I was recently contacted by a producer for the TV show Divorce Court with Judge Lynn Toler.  The show is shot and produced in Los Angeles, CA.  Personally, I’ve never seen the show, but if you live in the LA area, this might interest you.

From the Producer, Sybil Curry:

We are currently looking for local couples who need an in home marital/relationship intervention as well as assistance with their compulsive hoarding. These potential couples say this problem is causing stress on their relationship. There is a substantial appearance fee as well as location fee; this will be taped in their home.  If you have any leads in California I would appreciate it.

You can reach Sybil Curry via this email address or directly at 323-762-7725.

Recently, a Not Just Clutter reader emailed me with her personal story.  She has realized she is a compulsive hoarder, and wants to make a change.  We’ve been communicating back and forth the past few weeks.  I am humbled this person has trusted me with the details of her life as a compulsive hoarder, and I am inspired as she shares her progress moving forward.

She’s taking great strides to turn her life around, as difficult and overwhelming as it must seem.  And as she takes 2 steps forward, there’s a tiny step back as she revealed she still feels shame.  I want her, and anyone else who hoards to know this:

Dear Compulsive Hoarder,

do not be ashamed.  Please let go of that feeling; it has no place in your heart.  You’ve had the unfortunate twist of fate which left you with a largely misunderstood mental disorder (and NO, that doesn’t make you crazy)!  It means for some reason, you have this extra challenge even though you didn’t ask for it.  Totally unfair.  But you didn’t rationally choose to end up in this state.  You’re intelligent.  You’re accomplished.  And you have nothing to be ashamed of.

I don’t think you’re lazy.  I think you’re probably overwhelmed.  You might be in denial, to varying degrees.  I think you’re probably creative, and can see great potential every where you look.  You might even be a perfectionist, with super high standards.  You take comfort in your collections, and you love the thrill of the hunt.  I bet you’re a skilled bargain seeker, too.

You have some challenges ahead when you’re ready to face them…actually, whether you’re ready or not.  Problems that just don’t go away when you close the door or turn the radio up louder.  You probably already know that; but do you know this?

You are not alone.

You are not the only one with too much stuff.  You’re not the only one who doesn’t know where to start.  You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed, misunderstood, defensive, or in wondering where the money will come to help you.  I think you probably have people in your life willing to help you, even if you don’t think you do.  And it’s good you’re not alone, because you can’t turn your life around alone.

It starts by clearing a spot in your heart to let others back in.  Place your trust in them so they may help you in anyway they know best.  They’re not out to get your stuff.  They may be confused, baffled, or as overwhelmed as you.  But they’re there for you if you let them.  People to help sort, make repairs, lift heavy things, tell you jokes when you’re feeling low.  People who see you as a good person, a neighbor, a relative, a co-worker, a valued member of society.

Clear space for these people, and you may find you have more treasures than ever before.

Good luck to you.  It’s a new year to move forward.  And it has great potential.

My Mom seems to find very odd things funny.  I assume it’s related to the denial that comes from compulsive hoarding.

She recently shared a gem which leaves her laughing and me terrified.  Her house is crumbling around her, and now, it’s:

A House with No Escape

Backstory: Mom’s house is an unusual design.  It’s essentially a bungalow but on the second floor.  The first floor of the house has a small apartment, and a large double garage.  Dad used to run his business from the garage, and it has huge & heavy rolling doors.  The front door is in the middle of the apartment and garage, and to get upstairs there are 36 steps.

I know this hallway by the front door is filled with stuff.  It was 50% filled 11 years ago.  The last time Lynn saw my Mom open the door, she said it couldn’t open all the way.  So, it was already a serious situation.

The Door Won’t Budge

Mom tells me the door has been sticking.  I get that.  With changes in weather and humidity, doors tend to do that.  But Mom’s front door is sticking so much, she sometimes can’t open it.  I know she’s tried sanding it down, oiling it, and a few other tricks, and yet, there would be days she’d come home and not be able to get in the door.  She’d push, and nudge, and probably curse, but it wouldn’t push open.

That’s when my senior citizen mother would have to try to raise the heavy-duty garage doors.  And then climb over all the stuff left in the garage from Dad’s business which was never cleared away after his death.  7 years ago.

Last Straw

So, finally, Mom got tired of doing this difficult task.  After struggling with the door again, she lost her temper and kicked it.

Wouldn’t you know…it opened right up!  My Mom is SO amused by this!

And while the idea of my elderly Mother turned ninja is amusing to most, I’m cringing.

I’m cringing because not only is the door sticking when she wants IN to the house, but also when she wants OUT of the house.

That’s right.  Should there ever be a fire, and by pure Act of God my frail Mother makes it past burning walls of stuff, down 36 smoldering wooden steps, and down a smoke-filled hallway, she still won’t be able to open the damn door to get out.

How’s that for a haunting image?

Jumping out a window is not an option, as all her living space is on the second flood.  There’s a back porch, but those wooden stairs have been withering in the elements for years.  I wouldn’t trust them to hold my purse.  There’s the garage, but again, the path is cluttered, and the doors are heavy.

Ninja Mom

I expressed as much to her.  She still chuckled, and revealed she did indeed have trouble getting the door to open from the inside.  So she tried kicking it again, and yes, it opened.  But think about that.  The door swung open toward her after being kicked.  This whole set up is compromised and needs repair, but since she was able to Hi-YA it open, she considers it problem solved.

She refuses to take this seriously.  And my fear of her being caught in a fire just got deeper.


Moving is considered one of the most stressful things people do in their lifetime.  I believe it.  There are so many details and loose ends.  My husband has moved 13 times in his lifetime…he says it really became so much easier when his family wasn’t attached to their belongings so they could pick up and travel across the country with only the essentials.  My Mom, however, has lived in the same house for 35 years.  That’s a lot of accumulation; never mind that she’s a compulsive hoarder!

Mom is comfortable in her nest of things, but the house is crumbling around her.  There will reach a point where she won’t be able to climb the stairs any more, or the roof will collapse, or the cost of heating the big space will become too much to bear.  Then, maybe, finally, she’ll consent to moving.

My sister, Lynn, no longer has a relationship with Mom.  So when it comes to selling the property and moving Mom somewhere else, the monumental task will fall to me.  Not only is it a tremendous volume of stuff to sort through, but I wonder if I can manage it while remaining sympathetic and understanding towards my mother.  It’s not just about tossing stuff in boxes.  It’s about acknowledging the hoarder has a completely different perception of the value of their belongings…and believe me, it can test your patience.

I was approached by a reader recently who offered the following suggestions and guidelines for how to face a move when a hoarder is involved.  I hope if you are in a similar situation, you’ll find these useful for maintaining your sanity, as well as your family relationships.

Guest Post: How to Face A Move When A Hoarder is Involved

There is much to deal with when you have to move a home, so the situation becomes a bit more complicated when you have to deal with a hoarding family member, roommate and so forth. Despite the negative connotation brought by the spotlight of media attention, hoarding has really been studied only in the past two decades at best. There is much misunderstanding, stereotypes and stigma associated with the condition and what it entails. One thing you should keep in mind is that hoarders can be very different from each other, both in social standing, marital status or age. There is hardly anything that connects the different hoarders than the fact that hoarding is a psychological condition that affects a good percentage of the world.

There is a difference between the hoarding of objects and the hoarding of animals (most often cats), however the basic principles are the same. This is a obsessive-compulsive disorder affecting the behavior of an individual in ways that often clash with those of their loved ones or friends. One of the first things you must keep in mind is that hoarders are very sensitive about their lifestyle and there are many factors that play a role in this. Whether its shame, denial or resistance to changes, they will often be determined to keep their lifestyle and will rebel against any changes brought by external factors. The following tips will give you some preparation and understanding on how you should approach the subject of hoarding in the least damaging way possible before a move: How to face a move when a hoarder is involved

  • Attitude is extremely important

You should begin by adopting an attitude that avoids judging at all costs, as well as a lot of patience. In most cases hoarders fear and dislike the judgment of others and for a good reason. For them this line of behavior is something normal so you should try to understand that when you approach the subject matter. The patience you need to exhibit is a very important aspect of your first steps toward moving. In most cases they will never see their situation the way you do, so you should stick to small, careful steps.

  • Remember hoarding is a disorder

Make sure you read up and educate yourself on the behavior and its background reasons. Psychologists are researching it and if you are interested you should look up books on OCD disorders that focus on hoarding if you want to go into further detail. The underlying reasons for hoarding go beyond what people consider messiness as they have a psychological trigger that modifies what we consider a normal line of behavior. The learned patterns of behavior hoarders develop are nearly impossible to break and their reasons are both biological and psychological in nature. In many cases items represent mementos of the past or more practical items they feel they need to save for a number of reasons. In some cases hoarding can be a result of some painful event in the past that forced them to replace their social connections of old with belongings and mementos. The reasons for hoarding may vary greatly, so remember that before you act.

How to face a move when a hoarder is involved

  • Solutions to moving

Remember to ask questions about the things they want to keep and to offer compromises that cater to their disorder but at the same time allow them to move forward. This can be done by working out a system that catalogs and makes an inventory of their possessions. It may seem like a small step, but it will be a good first one. Always remember that whenever something seems like trash to you it may actually hold significance for your loved one. Remember to be respectful to their wishes and if you can, maybe try to suggest they store their collections at a storage unit as a solution to completely going through them and overhauling them. That way they can have access to the things they care about and you won’t have to deal with things in a more severe way that would damage the trust built between the two of you. You should stick to an inventory system with descriptions and even a floor plan if some of the items are large enough. Remember that self-storage units are a great alternate to having your home buried in belongings and it offers a softer solution to the hoarding impulse by offering an alternate space.

*Editor's Note: Self-Storage units should not be considered a long term solution.  I would consider this an option just to move some things out of the house to give you room to work in while packing, sorting, repairing, etc.

How to face a move when a hoarder is involved
  • Getting Help

You can get help from a therapist if you and your loved one agree on that, and they can help toward slowly finding a solution to the hoarding compulsion. When all is said and done remember to take small steps toward improvement. The therapist could eventually give them small tasks such as slowly going through a small part of their collection and choosing things to let go of, but that is not something you should handle on your own in most cases. You could end up hurting them and yourself in the process by being too direct about it.

This guest post is thanks to Removals Man & Van Woodside Park.  This is not a sponsored post, but rather a glimpse of the experience from those accustomed to moving many, many families of all kinds.

Is this the start of something good?

So Mom has started to talk about selling the house again.  Can you imagine having to move a compulsive hoarder?   She got her most recent property tax assessment and is delighted to learn they’ve appraised her home for a nice chunk of change.  I gently reminded her that it’s unrealistic she’d get that much.

She talks about getting a dumpster.  I don’t even know how much that costs in her city, but I know it’s going to take more than one.  I offered to help her sort through some stuff, but she’s still resisting help until she has a chance to go through things herself.

There are a lot of items she talks about wanting to keep because they’ll be great in the new house.  But then there are also items she’s identified as wanting to get rid of, like the living room sofa set.  Which is fine by me.

I am pleased to hear her talk about this, even if it’s just words.  I think maybe she’s getting glimmers of self-awareness, or she’s tired of being penned in by her hoard.  No matter what, I hope this is the start of something positive.

On the other hand

Mom tells one story to me and a different story to Lynn.  I’m not sure Mom knows that Lynn told me.  Ya follow that?  It means she’s giving me the brave face while there’s something else going on that’s actually pretty serious.  I can’t really talk about that yet.  Yes, it’s that serious.  And in this case, Mom shows no self-awareness.

I just learned the local Animal Services are looking to talk to my Mom.  They tried to visit her home but she didn’t answer the door (because of her disability, Mom sleeps a lot during the day so I can see her missing them).  When they couldn’t reach her, they went to a neighbours house to inquire.  That neighbour called Lynn.

I don’t know why the local authorities are looking for Mom.  She only has 1 dog, and definitely isn’t an animal hoarder.  Her dog is her pride and joy, and her only company in that lonely house, so I’m confident he’s well cared for despite the clutter.  He doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to run around, but he’s a lap dog and Mom takes him with her when she goes out.

Neither Lynn nor I initiated this.  I wonder who did?  I’m also wondering how this will all resolve??

I have so much.  Too much.

I write on this blog about my problems with excess.  About how much of a struggle it is to control the amount of stuff in my life.  The challenges of clearing out my basement.  The woes of a mother who shops too much.

Due to a senseless, random act of violence, there are countless people facing the aftermath of the Colorado shooting.  Children and adults alike became victim to a madman.  It’s sickening, and there are no words to heal the pain caused by this incident.

Meanwhile, I woke up this morning with all my loved ones.  My health.  My life continues as expected.  I have everything and everyone I need; and more.  It’s shameful that I should consider having too much clutter a real problem in light of the news.  I’m reminded what it is to be vulnerable, and grateful.

I send my prayers to anyone affected by the Colorado theatre shooting.  My heart weeps for you.

I’m a Virgo.  Most of the time, I’m ok with my home looking well lived in.  Children leave toys out mid-game.  Craft projects are in progress.  And there’s always a DIY home improvement going on somewhere in the house.  But when the perfectionist, pragmatic Virgo in me rears her head, I go on major cleaning streaks.  I’m talking get-out-the-toothbrush-to-scrub-the-corners Virgo Clean Streak.

Virgo Clean Streak

Every once in a while this happens.  Probably not often enough.  And by now, Will knows enough to stand back and let me charge full speed ahead.  It happened this weekend.  I just couldn’t stand the state of our basement any longer.  Since I use our 4th bedroom as a craft room/office, we don’t have any where pleasant for guests to stay.  And Will doesn’t really have office space of his own, either, which impedes the launch of his new business.

How to decide what to keep and what to toss

We have a whole basement and it was uselessly filled with stuff.  So I rolled up my sleeves, put on some tunes, and started working my way through everything as realistically and unemotionally as I could.  And you know what?  It was easier than expected.  I must be at some sort of threshold because what I processed over the weekend had proven too difficult to deal with in earlier attempts to clear the basement.  I allowed myself to be honest about whether I really needed or wanted all this stuff.  Anything I really wanted to keep went into ONE laundry basket, and everything else went into boxes for donation or garbage bags.

There were a few moments where I wavered and wanted to keep some things.  Like my Mom, I can see the “potential” of future projects.  But I kept reminding myself that reclaiming this space was more important than vintage sheet music for decoupage, or a stacks of plastic party drinking cups left over from our wedding…9 years ago.  I want to transform this space into a place to build memories and experiences.  That has more value to me now than dusty boxes of trinkets packed up from our old house and never reopened when we moved here.

As I thought of that, it got easier and easier to move items into the donation boxes and wish them well in their future homes.  And the more I let go, the lighter my heart felt.  My mood improved.  My skin cleared.  Well, maybe not, but I certainly felt a glow of accomplishment to see the stack of boxes by the door growing.

What Did I Find?

In the clear out, I found a number of things to give to friends of mine.  A book about dogs goes to a co-worker who just got a Huskie puppy.  The bassinet that cradled my babies the first few months of their lives is going to a friend expecting his first child next month.  And for myself, I found the CD of images I took about 5 years ago at Moms house when Lynn and I snuck in to do a quick “tidy.”  I’ll share those in a future post.

Grand Total

In the end, Will and I loaded 11 donation boxes into the car.  I filled 2 large bags of trash.  I reorganized 7 mishmashed plastic and cardboard boxes of hand-me-down clothes for my little Quinn into 3 locking Rubbermaid containers, and found a whole bunch of baby clothes I didn’t even know we had.  That gets shared with another co-worker having a baby girl in October.

What Next?

There’s still some stuff to shuffle around and reorganize.  I’m sure I could purge even more if I get another Virgo Clean Streak.  Will needs to pack up all his wine-making supplies for a while.  There’s a cold cellar to rip out and move to a different area.  And if we can clean enough open space, we’ll frame in new walls to make new office space and accommodations for guests.  Put up shelves to get what’s left up off the floor.  Wall off the furnace.  Ultimately, make this a warm and inviting space to spend quality time.  And as much potential all that stuff had, the potential of the space is even greater.

Getting rid of all that stuff was SO liberating.  I feel like I lost 100 pounds.  In fact, I put on my skinny jeans to celebrate!


Thrift Store Shopping

Do you like to shop at thrift stores?  Do you love the thrill of the hunt?  How much is too much thrift store shopping?  One of the hallmarks of a compulsive hoarder is that they lack insight to the severity of their hoarding problem.  I’d say Mom lacks insight, for sure!  She likes to tell me all about the people she meets and chats with while shopping at her favourite thrift store.  I’ve unwillingly learned:

  • She sees the “regulars.”  They greet each other like old home week, and call it their “social hour.”
  • She can identify the antique dealers.
  • Other people sidle up to her and compliment her on the items in her own cart.
  • There’s an elderly Irish lady who follows Mom around the store, and comments on everything she picks up.  This lady is obviously well-off…after all she owns a B & B.  Uh huh.
  • There was a man who seemed to take a shine to Mom, until Mom mentioned she “was married to the best man whom ever lived and she didn’t think anyone could ever live up to his memory.”  “That took care of him hanging around me pretty quick” she quipped.

The Benchmark?

There’s an elderly married couple in there often, and the gentleman likes to chat with Mom while the wife shops.  Mom told me, and I quote “You think I’m a collector, THIS guy is the worst!  You name it, he collects it!  They told me they own 4 houses just to hold all his collections!”

I’m afraid this is the level to which Mom compares herself.  Maybe she’s rationalizing that since she only has ONE stuffed house and not four then everything is still under control.

Don’t want to hear it anymore

I’m so tired of all our conversations circling back to the hijinx of thrift store shoppers.  I just don’t want to hear it anymore.  The world is bigger than this store!  I donate the stuff I don’t want anymore to this chain of stores, and I can only wonder if she’s ever unwittingly bought back something I’ve donated.  I understand that there are great deals and you can find some real gems…one man’s treasure and all that.  I’m not immune to that either, but I might visit a thrift store once every few months whereas Mom goes a few times a week.  She’s always loved the thrill of the hunt.  Can’t find something?  Just tell her and she’ll squeal with delight at the challenge.  And she insists that everything she’s ever wanted has turned up at the thrift store if she was just patient enough.

I wonder if she’ll ever realize our mother/daughter bond can’t be found on those shelves.

Goodwill SarcasmThere are some things that become very predictable when your mother is a compulsive hoarder with compulsive shopping tendencies.

  • if you phone her cell between 9am to 9pm, chances are good she’ll answer your call while browsing a store.
  • there will be misplaced and forgotten items she’ll have meant to bring when coming to visit (usually birthday or Christmas gifts).
  • and most predictably, every conversation you have with her will include the statement “I don’t know if you need or want this or not, but I picked it up for you anyway…”

Out of Touch

This statement has become such a regular thing I can silently mouth it when she says it.  The item in question varies, but hasn’t been relevant to me in a long time.  Like, a craft book about molding characters out of clay (something I did in Grade 9), or a figurine of an angel playing the violin (I play violin, but not really as actively as I did while living at home…15 years ago!).  It’s a great example of how truly out of touch Mom & I have become.

A few weeks ago, she called me while Lynn was visiting my home.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom: Oh, while you’ve got your sister there with you, I wanted to see if either of you could make use of something I bought today.  It’s a kitchen vacuum sealer.

*crickets chirping*

Mom:  It’s a really good one, better than the one I got from your father years ago (note, she used it once). This would be at least worth $200 and I got it for ten dollars!!!

Me: Well, it’s not something Will & I would use.  Lynn, do you want a kitchen vacuum sealer?  Mom says it’s a really good one.

Lynn is shaking her head before I even finish the sentence.

Me: Lynn says no thank you.  It’s very kind of you to think of us but we’re both going to pass.

Mom: No problem!  It was such a good deal I just couldn’t risk passing it up, but I can return it and get my money back!

Uh huh.  Anyone wanna take the bet it’s still at her house?  Didn’t think so.

The first time I called her cell, Mom was at her favourite thrift store.  She was delighted to be able to talk and shop at the same time.  She was telling me about all the wonderful deals she was finding, and about how she gets along with all the employees at the store.  It was also after 8:30 pm, nearly closing time.

She told me about a couple of things she had put in her cart for me.  After she described them, I thanked her but said no.  She promised she’d put them back.  Then just the other day, she confessed she had actually bought one of the items because it was ONLY 2 bucks and she KNOWS it’s worth a LOT more than that.  Worth it to whom I’m not sure…it ain’t me.

I’m pretty tired of hearing about the shopping trips to the thrift shops.  She has a circuit of them, and not only do I hear about the stuff she bought or almost bought, but also about the other shoppers she’s met, like the antique dealers and “the lonely sorts.”  I know it’s terrible of me, but I have a hard time concentrating when she starts chattering about this, and we have those awkward moments that reveal I haven’t been listening more often that I’d wish.  I’m sad about this.  I don’t see my Mom very often.  Even talking once a week seems like too much and not enough at the same time.  One day she’ll be gone, and I’ll miss the chance just the hear her voice.

Can I fix this? 

Is it something I can or should fix?  Part of having a relationship with compulsive hoarders to forgive them, forgive yourself, and focus on the positive.  It means clenching my jaw and biting my tongue.  It means making a conscious effort not to sigh when I hear a compulsive hoarding shopaholic regale me AGAIN with the money she saved buying stuff she didn’t need.

You can go broke being cheap

I’m wondering where all the money comes from.  I know she stressed about the oil bill and property tax.  Any car issue empties her wallet.



If you’ve visited Not Just Clutter today, you might have noticed some lots of changes today, and they’re still on going. I’ve changed themes to hopefully improve the reader experience, and to fix some issues I had with links not working in various browsers, etc.

I’d love it if you could comment on anything that’s not working for you OR if you’re loving something new that I’ve done. That will help me focus on what adjustments to make with the blog.

My little blog about compulsive hoarding is a pretty niche topic.  It’s not likely to have a lot of people stumble across Not Just Clutter, but I’d sure like to think I’m writing for humans.

I’ve noticed a get a lot of comments, especially after posting Our Ikea Kitchen Renovation Experience.  I hope some are really from people who’ve read my posts and been moved enough to leave a few genuine words of their own.  But I thought I’d share a few that amused me in their obviousness.  Turns out, Louis Vuitton loves to read about compulsive hoarders!  Who knew!?

Anyway, these have been clogging up my comments queue waiting to be sorted through.  I decided to deal with this digital kind of clutter in a big batch today and thought I’d share some of the ones I didn’t approve but just made me chuckle anyway.

Goofy Comments

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Oh, Internet, how you slay me!  To the spambot programmers, I implore you to improve your grammer and spelling.  Basic sentence structure wouldn’t hurt either.

To those who actually read Not Just Clutter because you’re interested in compulsive hoarding, hoarders, or basic home organization, feel free to send me your thoughts!  This is a safe place and I’m happy to answer any questions about life with a hoarder as best I can.

I am posting this on behalf of the King’s College London where researchers have put together a study about compulsive hoarding.  I’ll be participating to help further the awareness of the effects of hoarding on relatives, and I encourage you to get involved if you’re in a similar situation.  I’m not eligible for the compensation since there’s no way I can get my Mom to participate, and I’m not being paid to post this for King’s College in any way.  I’ve been emailing back and forth with the researchers, though, and find them to be genuinely interested and quick to respond.  Here’s hoping they learn something positive towards coping with compulsive hoarding.

Hoarding Study Needs You

Researchers at King’s College London are currently carrying out a project investigating the impact of hoarding across important areas of life (e.g. memory and planning, acquisition, familial and other interpersonal relationships).

Currently, the team is looking for individuals who either identify as a hoarder OR have a relationship with someone who hoards to complete a series of online questionnaires (approximately 25 minutes) and, potentially, a brief telephone interview (approximately 15 minutes). Participation is accompanied by a small financial compensation of £5.

As a central question in this study concerns the impact of hoarding on relationships, the team is asking that all hoarders provide one person (spouse, parent, adult child or other close acquaintance) who would be willing to complete a similar, but separate, online survey. Likewise, if you are the spouse/parent/child/etc of a hoarder, then the research asks that your hoarding relative/friend be willing to complete that portion of the project.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the study website (www.hoardingstudy.com) or contact a member of the research team directly at: helena.drury@kcl.ac.uk

It’s been a few weeks since Mom told me she was getting a cell phone.  I was excited at first, but that wore off as day after day passed and still no call from her “new phone.”

I’m guessing she has procrastinated and has found other things to do instead.  Compulsive hoarders have a tendency to delay making decisions out of fear of making the wrong decision.  I’ve seen it time and time again with Mom.

She has a pile of boxes heavy with papers under the desk…the very same boxes she needed to move to check the phone jack on the wall.  She was attempting to go through these boxes paper by paper in case there was something important in there she shouldn’t throw away.  This meant ALL the papers got kept when only a handful should have been filed and the rest recycled (or shredded for privacy, which is another way of delaying because, um, she doesn’t have a shredder.)  The result of her dithering is a desk still jammed with paper boxes and no way to access the phone jack.  She’s still paying for the phone service, by the way, and because she wanted to keep the same phone number has maintained a more costly business line they had for my Dad.  The phone company also requires 30-60 days written notice of cancellation, so we’re looking at a loss of about $400 since November.

When I began this post, I thought about my own trouble making decisions.  My husband and I do research for a long time before making most decisions.  It’s a good thing to know what you’re getting into, but eventually you have to s*** and get off the pot (sorry for the crudeness).  My husband and I planned to get a new front door for over 18 months.  We had contractors come give us quotes.  We drove around the neighbourhood looking at other people’s front doors.  I visited several door & window stores looking at options.  If Pinterest had been around then, I’m sure I’d still be pinning to a “Front Door” board!  There were SO many options, we couldn’t pick just one.

Then, one day, Lowes had a sale on doors.  We walked in, pointed at one we both liked, and it was installed a week later.  We loved it!  It brighten the face of our house, is more energy efficient, and has better ventilation.  Why hadn’t we just done that from the beginning?  We make life too complicated sometimes.

Just Make Up Your Mind!

I want to be better at making decisions.  I think it could be a learned skill, and I want to model decisiveness for my daughters.  So I Googled “how to make decisions” or something like that, and saw a wealth of information out there.  It seems there are some common factors why people can’t make up their minds:

  • Too many advisors
  • Too many choices
  • Fear of worst case scenarios
  • Analysis paralysis
  • Talking yourself out of a decision

But there are some things you can do to help yourself.

  • Set a deadline for making the decision
  • Accept you might make a bad decision, be ok with it, and learn from the failure
  • Manage your emotions

It seems people make decisions with their hearts more than their heads.  Emotions aren’t rational and can confuse you from making a good decision.  If you struggle with a bossy heart, consider these:

  • Imagine a blank slate in your head.  Don’t allow any other thoughts or feelings and start from scratch.  (I’ve seen this work…I mean, it works for a character in the Pokemon graphic novels I’ve been reading with my 6 year old, Maddie, so surely…..)
  • What’s your body telling you?  Take a breath, calm your nerves, and still your movements to focus.
  • Visualize the outcome of your decision, and evaluate what would work and what wouldn’t.  Is it really so bad either way?
  • Ask do you need it, or just want it?  This is especially important for hoarders, or compulsive shoppers.  If it’s a basic need, it’s easy enough for your brain to make that decision.  But if you want it, well, that’s desire.  Desire is an emotion.  Emotions colour our thinking with all sorts of confliction, and we find we’ve talked ourselves into buying/eating/bringing home something we really didn’t need.  It could lead us to a temporary high, and then the all-too-familiar emotion, remorse.  And that…is just a bad decision.
  • Practice makes perfect.  Apply these methods often to get better at them.  Decision-making opportunities come up daily…sometimes, several times an hour!

You might find other useful ideas online.

I’m going to have to give these ideas a try.  Let me know if they work for you.  And remember, not all decisions are life or death.  What to have for lunch, what colour socks to wear (I choose black almost always), what route to drive to work…these are examples of ordinary low-risk decisions.  I want to get really good at making up my mind in these situations, and I’ll be better prepared for bigger, higher-risk decisions.   No more dithering or waffling.  No more sweating the details while missing the bigger picture.  No more fretting over beautiful, energy efficient front doors while the old ugly one lets in drafts.

In the meantime, I realize I can’t fault my Mom her indecision.  I recognize it’s part of who she is.  It’s part of her illness.  And perhaps she was never taught the skill of quick decision making.  I know she didn’t teach it to me.  I’ll find the patience next time I’m waiting for Maddie to choose between Raisin Bran & Cheerios at breakfast time.  We’ll work on the wants vs needs issues if they arise.  I’m sure they will.

While I can’t control the choices of others, I am in full control of my own choices. Knowing that is empowering.

Lynn called me last night to tell me to watch a documentary on ABC.  The documentary was My Extreme Affliction and it featured the children of hoarders, most notably Jessie Sholl.  Jessie was one of the few children interviewed who stays in touch with her Mom, but has given up with trying to “fix” her.  She seems to enjoy at least some sort of positive relationship, and has found some peace with it.

Jessie has written a book about her experiences with her mother.  The book is called Dirty Secret, and is a compelling read.  I’ve only just started it, and there are full passages where I could probably apply to my own mother’s situation verbatim.  She so precisely describes her Mothers house that I can see it vividly in my head.  Some of the descriptions gave me chills because I know it’s the same at MY Mom’s house.  It’s almost like reading a textbook description, so the illness does seem to have strong similarities from person to person.  It’s both comforting and frightening to know other people are in the exact same situation.

I saw Jessie tweet about the show being on-air and I replied that I watched it.  Then she answered me!  That was a bit of thrill!  Like a celebrity sighting!

After we both watched the documentary, Lynn and I chatted on the phone some more.  It seems most of the children of hoarders they interviewed decided it was for the best to just break all ties with their parent.  Treatment success rate for compulsive hoarding is terribly low.  It seems there’s going to be a burden of guilt no matter what.  So I’m back to the same decision…let things continue as they are, or consider more drastic measures.