My mother has not had an easy life. Her father was an alcoholic and abusive to her mother. She was very close to her mom, who passed away shortly after my mom started college. She rarely speaks about it, but I think she was devastated. After graduating from nursing school in Minnesota, she packed up all her belongings and moved out to San Francisco with some school friends leaving her family and the only life she'd known behind. She joined the Air Force as a flight nurse and travelled the world. That's where she met my father and decided to get married at the age of 32. I think waiting until after you turned 30 to get married was rare in the early sixties.
After nearly eleven years of marriage and two children she found out my father had an affair and my parents divorced. My memory is pretty fuzzy, but I don't think the divorce was even final when my father was diagnosed with cancer. He died nine months later. Within that same year, my mother's best friend committed suicide. So there she was a stay at home mom turned widow, but not technically a widow, with two young girls to raise. As you can imagine, she was emotionally a wreck.
But the eight year old me had no idea how hard things were for her. She did everything she could to put on a brave a face for my sister and I and make our lives as normal as possible. My family is a family of secrets. They come from a place of "don't talk about the bad stuff, put a smile on your face and move forward." So I don't think my mother ever really dealt with the crap she was handed. She went about the business of earning a living and raising her daughters. She never dated again after my father's death
I am not a psychologist by any means, but I think that all of those things above have contributed to the fact that she is a compulsive hoarder. You know, where she can't throw anything away and there are small paths throughout the house to get to the toilet, the bed, the shower, etc.
It started with the refrigerator of all things. I remember being in junior high and embarrassed to open the fridge if I had friends over. There is barely room in there to fit a can of soda and she lives by herself. She has more stuff crammed in there than I have in my fridge to feed my family of five. From the fridge, it moved on to the garage. There is a large storage area above the garage that is filled with all my toys and furniture from childhood. Once that was full, the stairs to the storage area started to fill up. You can't even make it up the stairs any longer. She hasn't been able to park her car in her two car garage for years.
mom's master bedroom
She saves magazines, wrapping paper, random purchases from TJ Maxx. One of the cupboards in her kitchen is full of dog biscuits, leashes and dog dishes. Our dog died 15 years ago and she has no plans to get another one. There's no where to sit and eat a meal because her dining table is covered with stacks and stacks of papers. Her bathroom is filled with bags of random shampoo and conditioner bottles with just a few drops left in them.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. My sister and I estimate it will takes us weeks if not months to clean out her house when the time comes. She only lives about 10 minutes from me, but I rarely let my kids go over there because it's just too dangerous. She knows she has a problem, but it would be incredibly difficult for her to let go of her piles. I know she'd be mortified if she knew I put pictures of her house on the internet, but she doesn't read my blog. She doesn't even own a computer. More people know about her compulsion than she will admit to herself. She hasn't had any of her close friends over in years, they must know. My sister and I have tried to intervene to no avail. It's like an addiction.
Maybe as a result of the state of my mom's house, I tend to lean in the other direction. I throw everything away. It makes me feel good to clean things out and get rid of them. I don't like clutter and it's easier for me to relax when my house is clean and organized.
I do have one little problem though. Toothbrushes. I have a strange urge to buy my kids new toothbrushes every time I'm at the drug store. I am powerless to resist the latest toothbrush innovations, characters my kids love, toothbrushes that play music or toothbrushes with little suction cups that stick to the wall. That is all well and good, but then I can't throw the old ones away. Then they get new toothbrushes every six months at the dentist's office. Therefore we have a toothbrush collection that looks like this:
Is there such a thing as compulsive toothbrush hoarding? PsychMamma? Anyone?
In all seriousness, I know that compulsive hoarding is no laughing matter. My sister and I discuss it often and it breaks our hearts to know that we will probably never have a meal at her house again and our kids will have no memories of playing at Grammy's house. Not to mention the fact that her house is clearly a dangerous fire hazard. We are at a loss. Her compulsion/addiction not only hurts her, it hurts her family and friends and it has damaged my relationship with her.
I've merely scratched the surface of my multi-faceted relationship with my mom in this post. I'm sure I'll revisit the subject.