Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Life happenings

by kimonomania via Flickr
If you can believe it, October is almost over! I hope it's been a good month for you; it's certainly been a busy one for me. I realized that sometimes I can get caught up with sharing so many other things with my readers that I neglect to share what's really going on in my life (example: not posting about my nephew's birthday party until almost two months after the fact!). I'm going to attempt to fix that by giving you all life updates about once a month.

My biggest news to share is that I got the librarian job in San Francisco! As you can imagine, this is huge for me and I have been feeling very overwhelmed by all of the details involved. I won't be starting the job until January, so I have a good amount of time to get my ducks in a row. Be prepared for plenty of cross country road trip posts!

The beautiful bride and me
A good college friend/former roommate of mine got married a few weeks ago and my boyfriend and I were fortunate enough to attend the ceremony. Originally, I wasn't sure if I were going to be able to make it because of my job search and interviewing, but things worked out and we could go. It was so wonderful to see her so happy.

A Richmond tradition
In smaller news, I went to the annual Richmond Folk Festival to get my fill of Indian food and listen to some zydeco and kosher gospel (yes, that's a thing and it's awesome). I had a cavity free visit at the dentist and attended a library conference to network my face off.

On a somber note, I was incredibly sad last week to hear about the passing of Sidney Patrick, a children of hoarders advocate. Sidney was a regular reader of my blog and I had hoped to form a friendship with her and include her in my interview series. My thoughts go out to her family and loved ones.

Richmond was very lucky and managed to emerge from Hurricane Sandy largely unscathed. Aside from acquiring a touch of cabin fever and a migraine, I weathered the storm just fine.

Books read: I'm continuing my book purge and so my choice of books is a little odd. I finished reading The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers (I would not recommend it. Read the earlier books in the series instead) and The Da Vinci Code (also not recommended. Sure, the ideas are intriguing, but the writing is awful). I am currently reading The Winter of Our Discontent and am enjoying it so far despite my past dislike for Steinbeck.

Movies and TV series watched: I watched a short British TV series, The Book Group, on Netflix streaming and enjoyed it overall despite it having an unsatisfying ending. I also watched a German film, The Princess and the Warrior that I've been wanting to watch for a long time. There were a few points that bugged me about the movie, but I liked it quite a bit. I'm currently watching the second season of The League and could not recommend the show enough. I don't like sports, let alone fantasy sports, but I find the show to be simply hilarious.

Internet finds:
"The impossible courage of 'I love you, but no'" reminded me of my time dating a guy who is bipolar.

Being firm does not equal being a bitch: it's okay to be assertive. Really.

My boyfriend, a huge fellow thrifter, showed me this not safe for sensitive ears rap about thrift stores:

I can be terribly behind on pop culture and this month I finally discovered the grumpy cat and brushie brushie brushie memes (my favorite is Captain Picard).

I am not a fan of Katy Perry, but I am a fan of Katy Perry doing a duet with a girl who has autism. The video will make you tear up, guaranteed.

I posted last week about Crystal Paine's newest ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. While the $.99 sale is over, it's still available for only $4.99 if you haven't ordered a copy yet.

Here's to a great start to November!

Monday, October 29, 2012

That one time my mother went to a birthday party and didn't talk to her family

Party animal
My nephew turned one in September and I recently realized that I failed to mention my trip to Pennsylvania for his birthday party on this here blog- whoops! While it was great to see my brother, sister in law, grandma, and nephew (and witness his first steps!), my mother provided her usual damper to the occasion.

Shortly before my nephew was born, my brother tried to talk to my mother about her hoarding and how she needs to change. He was attempting to help her and, unsurprisingly, she lied and pushed him away instead of accepting the offer. Ever since, my mother has been very distant from my brother and very uninvolved with his son. We all think this is an incredible shame and know that she will ultimately regret missing her grandson grow up, but you can't help someone who doesn't want it.

We were half expecting my mother to just not show up to the birthday party, but she did come... and then promptly ignored us. She barely talked to my brother, sister in law, and me and barely interacted with my nephew, the birthday boy and reason for the party, while she was there. She mostly talked to my sister in law's mom and aunt. An incident involving the grill, my brother, and singed hair didn't even elicit a reaction from her and she just continued to sit and chat as if nothing had happened.

As if her cold demeanor weren't enough, while saying good bye to me, she half heartedly wished me luck with my job interview and told me that if it didn't work out I should keep applying for jobs. Umm thanks for your vote of confidence. I feel like that's something you tell someone after they interviewed and they don't feel like it went well, not something you say to someone before they've even had the interview.

My expectations for my mother are so low that her behavior barely even surprises me any more.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A reader's life

Since I'm currently at a library conference, I thought that this quotation was appropriate to post: "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." -George RR Martin

Enjoy your weekend and may you work on your one thousand lives!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview series: Fury

A reader who would like to go by the name Fury was kind enough to answer some questions about his experiences being a child of a hoarder as part of my children of hoarders interview series. Take it away, sir!

I am a software engineer, with a background in System Administration/QA, working at a Financial Services company. I am into video games, weightlifting, and keeping my own hoarding tendencies in check. I struggle to keep the balance, but have a great fiancée who helps keep me in check and level-headed. She's very understanding and helpful in the process of rationalizing interactions I have with my HP, when you can actually apply logic/reason to the situation. That's probably the hardest part to most of the interactions is that logic/reason don't apply in any way/shape/form. Sometimes I wish you could force a HP to seek out help, especially if they can't see the problem!

Which parent hoards? Mother

Do you have any hoarding tendencies? I think I have the tendencies, but under control for the time being. There's the ever-present "need to acquire new things" temptation that I fight with a lot. It's an ongoing struggle, but at least I'm fighting it/seeking help for it.

Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards? I would definitely say yes to a family history of hoarding, I can think of at least a few aunt's that have a lot of "stuff," and can remember them "collecting" various things beyond any sort of normal means. In a couple instances it's probably more the traditional definition of hoarding, where the rooms aren't usable for their intended purpose, whereas others just have a lot of stuff/large areas to store it so it's not as detrimental in that regard, but probably still in the financial aspect.

What are your hoarding parent (HP)’s favorite things to hoard? Household products, clothing, "gifts" for every friend/person she knows, but they never make it to the person. Kitchen supplies, food, and anything she finds at a discounted/bargain rate.

How is your relationship with your HP? What relationship? There hasn't been one in over a decade, at least. I maintained contact while I was still paying off some of my student loans in her name, but now she'll call every few months when she realizes she hasn't heard from me in a while. I'd say people/family hasn't been her focus for nearly 20 years now, at least. It's frustrating having to be the adult in the relationship from such an early age.

Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? No, I moved out for college at 18, never looked back.

Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? Yes, my sister (who moved out/back in at some point), step-dad, and nephew. They seem to be enablers for it, and I'd even go as far to say my sister will continue the hoard long after my mother is gone. The shopaholic tendencies, poor decision making, "thrill" of getting something new, and inability to get rid of things are a perfect storm for the hoard. They also suffer from anger/frustration issues, which I shared until I removed myself from the situation. Being unable to change/improve the conditions you are in is mind-boggling-frustrating. I've seen the issues first-hand from my step-dad/sister, and fear for what my nephew will be growing up in.

Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? I know quite a few people in the family know about it, but since she's a "user" of people and burned most of the relationships, I'm not surprised no one has stepped in/said anything (not that it would matter, given how stubborn she is).

When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? I'd say 1996/7ish, when we had a cross-country move and my real dad was stationed in South Korea for a few years. Things started changing and the inability to throw things out/let things go started to get worse. While I was in the house, it was a constant fight/struggle to keep pathways/areas clear so we could LIVE. Once I left/my sister moved out, the house steadily declined.

When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? I'd say college was probably the first time, I mean, I talked about it/spent a lot of time at friends houses in high school since it was not enjoyable to live in. I'm not really ashamed of it, more, frustrated/annoyed to see it decline instead of improve despite how she'll talk about it when I'm away.

Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? Yeah, I sought it in college a few times, and am currently seeking it on how to process/deal with some of the decisions I've had to make to survive the relationship/lack thereof.

Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? No, I have no hope of her ever stopping. With how much she works/isn't home, I imagine she'll drop on the spot at a job and that'll be it. My sister will continue the hoard or be unable to afford the house and be forced to sell it. 

What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? Mostly when she would keep things I'd thrown out, that was when it really started to sink in there was larger issues at hand. I haven't really been around/in the hoard for some time now since just being in that atmosphere causes my allergies to act up and the frustration at the hopelessness to return.

What is at least one positive thing you were able to glean from living in a hoard and dealing with your HP? I'll never live in that sort of environment again, I've got my faults and issues, but will never let it get that bad. I couldn't put my fiancee through it or future children.

What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? I was able to keep my room in pristine condition. That and the internet, probably the only two things that saved me from the worst parts of it. Well, that and having a good group of friends to spend time with away from it.

Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? Don't try to change the HP, unless they want to change, your efforts will always be in vain. Get out of the situation as soon as you can, and seek help from a professional to get your head on straight. Living with a HP isn't living.

Thank you, Fury, for answering my questions so honestly! If you are a child of a hoarder and are interested in being interviewed over email, please shoot me a message!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

21 Days to a More Disciplined Life ebook

One of the few sites I make sure to check out on a daily basis in Crystal Paine's Money Saving Mom blog. Through her deal posts and life simplification tips, she has saved me an immense about of money and sanity over the last 5 years of being a reader.

Today, Crystal is launching her newest ebook, 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life. I don't know about you, but my hoarding mother did not instill in me (or demonstrate) a good sense of self-discipline when it came to handling life obligations. I had to learn the hard way about how to turn my ideas into reality. Last year, Crystal ran a blog series with the same name and I was able to glean a lot of good tips from her posts about motivating myself to look my big scary goals in the face and chip away at them until I reached the finish line. Her ebook has updated and expanded upon these posts and I have no doubt that her newly polished strategies will be immensely helpful for those also struggling to achieve success.

Here's more about the ebook in Crystal's own words:

Do you have ideas, hopes, and dreams for what you want to accomplish in your life, but you feel like you’re being held back by a lack of personal discipline? 

Are you easily overwhelmed by your big ideas or projects, and you just don’t know where to start and how to make real progress? 

Do you find yourself making “all-or-nothing” plans for transforming your life, and then three days later you crash and burn under the weight of your plan? 

My new e-book 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life may be the solution to your frustration. 

What You Can Expect to Learn From This Book:

  • How to prioritize and name your goals so that you can accomplish them faster than ever.
  • How to expose the obstacles that will come up, and then make a plan to conquer them.
  • How to break up a goal that feels insurmountable into bite-sized pieces.
  • How to stop making excuses and get the job done now — and then enjoy the rest of your day!
  • How to put accountability in place to help you stay on task and motivated.

Purchasing this ebook also gives you access to printable worksheets to make the process even easier!

Until October 25, Crystal is offering her ebook for only $.99! For less than a dollar, you can be well on your way to tackling those hurdles that have been holding you back from achieving your goals. That is what I call a deal, my friends! After October 25, the ebook wil be available for $4.99- still a fantastic steal in my opinion! Click the links to learn more about 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life and to purchase a copy for yourself.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Now is right on time

"Your journey has molded you for the greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don't think that you've lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time." -Asha Tyson

Friday, October 19, 2012

Oui oui

I haven't done an outfit post since finishing up 30x30, so I thought I'd shake it up a bit and share with you what I wore yesterday since I was pretty proud of it.

Jacket: thrifted | Striped top: American Eagle | Skirt: thrifted | Flats: thrifted | Necklace: my mother's jewelry box

I felt very Parisian in this outfit. It was simple, yet elegant. I don't think I've ever worn this shirt with anything but jeans, so I'm proud of myself for breaking the mold. I really liked the lighter stripes with the dark blue and the dark blue with the bright red. I thought my little red heart necklace helped tie it all together. All that was missing was a swipe of red lipstick. Baby steps, guys, baby steps.

This jacket has quickly become my favorite jacket. It's Liberty of London for Target, but I got it for a mere $9 from Goodwill. I got the skirt during the same trip (for $2.50!) and it is also a new favorite of mine. I'm replacing my old baggy navy skirt with this one. I'm thinking about taking it to a tailor to get it shortened a bit so that it'll hit right above my knees. Thoughts? What would a true Parisian do?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Exciting blog news: podcast!

by vincentwiki via Flickr
Hi, friends! While we're only halfway through October, November is quickly shaping up to be a very exciting month here at Squalor Holler. I don't want to let too many cats out of the bag just yet, so I'm just going to share one bit of news for now.

A few months ago, I was pondering over how to make my little blog more than just about me and my experiences as a child of a hoarder and how I deal with my past as an adult. Since hoarding affects so many people and is still very misunderstood, I decided that introducing more voices would be more beneficial than just focusing solely on my own voice. My children of hoarders interview series was one idea I had while I was thinking about this bigger than me angle. My second idea involved the other child of a hoarder in my family: my brother.

My brother has graciously agreed to do a monthly podcast with me where we'll talk about our childhood and how we are both affected by my mother's hoarding behavior. I figured adding his voice would offer a fuller picture of how hoarding affects a family as a whole.

We have tentatively decided to record our first session during the last week in October and I plan to post it on my blog shortly thereafter.

Is this podcast something that interests you? I hope this news is as exciting for you as it is for me! Do you have any questions for us that you would like answered during our chat?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Someday is Today: More moisturized skin

As I've mentioned before, I suffer from dry skin. It can get so bad that my eczema flares up and I get peppered with dry, crusty, red spots all over my body. Lucky me!

Now that the temperatures are starting to get cooler and the air is starting to get drier, I've already discovered two spots of eczema: one on my hip and one on my ribs. Again, lucky me!

You might be asking yourself, "Why doesn't Sarah just have a regular lotion routine so she can help prevent the eczema spots and scratching her skin raw?" Very good question, friend.

Despite the uncomfortableness of my dry skin, I am awful at lotioning myself up. I seem to forget that it's an option until I'm furiously digging at my skin, pleading for it to feel less itchy. It doesn't help that I hate the sticky, wet feeling of lotion on my skin and that it requires being at least partially naked and I get cold very easily (especially with these colder temperatures). I think it's about time I just sucked it up and found a way to deal with it, don't you?

This is totally more of a mental block thing than anything else, so I think fitting it rationally into my routine is going to be the best approach. Here's the plan:
  • On mornings that I shower, slather on lotion before I get dressed for the day. I'm already naked and probably cold, so it should be relatively easy to take a few extra seconds to put lotion on before pulling on some clothes.
  • On mornings that I don't shower, put lotion on after taking off pajamas and before putting on clothes (preferably piece by piece so I'm never fully naked and, therefore, shivering).
  • On nights when I feel extra itchy, do the reverse and put lotion on while I'm changing out of clothes and into pajamas.

Ta da! Nice and easy. Let's see if I can manage it.

Updates on other goals:

Acne: I have had surprisingly few pimples over the last few weeks. I think the break out that I was complaining about before was due to the change in seasons. My face seems to have calmed down for the most part, at least for now. I have been using the oil cleansing method a few times a week and I like how moisturized my skin feels afterwards. I have also used baking soda as an exfoliant and have been very pleased with the smooth results. I think the smaller granules work better on my face than the larger granules found in most exfoliating products on the market. I am still struggling with blackheads, so I'll be focusing more on that now that pimples have subsided.

Exercise: Travel and a busy schedule (and occasional laziness if I'm being honest!) have caused me to miss a few days here and there of my exercise plan. I'm still happy with my progress though.

Water: I'm still drinking a good amount of water everyday, especially when I'm at work. I need to start paying better attention to how much water I'm drinking when I'm not at my desk.

Sass: The boyfriend and I seem to be having less arguments that revolve around my attitude. When my sass rears its ugly head, I am much more quick to apologize, soften my voice, and get to the real heart of the matter, rather than let my tone of voice take the discussion/argument hostage. Progress!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Am I proud of the life I’m living?

by djbrady via Flickr
"This is the thing: When you hit 28 or 30, everything begins to divide. You can see very clearly two kinds of people. On one side, people who have used their 20s to learn and grow, to find … themselves and their dreams, people who know what works and what doesn’t, who have pushed through to become real live adults.

Then there’s the other kind, who are hanging onto college, or high school even, with all their might. They’ve stayed in jobs they hate, because they’re too scared to get another one. They’ve stayed with men or women who are good but not great, because they don’t want to be lonely. … they mean to develop intimate friendships, they mean to stop drinking like life is one big frat party. But they don’t do those things, so they live in an extended adolescence, no closer to adulthood than when they graduated.

Don’t be like that. Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either.

Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Ask yourself some good questions like: 'Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month? … Do the people I’m spending time with give me life, or make me feel small? Is there any brokenness in my life that’s keeping me from moving forward?' Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love, and with people who believe … life is a grand adventure.

Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast-forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path."

-Relevant Magazine via kkkrissy, emphasis mine

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Interview series: Deedee

My second interviewee for my children of hoarders interview series is Deedee. The floor is hers:

I am a wife, mother of two adorable preschoolers, and full-time usability analyst for a large oil services company (which is just a fancy way of saying I design software). I have lived a great number of places along the East Coast and throughout the south, and while I currently live in Texas, I consider my home to be in Mississippi. I'm still struggling to sort out what parts of my life and how I think about things are related to growing up in the hoard, and what parts, regardless of how I acquired them, are worth keeping - but I think I'm making progress, and providing my kids a better life because of it.

Which parent hoards? My mother - although I'm coming to accept that my Dad was an enabler, and years of living with mom produced many things I would call "pre-hoarding" traits - wanting to collect things, being excited about acquiring, not limiting collections, etc. But Dad never reached the levels that my mom did (and does).

Growing up, the state of the house varied from "only slightly embarrassing" to "a friend called CPS on us" - but spent most of the time near that second mark. Roaches, moths, the whole bit. When my dad got sick about 9 years ago, it got really really bad - and when my dad died 2 years ago, it went off the deep end. I honestly think the house would be condemned if anyone inspected it.

Do you have any hoarding tendencies? This is a really hard question for me, as I am terrified of becoming my mother. I would say I have some "pre-hoarding" tendencies, but I monitor them very closely. I tend to be a little compulsive, so I have to watch my buying habits and acquire things carefully - with a mind as to where I will put them, how much I really need, and so on. I think most of my problem is with habits - I don't know "how" to clean, or what habits I need to keep everything clean. But I try really hard, and I'm determined to keep the house clean enough for my kids.

I struggle with determining what constitutes a "normal" amount of cleaning for a house - some days I clean like crazy, other days not so much. My house is not magazine perfect, but it is "clean" - not gross, I scrub the bathrooms and kitchen regularly, etc. I probably don't sweep and vacuum enough, haha. And my kids have too much stuff, but I try to keep things organized and cull down a couple of times a year. My husband helps a lot, he's very patient with me, but totally over my mom entirely. He's still finding out things about my childhood that upset him (we've been married 8 years, and dated 4 years before that).

I do have this fear that something will happen (I'll get sick, or my husband will, or someone will die, or there will be a fire, or any number of other traumatic events) and I'll go off the deep end and start hoarding. Or just not be able to keep up with the house. I think working to put good habits in place and keep the house in order helps calm this fear, but it's still there.

Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards? My mother's sister hoards, but it's more of a clean hoard. Just dusty, not rotting food and such. I suspect my sister hoards, but I don't know. My mom (and her sister) were adopted, so I don't know much about their biological family. But my mother's adopted mother always kept a magazine quality house. My father's mother and sister keep neat and tidy houses - something my mother made fun of them for when I was growing up, saying they couldn't afford to have enough stuff to have clutter. Ha!

What are your hoarding parent (HP)’s favorite things to hoard? Everything. Food and food wrappers are a lot of it, but also vitamins, health food stuff, crafting supplies, and paper - she used to print out every web page she went to "so she could read it later", and that generated a ton of paper. She has fabric from years ago that she was going to make into a quilt, baby clothes she bought for my kids before they were born (or thought of) that never made it to us, tons of organizational supplies, trading cards, you name it.

And books. She has so many books that my grandmother built a huge, almost two story, four car garage in the back yard to use as a library - complete with built in shelves. All the shelves are full of books, and the walkways between them and the rest of the garage are full, floor to ceiling, with books and other things.

How is your relationship with your HP? Right now we talk once or twice a year, and she occasionally comments on my facebook posts. So basically, no relationship. I pretty much broke contact about two years ago, when I realized how abusive she could be and how badly she was affecting my mental health. The break was hard (and still is sometimes), but my day-to-day life is so much better not having to worry about her and accepting the fact that she will not change.

Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? I moved out to go to college when I was 17 - but still went home for school holidays (if the dorms were closed) until I got married at 22 - a month and a half after graduation. I cleaned a lot oat the house, and kept things livable at least some of the time. Everything got a lot worse when I left (both for college, and then again when I got married) - I think part of this is because I wasn't there, and a great deal of it is because my dad got sick. Added stress on mom meant more hoarding.

Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? My dad lived in the hoard until he passed away two years ago - he tried to clean as much as possible, but was very passive when it came to mom. I think he didn't want to upset her, and he had kind of given up on keeping it clean. The last couple of years, he just didn't have the strength (or sight) to do anything about it.

Now, my mom lives alone, although I hear through the family grapevine that she's acquired a couple of kittens.

Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? My dad's whole family knows - his mom (who lived with us for a while), his sister (who his mom now lives with), and his sister's whole family. My mom's sister knows. Not many people that mom knows outside the family, I guess, except my husband's family - we told them and showed them pictures two years ago.

My bible study group knows, and several of my friends. I'm fairly open about it now, and just straight up tell people if they ask about my mom.

When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? I was homeschooled, so it took a while - I think it became really obvious when I was in college, but I knew before then that other people kept their houses clean. I did have a few friends through church, and I knew I couldn't invite them to my house.

When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? Only within the last 3-5 years. Being on the COH boards helped, as well as having the support of my husband and my dad's family. And therapy. I figure the more open I can be, and the more people in my life that know, the more people can stop me if I start heading down that road. Plus, I'm just tired of keeping secrets.

Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? Yes - I saw a therapist for a while after my kids were born - I had two children under two years old, was dealing with some postpartum depression, had lost my dad, and was trying to figure out how the hoarding affected me as a parent. I was terrified that I would turn into my mom, and my relationship with her was dissolving. Therapy was very helpful in getting me to open up, and realized that it's not my fault and that I can provide something better for my kids. It's also helped me open up to my husband more about the situation - although he was aware of the hoarding, he's still learning things about how my family operated and how the hoarding affected us.

Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? No. Even with roaches and mold and general nastiness everywhere, she still thinks it is not a problem. She still thinks it's my fault, and my siblings. because we left all the stuff in her house. Unless she can see it's a problem, she will never change - and I don't think that will ever happen.

What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? Food. Rotting food is disgusting. And insects. And rodents.

One time, when I was maybe 8 or so, I found on a table one of the super-yummy giant gourmet muffins that my mom liked to eat - it had been a three-pack, but there was only one left. I turned to mom and asked if I could have it, and as I picked up the package to show her, a couple of giant roaches crawled out of the wrapper. She looked, horrified, at the roaches, then shrugged and said "If you want it, I guess you can have it." I threw it away.

Another time, my husband and I were visiting my parents (right after we got married, I think, maybe our first Christmas). My mom mentioned they had been having some rodent problems (which we had noticed by the number of droppings on every surface). My sister (who lived in the hoard at the time) went to pick up her coat that she had thrown on a pile - and discovered AFTER she had put it on that it had stuck to a glue trap that had a live mouse still stuck to it! Everyone freaked out so much my husband had to go extract the glue trap (and mouse) from her coat. I was mortified.

What is at least one positive thing you were able to glean from living in a hoard and dealing with your HP? I've learned the importance of acknowledging my faults and asking for help, as well as accepting help that is offered to me. After my son was born, I was so overwhelmed with working and dealing with both kids and my husband and the house (and my mom), that I thought I would drown. I saw a therapist, and told my husband I needed more help - he took on more than his fair share of the kids and the housework for a while, and hired a maid twice a month for a year until I got my feet under me again. My mother would have never admitted she needed the help, or allowed a maid in to help her even if it had been offered.

I'm also super good at remembering where things are, if they are some place odd. This doesn't mean I can always find my keys, but it does help a lot :-)

What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? I read. A lot. We had a lot of books. I still love to read, and still use it as an escape sometimes. I have too many books, probably - but anytime they overflow the shelves I pare them down and get rid of some until they fit again, so I figure it won't get out of hand :-)

I also spent a lot of time daydreaming. And I got a job, in high school, that took up a lot of time.

I cleaned, when I could, but got tired of cleaning ALL THE TIME only to have the space instantly fill again - or throwing away a newspaper that was 6 months old only to be told "I was going to read that!" So cleaning was sporadic. Mostly I just read and daydreamed.

Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? Just remember that hoarding is most likely a result of mental illness - if your hoarding parent won't admit that they need to change, then there is nothing YOU can do to change them. It's not your fault that they are the way they are, or that the house is the way it is. And if you need to walk away from your HP to keep your sanity or to protect yourself or your family - DO IT! Don't let anyone guilt you into continuing to offer help when the help is refused or unappreciated. Remember that it's okay to love your parents and still set boundaries with them regarding how you will interact and what kind of behavior is acceptable. Live YOUR life, not theirs.

Thank you, Deedee, for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly! If you are a child of a hoarder and are interested in being interviewed over email, please shoot me a message

Monday, October 8, 2012

The great book purge

by benobryan via Flickr
If you've been reading my blog for the last few months, you probably know that I am in an in between stage right now. I am currently living with my dad until I know where my next career move will take me. While I've been getting rather restless and frustrated staying with my dad, it has presented some opportunities that have been rather advantageous. When I made the move to my dad's, I got rid of a lot of stuff to make it a pretty light relocation. I got rid of my bed, some furniture I wasn't thrilled with, some clothes I never wore, old office supplies I would never use. Knowing that I'll be moving again soon, most likely out of the state (California is looking hopeful!), I am trying to get rid of even more of my stuff so that I'll be able to save some money and some effort when the time comes to pack up again.

As I've stated before, I have not taken after my hoarding mother and instead try to keep my possessions pretty minimal. It's not going to be very easy for me to find additional things to get rid of. Most of the things I've been considering are functional things that I would like to keep, but I honestly don't use that often (crock pot, shot glasses, etc.). There is one area, however, that fingers could be pointed at me for maybe collecting a few too many of and that, unsurprisingly, is books.

As far back as I can remember, I have always had an overflowing bookshelf. My approach to collecting books has been driven by this idea:

"Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance." -A.E. Newton 

Growing up in the environment that I did, it shouldn't be surprising how comforting books were to me. They were my major escape hatch. Perhaps that's why I'm a librarian now, hmm?

Over the last couple of years though, after having to sling box after box of books from one apartment to the next, I've gotten much better about reading the books I have and getting rid of them if they weren't ohmygod amazing. I've taken this idea into hyper drive, reading 15 books, since I finished my masters and moved into my dad's. Out of these 15 books:
  • All 15 were from my bookshelf
  • 3 belonged to friends of mine, so I returned them after I finished them
  • 10 books I got rid of, either putting them in the "leave a book, take a book" area of my library or giving them to a specific person I thought would enjoy them
  • 2 I kept because I genuinely enjoyed them and thought I might read them again
Basically, what I did to decide which books to read were to go through my boxes of books and, book by book, ask myself if I thought I would reread the book again. If I answered no, it went into my to-read pile. I also asked myself if the book belonged to someone else. I read those first so that they could go back to their owners as soon as possible. Most of the books I picked out where fluffier books, mysteries, or popular fiction. 

I'm now on my sixteenth book and once I'm finished with it, I'll just pull another book off of my to-read pile. A nice and easy way to pare down my book collection.

What are you tactics for getting rid of things when you're moving or when you have a few too many items in a collection?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Children of Hoarders October chat!

 If you are a child of a hoarder, I hope you will consider participating in the Children of Hoarders monthly chat on Sunday, October 7 at 3 pm EST. This will be my first time joining in and I'm looking forward to chatting in real time with others who have a similar background. If you're interested, the chatroom is located here and I will be logging in under my Twitter handle, squalor_holler. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fighting discontentment

by timarai via Flickr
Sometimes when I’m feeling emotionally and mentally lazy, I find that it is easy for me to slip into feeling discontent with my life. I might come across a picture on Facebook or hear someone’s news about something awesome happening in his or her life and I feel a duel happiness for him or her and what I can only describe as a sad jealousy for myself. While it’s wonderful that this person went somewhere great or is happy in his or her relationship or landed a lucrative job, I can’t help but compare his or her life events with my own. There are times when I feel this way without even being prompted by a particular news item. I’m just in a lousy mood and think that if I did X or if Z would happen to me or if I didn’t have the past that I do, then I would be so much happier.

I say I’m prone to feeling this way when I’m lazy because when I’m on top of my game, I tend to approach jealousy-inducing situations with a clear, strong mind that either stops me from feeling sorry for myself from the start or enables me to easily talk myself out of being a sorry sack. When I’m lazy and don’t feel like putting in the mental effort of critically approaching the situation, that’s when I fall in danger of boo hooing.

From what I can tell, this is an incredibly easy trap for people to fall into. I think it’s simply human nature to want what we can’t have and to think that the grass is always greener. I think it’s especially easy for folks who had a trying past to feel as though they have a disadvantage when it comes to finding a satisfying life. As a child of a hoarder, I missed out on having a happy childhood and will seemingly always have insecurities about my ability to keep a well organized, stable life.

In order to keep myself from wallowing in self-pity and instead find some semblance of happiness and contentedness with my lot in life, I try to keep the following in mind:

  • This quote from George Bernard Shaw gives me a better focus regarding those who have lives I admire: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them." Very few things are handed to you in life. Chances are, that aspect I admire about someone else was cultivated. That person intentionally spent time on that part of their life. If I want what they’ve got, I also have to put in the effort.
  • Comparing yourself to others is a slippery slope. Everyone lives their life at different speeds and that is a-okay. Everyone has different talents and, again, that is a-okay. Focus on what you’ve got and become the best person that you can be. Everyone else is already taken, right? (On the flip side, sometimes learning about someone who has it worse than we do can help us gain a little focus and make us realize that maybe we don’t have it so bad after all.) 
  • It's dangerous not seeing the whole picture. It’s easy to fixate on the often one sided view shown to us on social media and even sometimes in person. We see the wedding pictures, but not the marital struggles and fights. We see the smiley baby pictures, but not the sacrifices made to raise the child. Life has many angles and it should be examined from all of them. 
  • Pay attention to when you feel particularly crappy. I’ve noticed that when I’m looking at Pinterest and Facebook aimlessly, I often start getting starry eyed and wonder why I don’t have a bedroom that looks like that or why I don’t have a handsome, creative husband. Stay away from these triggers when you’re already flirting with the entrance to the rabbit hole of self-pity. Make sure you’re in a good, positive mindset before venture into these temptations. Having a purpose for perusing also helps: if I know I’m looking for yummy recipes on Pinterest, I’m less likely to fall into a blackhole. 

How about you? What do you do to lift yourself out of feeling sorry for yourself when you feel like you don’t stack up?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Library love

by jannem via Flickr
"A library is not, as some would have it, a place for the retiring of disposition or the faint of heart. It is not an ivory tower or quiet room in a sanitarium facing away from the afternoon sun. It is, rather, a command center, a power base. A board room; a war room. An oval office for all who preside over their own destinies. One does not retreat from the world here; one prepares to join in at an advantage."

-Eric Burns, from his book The Joy of Books: Confessions of a Lifelong Reader, emphasis mine