Speech at the Hoarder Anonymous Group
Thank you for inviting me. You know who I am I have been many time. I’m a recovering Hoarder
My hoarding began when I was a child it started as a collection of things. First key chains, then buttons on shirts, then post cards, cups and it moved on from there. I initially organized everything. I’m a fantastic organizer when I have time. Then it kind of got out of control. When I had no time to organize it just got from being in boxes to piles then the piles got bigger then the large piles took over rooms. Then I have to collect boxes to put the things in that I have no time to put the things in. Then I had rooms full of boxes. When my bed room had too many piles I moved to another room of the house. I went into the basement. When my parents passed away, I then took over their rooms and when my sister moved away, I then took over the whole house. In the Oprah show I heard of the term Goat Paths and how they were described. Oh I wondered is that what they call them.The path from the front door to the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom, piles close to the ceiling on the left and right, becauase it was impossible to get in to the other rooms in the house, except to climb over the piles. All the doors were stuck in their position. Once a freind moved some boxes and said to me when was the last time you closed this door I said “Why?” and showed me inches of dust behind the door. To this point in my life I didn’t know dust could get that high.I replied oh maybe a few years maybe but I knew it was more than a decade.
I knew where everwhere was. Those piles is my book pile, that pile my electronic pile the other my clothes, the other this and that. I was organized. I thought to myself. I lived alone. It didn’t bother me. Only when the few times that I allowed the privledged few to visit me. Then I realized oh where was a chair? I think behind or may in that pile. I knew I had a few chairs somewhere. They stood and we spoke. From their eyes I noticed the disorganization and dispair, they were uncomfortable that made me uncomfortable then I decided not to invite people over. When they were not around, I liked it like it the way it was. So I invited less people and to a point nobody. It got depressing but at the time I found the quietness comforting. I felt the things were memoires from the past freinds and stories in each. How can one throw a freind away? That book was my dads. Even though he never read it. It once was his, a memory of him. That old tissue was once used by my brother, even though he was long gone. Maybe over 20 years. How can I throw him away. I couldn’t how can you throw your borhter away, could you?
I once spoke to someone about people about this. I know, I know the contemporary term is hoarders. She said I can do that job. To help people clean. I said to her. No you can’t. It more than just cleaning. Moving a tissue in the trash. They can clean it has nothing to do with moving a box or throwing something in the trash. They are fully capabile of doing it. They are not idiots. We had a half hour discussion that’s it more than boxes, more than throwing stuff away. It’s letting go of memories, of being ready to let go of the past. Imagine letting go of a freind the emptiness one feels. A breakup. Do you understand? I told her. She said I had such insight. I said I read alot and understood what they were going through. I didn’t mention I was a collector myself, a Hoarder.
Tell me how does one let go of freinds, of memories? I stood one day and decided I had enough. I gave it real thought then I realized if I threw these things away I would feel alone. Then I realized I was already alone in a sense even though I had many memoires and things. These things are not people they are things but in my mind they are people. Each thing was a memory a connection to a person. How can I throw a person away. If I did I needed a replacement. Like if I broke up in relationship. I would need new freinds, new people in my life. Where do I substitute? I didn’t know. Time was ticking in a way. The true people freinds that I had, each day threated to call Oprah on me. Yes Oprah the avenger of Hoarder publicing them on TV. I could see it know the nightmare of having Oprah knocking on my door. Actually the threat of calling of Oprah really scared me. Oh God me in my pajamas and my neighbords I could not do it. I attemped to look at shows on TV of Hoarders. I was horrified. The poor people what tramatic experience they were going threw. Putting all their things in the middle of the yard. Then putting each item one by one in piles Junk pile, Donation Pile and Keep pile. Oh my God! The torment the poor people my friend were amazed of their house being cleaned at the end of the house I could not make it threw the show in 10 minutes of these horric episodes.
I decided I would do it on my own I purged throwing stuff away. I took photos of the things that I wanted to know what it looked at. Donated clothes bag after bag. The Salavation Army I must say loved me on my visits each time my car full of clothes. The garbage men dreaded me on the days when I purged from end to end about 5 feet high. Did I mention the house had 12 large rooms and 10 had stuff from floor to ceiling and the other two rooms were stuff with goat paths? Well I am proud none ever reached the ceiling. Until I mentioned it to a friend that I wasn’t that bad and she said “What are you waiting it to reach the celing beore you decided to clean?” In all honesty the ceiling were to high I couldnt put boxes that high.
A freind helped me clean some items and he found a peice of metal about to throw it away I asked what it was before he threw it away. He said it was a coupler the thing that connects a car to a trailer. That was my dads dream to travel in his car and trailer when he retired. I took that piece of metal and just sat in the chair and cried and cried. How can I throw his dream away. He was gone about a decade but his dream was alive in my hand. Damn you why did you die? Your dream is still here in my hand. I needed to be alone. This happened over and over over many items. Very tormenting, each photo, the smell of an old hat, tissues that my brother had blown his nose. As weird as it sounds. It was a memory, a story an emotion a person a friend.
I did alot of cleaning, the first thig I noticed I couldn’t sleep. Not because of the things that were gone it was because of the darn echoes t hat bounced off the walls made too much noise. I could not stand it too much noise the stuff actually absorbed the noise and it was a dead silence before in the house it was great. Now the noise I had to deal it and on top of the open space there was light coming from the windows. Never realized I had so many windows in the house. How bright it was in the house. The drapes someone mentioned were so grey when was the last time they were washed I said grey? No they were white. Oh they needed to be cleaned one day I cleaned them. Yes I then discovered then what white meant and the rooms got brighter. I needed dark glasses in the house for a while.
I felt an emptiness as I thought I would. I need real people to fill up the emptiness I was feeling. I let people in and had dinners. One of my freinds who was helping me in this venture had a freind who was traveling into town and had me to put her up in an extra room that she had helped me clean. Wow the first time I had a guest over . Well over 10 years maybe 15 I don’t recall. It was weird. She asked me what was the weather like I said let me look it up on the Internet. Before I could look it up she was out in her shorts and tank top and just for a minute outside the door and came back in granted it was October she quickly came back quickly in a minute and said it was cold. I said really? It was October what did you think? I had more guests a friend and her mother over for dinner from a distance you would think they were sisters because the mother looked so young. They were my first dinner guests it was nice. It was funny they sat on the chairs and a puff of dust rose. Oh I thought to myelf I forgot to dust the chairs. They smiled. Another day a freind came over and we cleaned out more boxes from the upstairs and the first light entered from the upstairs it was amazing. Let there be light.
An interesting thing happened a few weeks later, a neighbor across the street saw me and asked what’s new I said nothing. She said who was that girl with in the shorts coming out of your house? I had forgotten I said oh a freind visiting out of town. Then after some polite conversation asked who were those two girls visiting you for dinner? I said oh the mother and daughter oh yes visiting from Germany. She smiles ah huh, mother and daughter. I wondered what was their point. Then they asked you know you lived across from us for 30 years and we never saw light top floor of your house and I replied oh yes a freind is helping me clean and she smiled “Ohh is that what they called it. Cleaning” I was really puzzled by her remark. Seriously people get werid sometimes. I must say.
Before I was in a quiet, dark house with my freinds all around me. I miss them. Really I did. I really can not remember that state of mind I was in before, it is hard to explain. It was a different reality.
Before I was eating alone in the darkness looking at my piles and now I have a bright house, with light coming through the windows, people who visit me for dinner.
Once where there were echos of the past from the things and now there are echoes of new freinds that tell me stories whose voice bounce off the walls from new stories. A much different reality which I really enjoy.
I am no longer a hoarder of things. I am now a hoarder of stories from new freinds.
Ron Sattar @ 2012