It’s a brand new year. Lots of opportunity to set new resolutions and goals. And also opportunity for reflection. I haven’t posted much in the last year. I’ve started a number of posts, and then just couldn’t publish them. It all felt rather, I don’t know, pointless. After all, the recent holidays were also a grand opportunity to accumulate and hoard more stuff.
Not much has changed with my Mom. Her health has SO many complications, and I’m positive most of them are linked to her living conditions. Every year, I pray this is the last winter she’ll ever spend in her house with the holes in the roof, raccoon infestations, and $8000 oil bills. And every year I can’t believe she’s still there.
She came to visit me a few times this year at my home. Over the summer, I thought we made a break through when she asked me to help her clean out her van. FINALLY! She asked for help! This is a HUGE step! Like, mammoth!!! Previously, she’d insist she didn’t see any problem with having her minivan filled to the roof with her hoard. But this year, she acknowledged something needed to be done.
I took her to a private parking lot and we emptied about 80% of the stuff in her van. Just pulled it all out onto the pavement and sorted it along the way. I brought big garbage bags and we filled them for various reasons…laundry, donation, and even garbage. I was so proud of Mom for being able to let go of some stuff that had been in her van for years…like a container of desiccated cupcakes she’d made for an event long in the past. We tossed the whole thing, Tupperware and all.
Some stuff she wanted to give me. Some of it was gifts she’d meant to give me for my birthday but had lost. I think it was easier for her to give me some of stuff instead of dealing with the emotions associated with just throwing it away or donating to the unknown. I accepted a small amount, but it still filled my own car. A fraction made it into my actual house. I admit I very quickly re-donated most of it. We filled 5 bags of garbage, 4 bags for donation, and were able to recycle reams of old newspapers, envelopes, flyers, and such. We spent 7 hours at it.
And I happily helped. I didn’t judge, and gave her positive support and feedback every time she made a hard decision. I focused on the progress, and joked with her to help make it a fun day. Then it got dark outside, and dinnertime passed, while we continued to sort. Time came to put the remainder back in the van so she could take it all home and actually DO SOMETHING with it all at her own house. Stuff she couldn’t bear to part with, like a plush life-sized golden retriever; a canister vacuum; patterns and recipe books; clothing; quilting fabric; yarn; sets of china and glassware which had broken; and decorative boxes for the “new” house she’d have someday. A large amount of Christmas decorations was in that mix, which cracked me up, considering she doesn’t decorate for Christmas anymore and hasn’t for probably 15 years.
It all had to go back into the van. And even after 7 hours, we hadn’t even put a dent in the pile on the front passenger seat, or even the middle row. She barely has any place to sit as a landslide of papers and lace threaten to bury the drivers seat.
I thought for sure she’d have more space, but I guess everything had compressed so much before, putting it back in fresh seemed to take even more space!!! She was astounded that after all that work, she STILL couldn’t see out any of the back windows! That we had to play Tetris to get in every last bit. That we had to hold the avalanche back with a hand and quickly snatch it out as we slammed the door shut. She was mad at herself for letting it get this bad.
She vowed to do something about it when she got home. But of course, she was tired after the long drive. And it rained the next day. And her shoulder hurt the day after that. And when she came to visit us for Christmas a few months later, nothing had been removed from the van, and amazingly, more had been added to it.
I felt so defeated. I just don’t know what to do. What to think. Or even what to say anymore.
Seeing her van even worse than before makes me worry about her driving the 3 hours back and forth to visit with me. It’s a long stretch of highway. What if there was an accident? What if she had to brake suddenly and all that mass sitting behind her rushed forwards towards the back of her head? What if the van rolled, and she got caught in a tornado of Christmas decorations, canister vacuums, and broken glassware??
And so here we are. I wish I had better news to share with you. I wish I could share my foolproof tips for finally getting your hoarding loved one on the road to recovery. But I’m still wildly baffled by the whole situation. I’ll admit it’s deeply embarrassing for me to have her van in my driveway…she doesn’t have tinted windows, so the hoard is plain to see by anyone walking by. My children find the whole thing very curious and I have no good answers for them.
I guess I’m frustrated that the momentum was so short lived. That over the span of months, Mom just couldn’t find the energy or emotional power to take out even a few things to make a dent. And knowing this means it’s just going to get worse because her health (physical strength) isn’t getting any better. I can only imagine what her house is like.