avalanche across the whole of our ground floor and getting nowhere.  Ye gods and little fishes.
One day left. Still nothing. RD phones and I try not to sound like I want to shut MD in a storage drawer and running screaming into the night. RD shouts a bit. By 2am MD has lifted out two the aforementioned storage drawers filled with Avon and stacked them on the floor.  Right.
Avon Leaving Day dawns. While MD is out at work I head for a stack of Avon boxes used as a table in the upstairs hall. And find one whole box full of nothing but Avon books from about four or five years ago.  Ooookay. I have no idea why but she finds it impossible to recycle them.  I keep digging and sorting and compress the contents of the boxes into one large box for RD. 
MD calls to say she is leaving work.  I remind her that she has an hour till RD and boyfriend show up.  An hour and a half later RD and her man arrive, having been slowed by bad weather, just as I am dragging jumbo box down the stairs.  And then I fall.  Thankfully only two steps from the bottom but ow.  No sign of MD.  Has it all become too much for her and she has ran away from home?  Has she had an accident?  No answer from her phone (I may have left a swearie message or two)  Half an hour later there is still no sign. RD and I are both ranting angrily and apologising to each other for shouting when we aren’t angry at each other while her boyfriend watches with lowering brow as he hasn’t had his dinner yet.  Never leave a man unfed. I thought he was going to start chewing the Avon in desperation.  Actually with the stress I nearly was myself.  They were just on the verge of taking the box and two drawer contents and leaving when lo, in drifts MD full of righteous excuse “I work you know!” which would have worked slightly better if she hadn’t phoned when leaving work nearly two hours earlier. Harrumph. 
However it did work out in a crazy way.  Faced with three very angry people MD was suddenly filled with Avon ridding zeal and about 15 minutes later the car left with about 6 boxes worth.
We did promise MD that there would be a final decision made on the stuff and discussions of value etc over Facetime or Skype before it gets put on ebay.  But now the stuff has left we all feel that we don’t need to have it back.  And the gods know we could use any money made from it. 
A long long story of the last month at The Dragon Hoard. And a longer road travelled than most trying to part company with bottles of shower gel. 
But for us here at the Hoard, well, the end to this story? *looks at number of emptied drawers*  You might call that our very own Christmas miracle.
Of course if there are any elves maybe with time on their hands and people in dire need of eyeliner and moisturiser, please feel free to give us some further festive miracles.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Dead Parrots

Part of my decision to really start dealing with the hoarding problem of this house was to start telling friends I trusted about it.  That has mostly been positive.  Well, kind of. A few have stepped round it. One or two try and cheer at the little bits of progress made.  My ex laughs his head off at the thought of me managing to get the place under control.  Which I suppose is fair, since he spent quite a few years sidling round the hamster runs when he wanted to see me. It didn’t help our relationship much, I will admit.   The hardest one to deal with is my closest friend who comes round and sees the carnage.  He has seen it get progressively worse over the years and part of the reason why I started to try and get a grip on it was his pointing out how bad it had actually become.  He wants me to leave. Just pack my bags and get the hell out.  Some days I do too.  But I am frightened that after living like this for so long that I would take it with me. She has a problem and I have caught it.  And I think it is going to take both of us digging to get the hell out of this.  I understand my friend and I know it is because he doesn’t want to leave me in here.  He wants to rescue me.  Before I lose any more of my life here. He doesn’t believe my mother can ever get to a non hoarding place.  A fairy tale land of carpets.  The trouble is that I can feel his anger. The slight edge of a angry blade that cuts through all the explanations he knows since he has done his own research, to the why are things like this? It seems so easily solved.  JUST PICK IT UP. Especially to an extremely tidy person who lives in a very controlled environment.  No matter how rational he tries to be about it, there is that tiny bit  of contempt that he can’t quite stamp down.  He tries because he loves us both but even my mother has stopped telling him things like “next time you visit the place will be so different” and all those hopeful things to make it seem like this state is just temporary.  We all know better and his face doesn’t hide it any more.

The major problem I notice people have with folk who live with a hoarder is they don’t understand how you can let it and them get like that.  That is definitely the thread that runs through most of my confessions to friends.  The best reactions and support actually comes from those who have never seen it.  Even my sister who has overcome her own hoarding problems doesn’t really get it any more.  But they don’t have to have to have the conversations.  If you have been in this situation you know those conversations. The “can we throw this out?” conversation.  In its many forms.   Some days you will cry trying to have the conversation.  Some days you will laugh.  Some days you will actually throw something on the floor and flamenco it into a state were the hoarder will have to admit that it has to be binned. (this is generally my sister’s method. I am not always so tough.  Mainly as the recriminations can last years if she clocks on to what has been done.  You have to be really determined also have ninja speeds to break and bin before you are spotted.)

And sometimes you have to be John Cleese trapped in a world with Michael Palin and a dead parrot.  I was looking through an old online diary and I found this entry from 2009.
I am listening right now to the fabulous sound of clothes drying. Oh how I love you new utterly massive tumble drier, even when you try to drown out my music. Ooh no, sorry, condenser. I have no idea how it works but it is magic. And helped me remove yet another piece of dodgy furniture out of here since I had to make room for it.
After the obligatory argument with Major Dragon on the phone.
SD: Ok, this cupboard is dead.
MD: No! It is fixable!
SD: the internal shelf kept falling down and we have had it leaning against the outside of it for about a year now.
MD: But I want it for my shoes!
SD: With no shelves and doors that aren't closing properly?
MD: You could mend that!
SD: Mother...I lifted it and the base and contents of the cupboard stayed on the floor. It is 3 pieces of chipboard and a couple of hinged bits trying to make a hingey break for freedom. IT IS NOT A CUPBOARD ANY MORE.
MD: But...
MD: ...Oh. OK... Well make sure it is gone by the time I get home. As long as I don't have to see it leave.
At this point I was picturing her doing a tormented hand to forehead at her office desk, bless her.
It is now hidden up the side of the house behind the dead tumble drier where she can't see it. This will hopefully prevent her staging a resurrection with prayers and a tube of No Nails...
She didn’t manage to get it back in the house but it did live on the driveway for some months as I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it without her noticing…

Monday, 28 November 2011

Explanations, Justifications Yadda Yadda

What is this blog?
A number of things really. This blog is an attempt by me to document my path to insanity. Or is it my return to sanity. Probably both simultaneously.
On a physical level it is my wake up and scream at where I am now.  And desperate scramble to be somewhere else.
Mid thirties.  Depressed.  Living with my mother (Major Dragon or MD for short.)  Who is a major hoarder. 
Let me say that again. A MAJOR HOARDER.  We pitter patter and sidle along hamster runs through it. It is not just a bit of clutter. Not even a big clutter. I am talking about a landfill site with doors and a roof.  I don’t think we were always this way.  But it appears grief and mental illness does funny things to a person with a QVC addiction.  And it is catching.  Or possibly genetic.  Either way I am panicking at a view of my life lived in a 3 x2 square and one day finding myself as a pensioner and sleeping in a stack of newspapers.  All too easy a vision these days.
This blog is here to document my attempts to CLEAN SHIT UP. And gently try and encourage my mother to try and do the same before we are buried in here.
Which is really easy to say and less easy to do.
I should maybe link to the further reading on this at this point. Apparently hoarders are more common than you would think.  And depressed dragons sitting on their loved ones hoards need all the support they can get.  So if you are puzzled, looking at your own piles of crap wondering where the hell you start or just plain wondering what the hell I am talking about try these.
Where all things start – Wikipedia
 Squalor Survivors
American TV  and Show recaps for Non-Americans.  Much easier than watching.
British TV - after this I scent a Brit Hoarders show in the clutter winds.
Children of Hoarders
Help For Hoarders - Brit site, finding this very useful right now.