*growl**grumble**curmudgeonish snarl*

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Mornin’ all.

Winter is over and the bears have come out. And not “internet” bears…

*If you don’t already know what the internet calls a “bear”, then you don’t live a life where the info would be very pertinent. I’m just sayin’, Google at your own risk if you must, but don’t get offended if you don’t like what you see.*

…I’m talking teeth gnashing, ornery summbitches that’ll mess your shit up for a pile of trash. They’re out and they’re fierce.

At least one of them is. I’m in a terrible mood. Not even this coffee is helping.

To be fair, it’s shit coffee because I had to make it. Teen 2.0 forgot to set a pot up for us. It’s okay. Since he is the coffee connoisseur in the house, he’ll be suffering for his forgetfulness. Instant karma.

The cat woke me up early by licking my nose, then screaming in my face. I didn’t actually mind because I was having terrible dreams. I got downstairs to find a pile of rubber-band-induced vomit.

Bad dreams. Shit sleep. Horrible coffee. And cat vomit. Helluva great way to start the day.

“Bethie, where did the ‘glass is half full’ attitude we constantly get annoyed by go?”

Sorry. I warned you I was feeling snarly. I’ve got a lot of clutter at the moment, both physical and mental.

See, I’ve been trying to clear out the dining room, AKA:Oscar’s Trash Can. I’ve got guests coming all through May, and I must must MUST get that room in order. Or, in as much order as I can get it. I’m going to do my best, but I’m still a hoarder. There will be a lot of shit left in there even when I’m done.

“Just grab a box of trash bags and go to town.”

If it were that easy, don’t you think I already would have done it? HM? I’d LOVE to be able to let go of shiny things and greasy things and squiggly bits and knobby doodads and twisty thingamabobs… I look at other peoples’ houses and honestly wonder how in the hell they live with nothing in their rooms. It’s legitimately a mystery to me.

I actually have let go of a lot, you know. I have one room that’s crammed full, not an entire house anymore. The Big Clean a couple years back has stuck for every other room.

And I will throw out a fair amount from the dining room, too.

It’s just going to take me awhile. I can’t just grab shit randomly and shove it into a trash bag. I can’t do it. I will sit there side eyeing the stack of bags and get so anxious that I have to- HAVE TO- know what’s inside. It’s a compulsion, not a desire. Not a want. Not a “quirk”.

And, to be clear, it’s not “garbage”. None of it is rotting or discarded wrappings or a collection of every rind from every piece of watermelon I’ve ever eaten. There aren’t stacks of junk crushing mummified animal bodies flat or piles of rat shit heaped up on anything. It’s mostly metal bits I’ve stripped from cars and electronics, all sorted according to the CCFS.

“CCFS?”

You aren’t familiar with the Coffee Can Filing System? It’s similar to the tried and true Dewey Decimal, except for in almost every single way. The CCFS goes like this:

Greasy things go in large plastic Maxwell House containers. Once they get de-greased, they are broken up into large utilitarian bits, like brackets and push rods and structural pieces, and small shiny bits. The utilitarian pieces go into large cardboard cans, like from cheap ass coffee we drink on our broke weeks, and the regular shiny bits get placed in small metal cans, like from Hills Bros., or Chase and Sanborn, because they are special.

Springs have their own cans, because springs are awesome and deserve their own cans.

Nuts and washers go into old film cans, the metal ones 35mm film used to come in before they started putting it in little plastic cylinders. I know they’re not technically coffee cans, but come on. They’re just nuts and washers. Duh.

…unless they are brass. Those are special and, as such, also get their own can.

Bolts or screws go into a huge Folger’s can, because why wouldn’t they?! Unless they are automotive interior bolts, which go into a separate can, or tiny electronic screws, which go into several small Altoids tins.

Now, electronic bits are harder, because they are small, fragile, and somewhat toxic. I have a bead sorter for the most delicate parts, which also holds transistors and resistors. Those go in there because they are small and round. Like beads.

Then we get to my super special cans. They’re not actually coffee cans. They are aluminum food cans, the kind that have the lining on the inside for acidic foods like tomatoes. Those are where the prime bits go, and I have made a special little stand for those out of an old film projector case.

“What would be a ‘prime bit’ Bethie?”

I’m glad you asked!

A prime bit would be something either very shiny, like a computer hard drive internal disc, or something that’s uniquely shaped, like the impeller from inside a diesel injection pump that looks just like the inside of the Hadron super collider if you hold it out away from you and squint. Basically, if I’ve never seen it before, or it’s super shiny, it goes in a special can in the special drawer in the special stand where I can easily access it.

So that is the CCFS in a nutshell. Of course there are tons of variations of the system, depending on the finds, the season, my ever changing whims… It’s kind of a subjective filing system.

But it’s mine. Every hoarder has one.

We have this customer at work that the night crew calls The Magazine Lady. She comes in and sits in a mart kart in front of the magazine rack for hours early in the morning. She does buy some things, and when she does, those things need to be placed in bags. She’ll pull her money from her purse, which is also in little bags, and then sort her change and her receipt into bags when she’s done. Everything she buys goes in its own bag, even if it’s a bagged product, then they get put together in a larger bag inside ANOTHER bag.

I know what her house looks like, folks. I know what her car looks like. I know what life looks like for her day to day. She follows the PBFS, and she is bound to it by much stronger ties than those I deal with. I feel bad for her.

Mostly.

She’s not just a hoarder, she’s also a real asshole, so my sympathy only goes so far. You can be a kind hoarder. And let’s face it, if you’ve got such a strong difficulty for people to look past to begin with, you SHOULD strive to at least be kind. I’m grouchy today, but I’m not an asshole. Usually.

Hell, could you imagine? A fat, broke, inept, compulsive hoarder…I really can’t afford to be an asshole on top of it. I have to have at least one redeeming quality. If you can’t achieve any other standard in life, kindness is the one quality you should always prioritize.

It’s not easy to work through the stuff in the dining room. It brings up other things for me, memories and emotional baggage I wish would just get out of my psyche forever. I wish you could tip your head to the side and whack the top and let the mental clutter fall out of your ear like in the cartoons. Wouldn’t that be great?

Ah, but then you’d risk throwing the baby out with the bath water, eh?

I just have to keep at it I suppose. I completely cleared a walkway on my first day. I broke down a holding box of parts I grabbed and hadn’t yet processed on the second. I’ll get there. I know I will. My guests will still think it’s a horrible mess, because let’s face it, the CCFS isn’t for everyone. But I’ll know how far I’ve come.

I just have to keep plugging away.

Thus concludes a bit of a Musing for Friday, April 28, 2017. It’s already the 28th? Where did April go??? Shit. Now I have to register my car before work today or risk getting a ticket Monday morning on my way in. We’ve got some really sneaky cops that have gotten very good at hiding along the route to work. It’s kind of impressive, really. This one hides his rig so well you absolutely cannot see it at all until it’s too late. I have to tip my hat…and hurry to get my car registered before the shark gets me…

And so, we meet again…

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Mornin’ all.

Pat Benatar is belting it out on the radio right now giving me the urge to snap my fingers and jerk my shoulder in a sassy fashion. I’m drinking my coffee tempered with chocolate milk this morning, the delicious result of my man’s store ordering way too much and having to sell it at half price just to clear the shelves…

*Top Tip: If your SO comes home with two gallons of chocolate milk, definitely add it to your morning coffee. I feel fancy. Like I’m drinking those International Cafe drinks the ads used to make seem so sexy. I’m still drinking it out of an old salsa jar, so not fancy fancy. I’m not letting it go to my head or anything. But I’m definitely feeling upper middle class redneck. Ooh la la. Maybe I’ll really treat myself and let Calgon take me away later.*

…and the pup is going to try it on Special K for breakfast. It’s going to be an icky weekend for me. I know this. However, I can’t fault the start. Perhaps it won’t be so bad after all.

So how’s it going?

I feel like I haven’t been on in ages. This week we had beautiful weather.

Let me clarify. It’s been March in NH beautiful. No Bermuda shorts and tank tops or anything, but it was perfect weather for working outside on the cars. I was doing repairs on two of them, and a mad-dash stripping parts out of another so we can get it out of here before the next one arrives.

*Important message: These are hoopdies I can make money off, folks, so don’t get the wrong idea. I know I already put on airs about my coffee, but let’s keep it all in perspective. Salsa. Jar. Coffee cup. We didn’t hit powerball. It’s not like I’m having to Tetris Lambos around Ferraris to fit them in the drive. We just got lucky and hit a string of rusty money makers.*

I was scrambling to get $$ off the parts car, stacking bits and doodads up like a pro. And then yesterday hit. We’ll call that chapter, “The Day of Reckoning,” in which our brave heroine literally becomes the victim of her own hoarding when parts go a’tumblin’ to and fro and on her foot.

“Oh, Bethie.”

Hey, in my own defense, we stripped out three cars over the winter. People don’t buy car parts for their projects until spring. I went into the deal knowing I’d just have to…uh…creatively stack the stuff. I knew space would get temporarily tight again.

A couple weeks ago, my man looked at the room and said, “We need one big tool chest instead of all these small ones.”

He was right, because we’ve got tools spread far and wide and it would be lovely to have them all in one location so every repair doesn’t turn into another round of “If I was a wire cutter, where would I be?” Don’t get me wrong. I like that game. I just get sick of playing it every fucking time.

Gets old.

The tool chest is a three part-er he got at one helluva deal from Harbor Freight. I don’t know how many of you use tools, but if you do and you don’t shop online at Harbor Freight, you’re missing out on sweet, sweet savings. Even with the shipping, the unit cost less than half of what it would have cost locally. Taking the price as a sign of organizational fate, he ordered it.

The Tool Chest of Awesomeness arrived.

It arrived before I could sell some parts.

It arrived amid the mess, sitting empty, eyeballing the piles of tools longingly.

“I can be so useful if you just let me,” The Tool Chest of Awesomeness said as I stood stirring regular milk into my coffee yesterday morning like some uncultured swine.

That combined with the alternator deciding to obey physics and crush my toe gave me a reality check. It was clear that I had to put the wrenches down for the day and dive into the hoard. The Tool Chest of Awesomeness is right…it CAN be useful. I would definitely have more usable space if I can get the other tool boxes out of the way. I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

…and then rolled one sleeve back down to mop up my tears of helpless frustration a few hours later when it felt like nothing would ever be right in the world again.

I get overwhelmed, folks. I think it’s part of the hoarding deal. I reach a point where it honestly feels as if there is no hope. That point used to stop me.

Let’s be clear. That feeling, that brick wall, is not a matter of boredom. It’s not like I get halfway through an organizational project and am like, “Meh, screw it. I wanna go glitter something.” I mean, of course I *always* want to glitter something, but that’s not what stops me in a cleaning project. Glitter can wait.

No, in those moments, it’s not a matter of boredom, nor is it laziness. It’s a war inside, because I most definitely, absolutely want to finish the task. I just get an almost consuming feeling that I cannot do it. That I, personally, do not have the ability to put things in a sensical order and that I’m an idiot for even trying.

Like I said, that used to stop me. Now, if I’m working on my own, I step back, wipe my tears, and make a list.

*Sidenote to my big sister: Yeah, yeah…yuk it up You win. THIS TIME.*

I’ll write down the ideas, take a break, and wait until I can go over it with someone before continuing.

Yesterday I didn’t need the list because I had something better: The kids. The teens had no school, and the pup had a half day. Boy, are the kids good at talking me out of my own head. I called Teen Prime in when I started to feel like it was too much and I wasn’t enough and he knew what to say to keep me moving forward.

I just need to know in those moments that my idea will work, because my head tells me it won’t so loudly that I get muddled and can’t tell the difference. If I can tell someone else the plan and they think it’ll work, I get rejuvenated. I just need someone else to say, “I agree.”

“You just need to learn to tell yourself you can do it, Bethie.”

Dude, I just rolled my eyes so hard it put every teenage girl throughout history to shame.

See, that’s the thing, folks. If it’s not your issue, of course that’s what you think. Of course you look at me and say, “Just believe.” I’ve heard that over and over about all kinds of my, uh, we’ll call them “quirks”. “If you just…” “You don’t need someone else to validate…” “You need to love you and embrace your inner power and trust in your feministic magic vagina yadda yadda yadda blah blah…”

GAH ENOUGH!!!

Yes. I *should* be able to know that I can clean a fucking room, for gawd’s sake. I mean, it’s just a room. It’s stuff. Put it in stacks that make sense, throw out what I don’t use, and move on. It doesn’t have to be such a goddamn ordeal.

But it is.

That’s how my head works. Logically I agree 100% that it’s “just” and I “should”. Thinking about the car work I did this week, all of it is arguably much more difficult on the skill scale. Don’t take this the wrong way, but can you weld a cracked door panel back together without warping it when the break goes through not one, but two critical bolt holes? Because I did. I didn’t even think twice before diving into the job, either. I saw the crack, got out the welding supplies, and went for it.

Yet, I see a messy room and it’s like I’ve been dumped into the middle of someone’s brain surgery, handed a scalpel, and told, “You’re his only chance now. Don’t fuck this up.”

Don’t you have those “things”? Isn’t there something you look at another person doing and think jealously to yourself, “It looks so easy. WHY can’t I do that?”

So no, I’m not enough to be my own pep-talker. Maybe someday it’ll be easier for me, and I will be enough to talk myself out of that rut. For now, I need an “attaboy” from another source. At least I understand and accept that. At least I figured out how to work with what I’ve got, not just wish for something different.

Have you had enough of my personal psychoanalysis? Yeah, me too. Let’s get back on track.

Anyway, I got a good chunk done yesterday. Today is going to be jam packed, but this evening I should be able to finish up with the parts organizing and get to where I can roll out all the other tool boxes and fill the new Tool Chest of Awesomeness.

I can’t wait to get that puppy all set up. I get to use a label maker for its intended purpose, not just to annoy the kids by labeling all of their stuff. I mean, I’m still going to do that, too. How else would they know a pencil is a pencil? But I finally have something that actually requires legit labeling.

Pat Benatar was a fluke. The radio station went to something very Bieber-esque, so I decided to switch to the pc and Sia is now blasting through my headphones. Fire is meeting gasoline right now and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s getting me pumped. That’s a good thing. I need to be jazzed right now.

Sia. Fancy coffee. Tool Chest of Awesomeness. A label maker locked and loaded. And you putting up with my shit for awhile to help me clear my head.

Okay then. *deep breath* Unto the breach!

Thus concludes an emo Musing for Saturday, March 19, 2016. *clickity click* Hear that? I just made a label that says, “fancy milk.” …what? I have to warm up the label maker somehow.

A sick kid, a dead mouse, and a broken window walk into a bar…

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Mornin’ all!

I got up to one “awwww” thing today, which was so much better than the not “awwww” thing I found when I woke up yesterday.

The awwww thing today was a note pinned to the hallway outside my bedroom from my 9-year-old. It said, “I threw up in the night. It did not feel good. 😦 ” Now, why is this “awwww”? Because he could have just knocked on my door, ya know?

But that’s just so him. Everything about it was my little MacGuyver. He had no paper, so he snipped open a toilet paper roll and flattened it out to write the note on, found a thumbtack somewhere in his room, and pinned the note right at my eye level where I’d see it when I opened my door.

Again, he easily could have just knocked.

Ah, but he’s one to take care of things himself. Poor little guy. Guess my plans are scrapped for today and I need to run for ginger ale before the teens head out for school.

The not awwww thing was a gift from kitty. Dead mouse (not to be confused with deadmau5… *glow bracelet fistbump*). She left it at the bottom of the stairs for me, presentation style. It was sitting in the middle of a plastic grocery bag (her favorite thing in the world) with a black sock placed right next to it. I’d like to think that the smelly, dirty black sock was an intentional artistic addition to underscore the fetid morbidity of Death. As soon as I heaped on the praise, though, she sat down and started licking her ass, so she’s probably not a deep artistic thinker after all.

ZOMG. WAIT! Maybe the ass licking was a living art piece, a biting commentary on the entire event summed up in one controversial and provocative performance? I mean, when you think about it, could there really be a more succinct statement on the terrible emotions one must deal with when there’s been a death than the horror of licking ones own ass??

MY CAT IS BRILLIANT.

I’m glad we have a mouser. It’s getting colder, and the mice are getting bolder. The cold weather is kicking off some deep instincts, not just in the mice and Rembrandt Kitty.

*author’s note: Yes, I, too, found it a bit odd that I went with “Rembrandt Kitty” when I easily could have taken the opportunity for punnery. I’m not saying that “Picatso,” “Meownet,” and “Renrawr” weren’t given serious consideration. In the end, though, I decided that if Kitty was going to be all high brow, then perhaps I, too, should take the more mature route.*

Around these parts, the first time you see your breath in the morning, something deep inside says, “SHIT! WE WASTED SUMMER!!!” You start looking around in a panic at all the things you can’t do once the snow flies. You can’t fix that car. There’s no way in hell you’re getting concrete poured on the one stair that mysteriously disintegrated once it’s sitting under six inches of snow. The garage still needs cleaning. The deck is a mess. And let’s not EVEN talk about the plans you had for that broken window.

The cold hits the ancient internal “go” button.

That’s good in a way. I mean, the shit really does have to get done. It’s not about the beauty of the home…it’s about the knowledge that if a foot of snow lands on that deck, you won’t have a deck once it melts. These are NECESSARY repairs, not weekend do it yourself projects to give the joint more curb appeal. These things have to happen, and time is tickin’.

On top of that panic, there’s the incessant obsession to gather in a hoarder such as myself. I’ve mentioned before that the apples highlighted my hoarding thoughts. It’s so much worse when it turns cold enough to wear a cardigan in an un-ironic manner. The empty spaces in the cupboards fill me with a sense of dread. It doesn’t matter how much food is around those empty spaces. There are EMPTY SPACES people! It’s a CRISIS. We will STARVE if I don’t cram those cupboards!

This year it’s particularly bad.

I think since the man’s schedule is still all up in the air and there are many changes afoot, my system is trying to compensate by over-controlling other aspects. Food is only one of them. Then there’s just the general need to acquire and prepare for the times when we “can’t.” Can’t afford, can’t get to, can’t find…

See? I get it. I know and understand my compulsions. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t giddy as a schoolgirl at her first dance when the junk shop heaped tons of shit in the free pile across the street yesterday.

“…oh, Bethie. *sigh*”

I got tiles! TWO boxes of them.

“And what are you going to do with two boxes of tiles?”

Look at them. Have them. Know that they’re there in case I need them. Oh! And a fun crate! It’s got such a cool shape.

“Did you need a cool-shaped crate?”

Actually, that one I can legit use. It’s very wide one way, and tall and skinny the other. It’ll be perfect for holding the paintings I’m doing, a place to safely store them before sale. So *pfflllbttthhh*.

The urge to get the rest of the stuff from the pile was almost overwhelming. There was a chair that has just a bizarre vibe that drew me to it. I kept staring at it. No, I did not go over and get it. No, I won’t today if it’s still there. I’ve already got one chair project going, and don’t really have the space for the that. I don’t need/can’t fit another. There was also a pile of unusually shaped cinder blocks. I have never seen cinder blocks that looked like them. I couldn’t think of a real purpose for those, so they, too, stayed put.

I’m trying, folks. I really, truly am. I blew it on the tiles, but the crate will honestly help with an organizational problem I’ve been having.

I got the first layer of concrete poured on the stair yesterday. I need at least one more layer, but I thought it best to do a series of thin layers since it’s cooler out, and since I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Landlords didn’t fix it, and I was sick of turning my ankle every time I left my house. Three of the household guys suggested I use the tiles on top of the stair and make it look fancy, because:

a) they get me…

b) they know how hilarious fancy stairs leading up to our just-this-side-of-a-tar-paper-shack house would be.

Could you imagine stepping onto icy tiles, though? Yikes. I’ll have to find another way to make an ironic statement about my home.

When I was a kid, I saw a house that was decorated with political messages. Not in my town. Over towards where my grandparents lived all the way on the other side of the state, a good two whole hours away. The owners would paint huge messages on the clapboard siding.

Shit. Was that over by my grandparents? Bah. Who knows. I was a kid. Somewhere in NH there used to be a very political house.

…or was it in Maine? Ya know, it could have been Maine…

Anyway, I could do that. Instead of going with the ironic fancy route, I could be more blunt and write things like, “I refuse to live my life under the imperialistic constraints of a straight roof!” or, “Is the foundation really warped, or is YOUR perception of it the problem?” You know… make people think.

“Wouldn’t your landlords object?”

Well, see, here’s the thing. The house has been peeling for years. It should have been painted at least five years ago. They ignore the problem by refusing to walk over to this side where the damage to the paint is very apparent. True story. That way they don’t have to look at the paint and can pretend it’s still perfectly fine. What they can’t see, they don’t have to fix, right? I think that’s how landlording works.

In order for me to make tall statements on the clapboards, I’d need to first prepare the surface. And that would mean a free paint job for them! If they don’t care about piles of peeling paint, I highly doubt they’d give two shits about a few words.

There’s a flaw in that plan, though. I could paint all the words I wanted and the real statement would be totally lost on the Landlords. They wouldn’t get it. They honestly would just be jazzed that they didn’t have to hire a painter after all.

Someone’s already done it, too. That’s another drawback. Someone else has already painted their thoughts and feelings on their house. I guess if I’m going to passive aggressively shame my landlords in a manner that would go completely over their heads, I should at least be original about it.

Maybe I could do inlaid tile work around the broken window? It’s facing the road so everyone will see. I’ll lay the tiles out, then surround them with gold painted filigree work to highlight the absurdity. Picture it. The paint will be peeling all around it. The window broken and askew in the rotting frame. And yet, a peek of Taj Mahal level opulence…

“Whoa. I’m not a home improvement expert, but wouldn’t that take a lot of time and effort?”

Yep.

“…for what is essentially an inside joke that pretty much no one will ever understand?”

You do realize that all you’re doing is talking me into the idea, right?

“*shakes head* You have issues.”

So, so many.

Thus concludes a ramble for Tuesday, October 13, 2015. It’s light out. I’m not going to look across the street and see what’s still left in the free pile. I don’t need it. Right? I mean, who wants a stupid chair, anyway? A stupid, unusual, different, captivating chair. Heh. *breaks out into a sweat*

Renaissance Cavewoman

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Mornin’ all.

You want some applesauce?

My apples are coming in. BOY are they coming in. I haven’t even really had to set up a contraption to harvest them yet, though my guy and a buddy of his had some great redneck fun climbing up there and shake shake shaking the branches. They climbed just high enough to scare me, but still in a range where a fall would most likely be survivable. I’m not going to lie and call that a sober endeavor, though I really feel like that goes without saying.

Between the drunk apes and good old fashioned gravity, I’ve gotten enough apples so far to make three batches of apple crisp, two apple cakes, and four gallons of applesauce.

Four. GALLONS.

Three of the gallons are divided and ziploc-ed in the freezer. I always use ziploc bags for freezing stuff like that. Once you fill the bag, squeeze the air out, and zip it closed, you can lay it on the counter for a bit and it’ll get very flat, making it good for storage.

Admittedly, it feels very, very odd to have a sac of warm applesauce in your hands. It’s like some bizarre boob implant gone awry.

“Bethie, I’m offended by the word boob.”

Of course you are.

Once you get the edible implants flat and stacked, they fit very nicely in our small freezer. It’s times like these that I wish I had a chest freezer. Though I guess if you look at it the right way, now I do.

BUH DUM DUM CHING

I’d guess a good two thirds of this year’s apple crop is still up in the tree branches. I’m going to make some apple butter and jar it, so I can store that in the cupboards. And I’ll keep cranking out apple cakes and crisps and crumbles and buckles until the kids can’t stand the smell of apples and cinnamon.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?

“Yes, but they don’t mean you should cram the whole year’s worth in at once.”

Eh, semantics.

We had use of a standing freezer at one time. It was great. My mum got it for a song from the junk shop across the way, and we muscled it into her garage when she lived next door. It gave us a few good years, then shit the bed. We used it for storage of woodworking materials and hand tools after it would no longer chill our grub.

You all know how much I love having a new thing to fill with all my junk, so it wasn’t really a heartbreaking day when the freezing element conked out. But having the ability to hoard food is something I miss.

I was thinking about hoarding the other day while combing through the tall grass for apples, my shirt full because I didn’t have the forethought to bring the cooler over to the other side of the tree. Had I been a chipmunk, I would have started cramming my cheeks full.

You’re welcome for that mental image.

I bent over to pick up another apple and the makeshift “pouch” of my tee shirt bottom gave way and a few apples fell out. I’m not going to lie. It gave me a moment of panic. It truly, honestly did.

“Uh, Bethie…”

Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Just bend down and pick them back up. I get it. But in that moment, all I could think was, “Shit, I just lost them! Hurry and get them back right now or the kids will starve this winter!”

Here’s a theory, folks. I don’t think my hoarding is a dysfunction. Instead, I propose that the hoarding “illness” is actually a recessive genetic trait carried from our hunter/gatherer cave-cestors.

Now wait. I’m not justifying any of the alarming or truly damaging aspects of hoarding. There is no reason to get so much junk that you can’t tell when you’ve got flattened, mummified cats at the bottom of the heap. There is absolutely no survival benefit to owning mummified cats.

But if you were to come into my house right now and look at things through the eyes of a caveman or cavewoman, you’d not only be impressed, but you’d put down your rock and club in concession to my obvious superiority and crown me Queen of the Caves.

…”*dubious eyebrow lift*”…

…okay, well you’d at least whistle and waggle your bushy cave brows and thump my man on the back while saying, “mmghfm, brah,” which I don’t even think needs translating.

I’m saying that while I may fail at being a modern chick in many ways, I’d friggin’ rock the hell out of cave life.

*sidenote: The misogynistic OpenOffice spellchecker approves of “caveman” but not “cavewoman.” Someone start an online petition toot sweet.

**sidenote p.s.: Also not allowed are “spellchecker” and “sidenote,” though I doubt this will raise enough ire to warrant a petition. Still, worth mentioning. Tighten it up, OpenOffice.

Cheekiness aside, I do think I might be on to something here. I wasn’t kidding when I said the apples falling out of my shirt caused a moment of panic. That’s what actually gave me pause and sparked what might be the first epiphany of the school year. With the kids gone during the day, I can actually think.

Look, I’m not at all unaware of my stupidly obsessive thoughts. I know it was utterly ridiculous to feel fear at the potential loss of three apples, especially given the circumstances. They didn’t actually “go” anywhere. They were still there in front of me, cushioned in the grass, waiting for me to bend down and pick them back up.

Right now, in modern life, I didn’t have to worry at all. I didn’t lose them.

And even if I had, even if they had tumbled down the little hill into the drainage creek to be swept out to the Ashuelot river, there were plenty more apples for me and my family. Too many, actually. I don’t have a freezer. I can’t possibly use all the apples Nature has provided this year. I honestly did not need those three apples.

But cavewoman Bethie could have. Cavewoman Bethie probably would have. Every single scrap of food was necessary. It makes sense to have a mini panic attack when you think about it from that standpoint. I might live in modern times, but I’m still an animal. At heart, we all are. And what more animalistic endeavor could there be than gathering food for a family? Not shopping. Not opening a can. Real, honest, raw gathering. Out there, barefoot in the morning dew, eyes carefully scanning the tall grasses for the bright red that signals another step towards full bellies and healthy cubs.

Instinct. In that respect, hoarding food is simple, pure instinct. Grab as much as you can and then protect it, because those three apples could mean the difference between life and death.

On the “stuff” side of hoarding, as the gatherer half of this h/g team, my ability to scavenge and save and stockpile would have been a massive advantage. My little clan would have had things to trade, more possibilities for tool crafting, greater comforts than other groups. Those things would have given us status.

I would have OWNED caveman life.

Modernity hasn’t negated the inborn need humans have to amass huge quantities of things. I hoard stuff. Junk, if you’re going to insist on cold, hard truth. I love the things I gather. To me and my little clan, it’s useful, even if others don’t see the glorious piles in a twinkling, rainbowy light. However, while others are shaking their heads, the vast majority of the tsk-tsking naysayers are also hoarders. They just hoard money. Or shoes. Or nice furniture instead of curbside freebies.

Think I’m off base? Then explain storage units to me.

We humans have created a multi-billion dollar industry that exists for the sole purpose of storing all our extra crap. If you’ve got a storage unit that holds all your extra stuff, then you’re actually pretty much just like me. The ONLY difference between the two of us is that I refuse to pay someone $300/month to keep all my extra shit. I don’t tuck my hoarding away and pretend the urges aren’t there. I face it and live with it every single day.

“Bethie, we need storage units. What about when people move? They need a place to keep their stuff for awhile.”

Yep. But that’s not how it plays out, is it?

My uncle had a storage unit. He got it when he downsized after his divorce (lawyer speak for “he had to sell the house and give the ex the money”). When he started out, he *intended* for his storage unit to be temporary, as most folks do.

But once he got into the apartment, he realized how empty it felt. So, he started to buy new stuff. Why not? His house stuff was really for a house, after all. He needed apartment stuff.

When he died, we had the job of sorting out his storage unit. What did we find? Copies of the stuff he had in his apartment. Another couch, another stereo, an outdated computer. At that point, he had been divorced for nearly two decades, and had been shifting that crap from storage facility to storage facility as he moved. He paid every single month to house his “house” stuff for decades.

You’re laughing, but his story is not at all uncommon. In fact, most people who rent a storage unit end up paying to keep it for years. Some people have multiple storage units.

How is that NOT hoarding? It is hoarding. It’s just socially acceptable hoarding. That’s the only difference between the average Joe with a storage unit and myself. Society okays one and pretends the other is different. We are alike, though. We’ve all got that little side to us.

It’s a compulsion that’s been in our genes since before we were humans. It’s an ancient survival instinct that happens to be more prevalent in some people than others. I’m simply more in touch with my ancestral heritage than most.

I’m not a hoarder. I’m a Renaissance cavewoman.

Wait…why are you groaning and rolling your eyes?

“Because it just dawned on me what you’re doing.”

Uh, what do you mean? I’m proposing a very important biological, sociological, and anthropological theory here.

“No, you’re trying to justify ignoring the housework for another day.”

Whaaaa? Meeee???

“That’s what this entire post has been about, isn’t it?”

*whistles* *picks lint off bathrobe* *develops a sudden deep interest in the position of the stapler on the desk*

“Bethie.”

…yeah?

“Go clean your room.”

*grumble* *glare* Fine. See if I try to enlighten you again. *mutter* *shuffles off to get the broom*

“Don’t forget the trash bags.”

Tyrant.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, September 1, 2015. I guess I’ll go clean my stupid room now and conform to your modern oppression. But you have to admit, excuses and stalling and epic procrastination technique aside, I might just have a point.

Wrenches and glitter are both shiny, so why can’t they go in the same box?

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Mornin’ all.

It feels like an ominous day is brewing. I woke up way too early, couldn’t get back to sleep for about an hour, then had dreams about dead people. Ugh. I got up, and to my dismay, the morning dawned with all the freshness of moist sponge that’s been sitting under a leaky bathroom sink. It’s so humid.

No, wait. “Humid” is tame.

As we like to say in my neck-o-the woods, “It’s wicked fahkin’ muggy.”

Fun story: When I was a kid and we’d have a thunderstorm in the summer, my dad would always look outside after and say, “Here come the muggies.” However, what *I* heard was, “Here come the monkeys.” I’d run to the window and try to see the monkeys. I thought maybe they were hiding in the fog. It was a real bummer when I got old enough to realize that summer thunderstorms did not actually elicit monkeys.

…and no, I’m not going to tell how how embarrassingly old I was when I finally had this revelation. Let’s just say, “Old enough” and let it go.

People say we can’t complain about this heat wave because of the horrible winter we had. Balderdash! We live on the 44th parallel. We get all kinds of weather, and I don’t discriminate. A 90 degree sauna is just as unpleasant as a -10 degree snowstorm. Can’t complain about the heat? Stuff and nonsense! I can complain about it all, my friend.

In spite of the heat and soul melting humidity, I had a great day yesterday! We piled the herd into the other wagon (the one we broke a couple weeks ago is still waiting for parts) and headed up to a different dam and recreation area for some damn recreating. It was hot, but boy was the ride beautiful!

I keep reading about the drought that’s gripped a large part of the nation. If you happen to live in one of those areas, I’m honestly not trying to rub it in. The past few summers here have been dry as well, but not this year. Maybe it was the extreme level of snow we had. Or the fact that when it has rained over the last couple months, it’s been less of a soft, pleasant drizzle and more of a “cats and dogs” situation.

…sidenote: See? People say “raining cats and dogs.” I’ve heard that my whole life. Now put yourself in the mind of a kid, and I really think a belief in rain monkeys is fairly reasonable.

Whatever the reason, we’ve got water, and that made the ride a beautiful collage of wild flowers, bubbling streams, vibrant green trees in every hue. As we got into the beginning of the lakes region, mossy, cat-tail and lily pad dotted marshes opened into broad, glittering lakes. Sometimes I forget how utterly beautiful my state is. It set the mood for a very fun day.

We met my grandparents at the dam. Yep, I said “my”. I’m lucky enough to have a set of grandparents that are still full of vim and pep (vim and vigor, but that always makes me think of my Polish grandmother who always got it wrong and said “vim and vinegar”). We met at the dam to hang out since my house has clearly been struck with a tornado of car parts and craft supplies. There would have been no way to enjoy lunch in the midst of all this…uh…can we just call it my “diverse collection” and make it sound artifact-y instead of hoard-y?

We chose a Wednesday to go, thinking it wouldn’t be crowded. While the picnicking area was wide open, the beach was surprisingly packed. The dam and recreation area are run by the US Army Corps of Engineers. As such, there’s only a small fee to use the beach and large picnic area, $1 per adult/$4 max per car. I guess a lot of the locals take advantage of the great deal on a hot day with bored kids during summer vacation.

That was fine. It was too hot to be a swim monitor for very long. The kids got a good (if slightly confined) swim in before we moved back to the shade of the enormous pine trees. We had a great picnic, then sat and chatted while we provided colorful commentary on the kiddies that were playing badminton.

Er, attempting to play badminton.

…er…flailing wildly at the birdie?

It was a fun day, great to see my family! And this wagon didn’t blow a hydraulic line on the way there OR back. In fact, as we pulled into the drive, the littlest pup piped up and said, “And would you look at that?! We made it a whole trip without a single disaster.”

Much like Tiny Tim, my jr. wordsmith certainly knows how to bring a sentimental tear to the eye.

So that was yesterday.

Today? I wanted to go out and finish the frame for my latest artistic bastardization. However, I can’t do it in this weather. I’m not a small lady. We bigguns’ don’t do the heat very well, and my neighbor would not appreciate me using the saw at 6 am before it gets too hot to work. I’ll be stuck inside for the most part. And that leaves me with only one option: I am going to attempt to clean in the dining room, aka the museum.

“No, Bethie. Sorry, but no. You cannot call it that.”

Aw! No fair! You said I could call all the crap “my collection,” and every collection needs a museum to display all the…stop shaking your head at me right now!

“*sigh* I will not legitimize your hoard by pretending it has institutional value.”

…*grumble*

“Come on. You know I’m right.”

…fine. You win. I’mma clean up my mess.

Satisfied?

“I don’t do it for me, Bethie. I do it for you.”

*blink*blink*

Yeaaah. Let’s move on.

So cleaning. It’s not at all what I want to do, if you couldn’t tell. I would say something glib like, “Who actually WANTS to clean,” but there are some people who like to do it.

Let’s investigate that for a minute. Some people, they *like* cleaning. It’s something they *enjoy*. They WANT to go through stacks of crap and do things like “sort” and “organize” and probably “collate,” though in fairness I’m not entirely sure what that means. I’ve never collated anything, so I assume it has something to do with being clean and tidy.

Anyway, these freaks, they clean, they organize, they collate their asses off. And then do you know what they do? They label “totes” and place similar items together inside. From what I gather from my Google overlords, they will get a tote for just pencils, and then ONLY put pencils in it, no matter how much other shit they *could* cram in there. They do all of these steps, AND THEY LIKE IT. They look forward to doing it all again on a REGULAR SCHEDULE to keep everything “neat.”

The world is full of sick, twisted psychos, folks.

I have one sister who gets dangerously close to being neat and tidy most of the time. In a pack of four girls, statistics say that at least one of them will be addicted to orderliness. It’s okay, we love her anyway. She’s moving right now, and is using boxes.

Boxes!

I said, “Why don’t you just get a bunch of trash bags? Scoop everything in. If something breaks, then you weren’t meant to own it anymore.”

But noooo. She wants to be all fancy.

Boxes. Pfft. I bet she actually wrote on them, too! Isn’t half the fun of moving playing the “where’d it go” game in your new home?

“Honey, where are the damn forks?”

“Did you check the Jack Daniels box?”

“Yeah. It’s full of tampons and razors.”

“…can’t we just use those?”

Good times, good times.

I wish the house she was moving to was closer. I bet if she walked in to my dining room right now, she’d say, “Oh HELL no,” and pull out the pair of rubber scrubbing gloves I want to believe she carries in her back pocket at all times, and get to work.

See, one of the bad things about hoarding tendencies is how overwhelming it feels. Right now, I’m not even CLOSE to my worst. That’s not denial, so don’t start with that crap again. I have way less junk than I did a year ago, and most of the house is still easily traversable.

It’s cluttered in there, but most of it is cluttered because it was left out, not put back on the shelves and corners. We had a whirlwind of using the tools and parts and supplies, and they are out where I will trip on them and over them to get to where they belong. I have the desire to at least make it so we can move around in there freely, just not the organizational part of the brain that tells me how to accomplish this task.

I was born with an organizational deficit, I suppose. The closest thing to an organizational center I have in my brain is a fat, lazy dude named Stan who glances up from his video game and says, “Damned if I know,” when I ask him how to do something.

Teen Prime somehow got the organizational skills I lack. I have none of them, and neither does his father. Must be a recessive gene. He’s going to help me in there because I busted ass to get his room rearranged to fit a new fifty bazillion pound desk in there last week. He owes me.

None of the other teens have shown any neatness tendencies. One of them is slightly fastidious, but that is not the same. His fastidiousness does not extend past his personal space. The littlest shows promise, but he’s also got my lack of attention. He is definitely a mini-me in that respect. Bright lights and shiny objects distract us. Nine times out of ten we’ll end up looking through the button jar while we sit in the middle of the half-straightened mess until someone intervenes and reminds us what we were doing.

Not good.

Teen Prime is growing up. Teen Prime is moving away soon. I guess I should probably take notes when he helps me sort and organize and maybe even collate later today. Right, Stan?

“…huh?”

Exactly.

Thus concludes a muggy Musing for Thursday, July 30, 2015. I’m going to make another pot of coffee before I begin this most dubious venture. The coffee I’m drinking now was made by one of the kids, and it just doesn’t have that burn-yer-belly feeling that a real pot of joe offers. I think I’m going to need the full strength kick in the pants to get through the cleaning. Sure I’ll be up all night with a flaming gullet while I hallucinate little pink men from the overload of caffeine, but neatniks assure me this is a normal side effect to a thing they call “efficiency”. Unto the breach my friends…

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No…it’s…a great big pile of crap?

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Mornin’ all.

“Well look who it is, gracing us with her presence.”

Whoa now. I know I’ve been busy, but…

“What happened to your promises of keeping in touch and creating new posts with regularity?”

I’ve done pretty well up to this week! It’s not like I didn’t want to be writing. It’s not like I want to have to clean out the hoard and scramble for a place to live. Sheesh. You act like I’m enjoying doing all that crap. Trust me, I’d MUCH rather be babbling at you!

“…you mean that?”

Of course I do! There’s no place I’d rather be in the morning than chatting with you over coffee.

“Fine. I’ll accept your apology. THIS TIME. *sniff* Proceed.”

It’s a chilly start here, the kind of morning that makes any parent perk up and say, “Holy shit…it’s almost time for school to start!” I want them to go back, and yet, I don’t. Turned into a dud summer here, and I wish I could have another month to actually do things with them instead of running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to handle the cards life dealt.

My youngest is going into the third grade this year. He got a letter in the mail yesterday from his new teacher, a teacher I had back in fourth grade. It’s so weird having your former teacher now be your kids’ teacher. When my eldest attended first grade here when we moved back from a town just up the way, he got my first grade teacher for his. The first time I attended a parent/teacher conference with her, I sat there and “yes, ma’am-ed” and “yes, Mrs. Felton-ed.” She said, “You know you can call me Kathy now, right?”

What? What is this!? Call my first grade teacher by her first name?! Every ounce of little kid left inside me recoiled in absolute horror. She had another of my kids later on. I still call her Mrs. Felton, and I always will. Some things are just too ingrained to change.

Anyway, my youngest has my former fourth grade teacher this time. He’s excited because in her note, she mentioned that he has to bring a set of ear buds for her “listening station”. He said, “I get a listening station? Like for music? Do you think she’ll let us watch YouTube?”

He was so excited that I took the parental cop out. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!”

Oh come on, don’t give me that look. If he’s excited, let her be the one to dash his hopes. It’s been a crappy summer. Why not let the boy dream?

Got the school supply list, too. It’s not bad this year. Standard stuff. Pencil box, pencils and crayons, notebook, etc. The only weird thing is the ear buds, and those are a buck at the dollar store. Nice and simple, as it should be.

Some teachers seem to get drunk on the power of writing a supply list. When my older boys were in jr. high, I got these lists that were insanely specific. “1 1/2-inch blue binder, 1 2-inch red binder, 100 3×5 lined index cards, 100 4×6 UNlined index cards…” It went on and on.

One year, a teacher specified the brand of pencils she preferred in her classroom. Another wanted me to supply three boxes of tissues OR a case of bottled water, my choice. That one struck me as weird. I mean, if you’ve got a runny nose, wiping it off on a bottle of water seems like an unusual solution. But hey, I’m not a teacher. What do I know?

I get it. I understand why teachers have to ask for extras. I get that public schools are so strapped for supplies that they have to ask parents to kick in more than just the insane taxes. But I just think some take it way too far.

I once had to buy a photo album for one of the kids. It had to be certain dimensions and a certain color. I couldn’t find the exact thing and got as close as I could. Turns out I should have gone to Staples, not the other three stores I went to looking for it, as the teacher informed me in a passive aggressive note the following week. Well damnit, lady! Why didn’t you just say, “You can find these at Staples?” Or, better yet, chill the hell out about it because it’s just a damn photo album and not worth any drama whatsoever!

A teacher once asked that when we chose the folders to insert into our child’s binder that they not be neon colors because she found those distracting. She chose a profession where she had to deal with a classroom full of hyper active children all day. Snotty noses and petty bickering and spitballs and gum on shoes and outbursts during quiet time and all the other million little acts of chaos that happen in an elementary school classroom every single day…and she’s stressing the color of a folder? Good luck with that one, lady.

Look, I’m not knocking teachers here. I had some fantastic ones. And even the crappy ones have a really hard job, and that should be taken into account. However, as a parent, it’s my obligation to complain about the supply lists. It’s just how things work, and I’d be shirking my duties if I didn’t do it.

Two weeks and they go back, jumping in the fray. And I will be here by myself in the mornings.

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike being by myself? Especially now that the kids are older and far more interesting. They’re cool and fun, and I get so bored when they’re not here.

“But Bethie, think of the writing you’ll be able to do without your little distraction machines.”

…you have a point.

Plus, I can pop on a girlie movie while I clean and do housework and there won’t be a single boy around to scoff and roll their eyes (even though they totally get into them, especially the 80’s ones, while trying to LOOK like they’re ignoring what’s happening on the screen…YES I’M CALLING YOU OUT BOYS).

And I must admit, as great as they are, they’re huge and have an annoying habit of standing in the way when I’m trying to clean. I’ll admit it will be very nice to bag up some junk and walk it to the back of the station wagon to haul away without having to tell the same kid to get out of the way five times.

Yes, the clean out continues. What part of “hoarder” did you not understand? I’ll probably STILL be at it a month from now.

I had to get rid of a ton of books yesterday. There’s a drop box here in town where you can donate books. I hauled two station wagons full of books for that bin and filled it right up. The problem is, I’ve easily got twice that many books left and no room to donate. I can’t throw them out, I just can’t. Books are special and books are magic and I can’t throw away special magic. I also can’t bring myself to haul them to our next place, especially when they’re the ones we absolutely will not read again. Maybe I’ll just stick them out with a “free” sign at the yard sale this weekend.

I’ve got to say I’m really impressed with my stacking abilities. My hoard is all shoved into the corners of rooms and closets. We’ve always got some floor space. It’s not like we’re being buried or consumed. And looking at the piles in their corners of the ring before a bout, I assumed there were a few bags of garbage per. I mean, how much can you really fit in the corner of a room? Got one corner of the dining room done yesterday.

Hang on. Lemme ‘splain. My “dining room” is really my “catchall project room”. We don’t dine in there. We make projects or messes, or messy projects. As such, instead of a hutch with the family china, it’s got some of everything.

I got to one of the bad corners. In that one space, I bagged up eight bags of crap to throw out. Eight! Looking at it all bagged up, and then looking at the corner, it’s impossible to figure out how it all fit.

My theory is that hoarders can control gravity, but only in relation to our collections. It’s our super hero skill. Admittedly, it’s not the best super power a person could have. It doesn’t do much good in real life crime fighting or saving lives or pretty much anything else. But boy, can we pack shit in!

I think I just came up with the next Marvel movie! You laugh, but they just made a blockbuster out of a talking raccoon and a tree. Heroes of Hoarding doesn’t seem like such a stretch now, does it?

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Friday, August 15, 2014. Grocery shopping then the next section of the dining room. Getting there. Really I am.

Is there anything more poetic than a drawer of empty pistachio shells?

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Mornin’ all.

It’s a coffee AND gum kind of morning today. I got up feeling very nervous and apprehensive. I swapped a cig habit for a gum habit three years ago. No, not nicotine gum. Bubble gum. You know, because I’m mature. *whooooosh POP* And some days, I need it right off the bat. Makes the coffee taste funny, but I make funny-tasting coffee to begin with. It evens out.

Also turned on the music to soothe the savage beast. Right now I’m listening to Awolnation. You may have heard the huge hit “Sail” put out a few years back. The rest of that album kicks ass, and I’m listening to “Kill Your Heroes”. If you haven’t heard it, you should remedy that right now.

“Bubblegum and b-side album recommendations? Are you…are you turning into a..a.. HIPSTER??”

Egads, man! I already told you I’ve got a nervous constitution this morning. Don’t add to it! Hipster? ME!? *shudder* Sheesh.

“Okay, okay. Calm down, killah. I was just joking.”

*sniff* I’m not a hipster.

“I know. Now, what’s got you all wound up today?”

Gah, I don’t know. Everything. Things are up in the air, changes are afoot. And I’m cleaning out my hoard with reckless abandon.

Look, I joke a lot about being a hoarder because as long as I keep saying it and making light of things, it’s okay. The second I stop talking about it and poking fun at myself over my tendencies to gather junk is when I start having a bad problem again. The second I stop talking about it and start stashing secret piles, then you all can worry.

Now, to be clear, I’ve never been diagnosed and treated. I’m like an alcoholic who wakes up after another bender and just knows they’ve got a problem. I found something while attempting to clean out my closet (not a metaphor…seriously, I was cleaning my closet) that was very eye-opening…but more on that in a sec. Let’s first look at hoarding.

Hoarding is a psychological issue in the same family of mental illness as obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s categorized by the sufferer collecting and keeping items that may or may not seem to have any purpose to an outside observer. The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring says, “Among the features associated with hoarding are difficulty making decisions, perfectionism, emotional sensitivity, and strong attachment to objects.” They say that up to 6% of US and European adults suffer from this mental illness, and that “hoarding symptoms commonly begin during childhood or adolescent years.”

So basically, hoarders see something and instantly form an attachment to it and must have it and keep it. It’s a compulsion. Something inside says, “You need to find a way to have this thing because this thing is the thing you are missing and if you walk away and don’t pick it up you will regret it and the memory will haunt you and DEAR GOD YOU MUST TOUCH IT RIGHT NOW AND MAKE IT YOURS.”

Yep. That’s pretty much how it happens.

I’ll see something and my mind will instantly say, “Ooh, I could use that for project X.” Then before my logical side can step in, the monkey on my back that just wants a new toy starts listing ten other ways I need that object in my life. I can look at anything and tell you ten different ways it can be useful.

Yes, that’s good in some ways. I can MacGuyver the hell out of anything. But, it’s also simply a way to justify getting the thing in question.

I’m not a money spender. I don’t pay for the stuff I pile up. I get it all for free, either given to me or from the free pile across the street at the junk/antique shop. Or, I strip down things we’re throwing away, like a broken couch or lamp. I’ll completely disassemble them to take out any bits I deem useful. A lot of times I get things I truly do use in something else. But, I also end up with another little box of pretty bits that in all likelihood I’ll never really re-purpose.

I think it’s interesting that this is a disorder that begins to manifest in childhood. Remember when I said I was cleaning out my closet? Well, I found an old jewelery box. I used to collect jewelery boxes. At one point, I had eight. Now I am down to two. I was cleaning one of them out and I found that the four drawers were full of collections I had when I was probably about 8 or 10. I had forgotten I had them, but as soon as I looked I could clearly remember gathering them up, the processes, deciding to keep them, etc. Wanna know what was in the drawers?

In one was bottle caps. Not good ones. Flattened or old and rusty ones. You can’t read the labels, and they honestly look like garbage.

The second drawer had a handful of magnet strips that I popped off the back of fridge magnets. I didn’t keep the picture parts, just the magnets off the back.

The third drawer contained ripped stamps. Some were together on a sheet that clearly had kool aid spilled on it, promotional snowman stamps from March of Dimes charities that they used to send to guilt you into donating a few bucks. Most of the stamps in the drawer were just torn off letters, common stamps of the day that are so ripped and ragged that there is no worth, use, or purpose for them.

And the last drawer contained pistachio shells. I used to love pistachio shells. This wasn’t from like one incident of late night pistachio eating or anything. I’d pop a few in to add to the collection when we’d eat pistachios. It was a conscious collection gathered over time, not just once on a little kid whim. I just loved the way they sounded when you jingled them in the drawer.

All of it crap, and all of it kept for almost 30 years.

I dumped those drawers into the trash. Yesterday alone I threw out 7 trash bags of junk. That makes about twenty five in the past two weeks. My house is getting emptier, which we really need. But it also sounds emptier. It’s starting to sound echo-y. Even the ambient noise is telling me I just lost a bunch of stuff. The monkey on my back is missing his shinies.

See, the other thing about hoarding is that it’s so very comfortable. Yeah, you look around a room and know you’ve got a problem. You KNOW that most people don’t have stacks of junk piled very nearly to the ceiling in the corners of all the rooms. You know, and while consciously you feel guilt, deep inside, you don’t care. When you shut that light out at night and nestle in to sleep, you can’t see the piles and feel the guilt they bring. You FEEL that stuff there around you and it’s like sliding into an old pair of sweatpants. It’s safe. It’s warm and cozy. It’s comfortable.

It is not comfortable to hear the air swirl around in the room and remind you that your pile is gone. It’s not comfortable to get up to go pee at night and feel bare floor under your feet and not have to walk around anything to get there, because you know that means you lost all your stuff.

I love feeling an empty and open space. I really, honestly do. I look at my older sister, the one I want to be my life coach *AHEM HINT AGAIN*. Her house is magazine-neat. She’s got elbow room and doesn’t trip over a stack of disassembled computer parts. I do like that, I honestly do. I want that, really.

And yet, I don’t.

The light goes off and the walls of my castle are gone and it just feels like I made a huge mistake throwing all that away. I mean, I can’t ever get it back. Ever. And while I truly am logically okay with that, there is an undeniable sadness associated with losing all of that potential.

I’ve gotten better with hoarding over the last five years or so. When our boy was diagnosed with cancer, it became clear there needed to be massive changes to keep him as healthy as possible during the treatment. No, as I’ve said before, I am not the kind of hoarder that has filthy dead animals and piles of garbage all over the house. I have junk, not wrappers and molding food. Piles. Huge piles. The thing is, those collect dust. And with the type of treatments he needed, any contamination was the enemy, including dust. My wonderful family pitched in and went holy hell on my piles…I think that was the moment when I knew just how bad a problem I had. Seeing it through their eyes, watching the parade of stuff fill up boxes of trash bags and an entire U-Haul that was rented to take things to the dump. That was the moment.

And while I’ve slipped, it has never gotten as bad as it was then again. I DO make myself go through things and have a two year rule that seems to be working well. If I haven’t touched it in two years, then it can go and I will live just fine without it.

…mostly.

Come on, I can’t get rid of my childhood jewelery boxes. That’s simply unreasonable. I can, however, get rid of the trash inside. Even if it does give me a stomach ache.

I need to get my kids up in a minute. I’m working in one of the boys’ bedrooms again today. My eight year old is here to help, and he’s a hoarder, too. No, I’m not kidding, and as we’re going through paring down the piles, he’s making comments that actually make it far easier for me to huck the shit while he watches and, hopefully, learns. He’s saying things I used to say. “Oh, I know! We can use that as decoration on a lamp shade!” “Only one part is broken. I can still use the rest.” “No, I haven’t used it for awhile, but I might.”

I tell you what. That’s the best reason in the world right there to keep filling up these trash bags.

I don’t want him to be like me. Not like that. He’s my fellow MacGuyver. Since he could walk he’s been helping me build and repair and make contraptions with all sorts of found materials. He’s also clearly been paying way too much attention to my less-than-awesome traits. I want him to see me throw things out, and I need him to hold the bags open while I do it. I keep trying to stress that he can keep things he legitimately still uses, but it’s time to let the broken crap go. By the end of the afternoon yesterday he was taking the dust pan and just scooping stuff up without looking from the bottom of the toy box and throwing it away.

Let’s just hope that’s the lesson that sticks.

Thus concludes a cluttered Musing for Saturday, August 9, 2014. I’m listening to Goyte’s “Night Drive” at the moment. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. It wasn’t a…HOLY CRAP. Okay, I am officially giving you permission to slap the hell out of me if I even so much as reach for a Pabst…