Hoarders and clean freaks

This past weekend my mom came over to help me weed. I didn’t ask for help, she just saw the need.

It got me to thinking about something that I couldn’t place which was bothering me. There was an in-congruence in my thought patterns. My mom is one of the hardest workers I know. Yet she has one of the messiest houses I’ve ever seen. How conflicting the thought was in my mind. I always thought that hoarders were lazy. But are they?

My parents are the biggest hoarders of magazines and papers. They still have a phone book from the 1970’s from a different city that they lived in out of state. They have stacks and stacks of papers that litter the living room floor and all available counter spaces.

My parents kept almost all of their clothing since they got married. Their closets are full of old clothes and jackets. It comes in handy for me when I am going to a costume party.

My mom hoards food. Her cupboards are stocked full of canned goods. All of her refrigerators and freezers (they have several) are full. The refrigerators always smell like rotten food. It is very important to check the dates on items before you eat them. The freshest foods are in the grocery bags that line the dining room floor.

Thankfully for me, my mom kept every school and personal journal documenting Matt’s life in great detail. It has been very helpful for me in writing my book. I don’t think that I could be writing as powerful and moving of a story without her help.

Their hoarding always suffocated me. It was hard to clean the house. The counters were so full of stuff that there was no place to move anything in order to clean it. Then you just put the items back on the cleaned areas. I always felt like I was emptying the ocean a tablespoon at a time. It stirred within me feelings of hopelessness.

My brothers and I are not hoarders. It bothers me when things are cluttered. It fills me with despair. The strange thing is that my parents feel the opposite way. It causes my mother emotional pain to get rid of things. My mom threw out my brother’s baby blanket when he was in his 30’s. She cried and lamented about it for days even though my brother didn’t want it. She tries to get rid of things but it is very upsetting to her.

Sometimes my mom will clean out the cupboards and closets. Instead of throwing things away, she gives them to me. Recently she gave me a bag of my dad’s old worn out socks. It is a little easier for her to give things away then to throw them away even though she must know that is what I will be doing with it.

It is hard for me to understand how my mom’s feeling are tied up in useless things.

It must be very hard for my mom to see her house in the shape that it’s in. She is embarrassed to have anyone over. I wish I could understand. Yet I am glad I do not.

I feel guilty for my mom’s help around my house when she needs it more than I do. It’s overwhelming to try to help her. I would just come in and start throwing things away and she couldn’t handle that. I know, I’ve tried. I feel like my hands are tied. But I know that my brothers and I are going to end up throwing most of the stuff away or getting rid of it someday.

I need to be careful in my own life so I don’t end up on the opposite spectrum. I have a tendency to be a clean freak. Dirt and clutter stresses me out. I want everything to be clean, neat, and organized. But I try not to let it control me.

I also have relatives that are clean freaks. We once went camping with my Aunt Jan. It stormed out and we ended up huddling in my aunt’s garage freezing because we were too dirty to be allowed into her house. I also have an uncle that would host parties and follow his guests around with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve also witnessed him on his hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor while guests were over.

I don’t think people at either extreme seem happy. I tolerate uncleanliness when guests are over. But it’s also kind of funny that I picked this topic to write about as I am freaking out about cleaning my house and weeding everything this week to have a perfect house for my son’s graduation party.

But since I grew up in a house of clutter and hoarding, I realize if people really care about me then they are willing to overlook some slight imperfections.

8 thoughts on “Hoarders and clean freaks

  1. I think they can be two sides of the same coin, hoarding and extreme neatness. I discovered recently that someone close to me is basically doing both because of their shopping addiction. They are very neat and clean, but have way too much stuff !

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah. It takes intensive therapy and they have to be willing participants. I guess of all the mental illnesses, hoarding is not the worst, but it does create a big problem for those left behind. If you can get them to start letting go of some things, even if it means being sneaky, it might save some time later.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Right now I’m dealing with a sibling who is obsessed with cleaning and throwing things out. I too enjoy that but the problem is she is doing it at our parents house. She confessed that there was a time in her life (divorce) where she felt like she was losing it until she realized that she can’t control everything but she would control what she could — which is cleaning. Explains a lot — why she never seems to sit still and expects everything to be cleaned immediately and expects everyone else to be on the same schedule. She wears herself out. But now she seems triggered and is purging my parents house suddenly, behind their backs and without their permission. It feels like something is wrong or going wrong — with her. Meanwhile my elderly parents need to feel some control and see what is leaving their house and are finally trusting enough to let go of things when I present them to them and give them a break in between. But my sister can’t wait to do it Hoarders or Konmari style where you let people see their stuff and say goodbye to it and let it go. She’s just taking it. Her control tendencies have bled outside her home over to vulnerable people. What makes her feel better is hurting them, but she is oblivious and on a mission. It’s also hurting me (and the careguver) because of the damage it may do to the trust we’ve built and that we are the ones who will be around when they discover things are missing. And the fact that she admits it’s a control thing is so disturbing to me. I suggested she read the tidying book. Years ago I noticed my kids being distraught that their things would go missing and I stopped moving their stuff — the divorce and move was stressful enough. They needed to have control over their stuff. And I started to fear that they would develop hoarding tendencies to protect their belongings. Konmari and Hoarders helped me to realize that other people’s relationship to their things is different than mine. So I help but give my parents and children the final say. I’m not a minimalist. Anyway, long comment to say I totally get it. Thanks for posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting! How frustrating that must be for you. I hope some sort of equilibrium can be maintained. It’s difficult to have family on both ends of the spectrum especially since it seems like you will have to be the one stuck in the middle cleaning up the mess.

      Liked by 1 person

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