The cable channel A&E has a show called ‘Hoarders’ that airs in the evening. ‘Hoarders’ showcases people with severe hoarding disorders. Our mother was the original hoarder. My sister Abby and I think Mother was the impetus behind the show. Mother loved to “collect things.” There was truly no rhyme or reason to her collections. She just loved having a whole bunch of stuff.
During our childhood, the basement of our home was often such a mishmash of junk that you were hard pressed to find anything of value. Mother’s preferred method of cleaning was to toss the extra junk in the basement with no thought to organization or care. Just like she had to be in the mood to iron, she also had to be in the mood to clean. As you can only imagine, the mood didn’t happen very often.
Years later, when we visited her in Indiana, Mother had continued with her hoarding. But now she had the added benefit of acquiring crap to hoard by mail. Mother ordered all kinds of stuff/junk/shit through the mail, paying premium prices for the clutter. And often she did not even open the boxes when they arrived. If she did open them, she would throw all the excess cardboard into her basement. As she said
You never know when you might need an extra box or two.
With a leaky basement that was filled with stuff, this became a recipe for toxic waste. Between the mildew, mold and mess, trips to her basement were not in the equation without a hazmat suit.
Mother continued her hoarding when she moved up north and tried to clutter up her new (and much smaller) home without much success. My sister and I had decided that we would not allow her to live in a hovel of chaos, so we intercepted many of her mail order catalogs and refused to mail her orders when she did get her hands on a catalog.
Mother’s ordering patterns had become quite bizarre by this time: she couldn’t see very well (because she refused to wear her glasses much of the time). The catalogs she received were full of “tempting” items, including many items allegedly intended for charity. Mother would mark a few items in the catalog, then write out a check for what she thought was the total amount (including, of course, outrageous shipping and handling fees). Because of her poor vision, she often totaled the cost incorrectly. Her checks were usually for a bit less than the cost of the order, but in some cases they were written for a higher amount. Sometimes she would scribble her signature on the line for who the check was to, and write the mail order company’s name on the line for her signature.
Either way, as my sister and I intercepted the intended orders, we felt we were doing a service to all involved.
There was nothing she needed, but this compulsion is difficult to control. Of course Mother never admitted having a problem with hoarding. But then she never admitted to her problems with alcohol, food, drugs etc. They say denial is not a river in Egypt. Well, it’s a poor excuse for healthy living!