Taken from original post in June 2013.
This is another post I hesitate to write. Although it doesn't bring to light anything new for most of you, others of you don't know the details of how I grew up. I know there will be time down the road to write more about that from a personal point of view, but for now I'll just start where Geoff and I had to start...in mom's apartment. One of the things mom said when she was in the hospital was how embarrassed she was about the mess she was leaving. But as a dear friend of her's told her, "Cathy, we love you now and we will love you then by cleaning up your stuff after you are gone."
If you didn't already know, my mom was a hoarder. Every time I say it, it seems strange. During my childhood and even as a young adult, I didn't have a word for it. Since then I have gone through counseling and read some books and I'm now able to identify it better, even understand it better. And in today's age, with the show Hoarders on TLC, the average person has some concept of what it is too. It is so easy to watch the show and see the mess in which hoarders live and it might be easy to say how you would deal with the problem. But it is a whole different story growing up in the mess, having it impacting every element of your home life. And it reaches far beyond just home life. It impacts your social life, your emotional well being, your physical health, etc.
As children, my brother and I couldn't do much about it, although even then we would fight with mom about cleaning things up. But during high school, at different times, we both walked away from it. Mom was left with her mess and for years we have continued to argue with her about how things could be better and offered over and over to clean it up. But hoarding is such a deep psychological thing, we couldn't even begin to help. It became so bad that mom had to move out of the house in which we grew up. She temporarily moved into a few different places, but for the past maybe eight years, she lived in an apartment. She still had the house. She also had three storage units. But her apartment is what we had to deal with first...and her car. Her car was just as bad as everything else. Thankfully, Brandon was there to help.
Not only did he help clean out every nook and cranny, he also did some routine maintenance on it. So now I'm able to use it while going back and forth over the next year or so to finish everything else up.
Brandon was a great help in general! He kept the kids so I could spend the majority of my time at mom's apartment cleaning and taking care of other things around town that needed to be done. He also played 'Mr. Mom' for most of the week. My sister-in-law, ended up in the hospital because of early contractions and then was on bed rest. So in the meantime, Brandon helped cook and clean and watch the kids. He left for home with the older two kids on the Saturday following mom's funeral and I spent another week doing more apartment cleaning. The goal was to be out of mom's apartment by the end of May so we could avoid paying another month's rent.
Thankfully, my aunt is a professional organizer and she was there to help! It was a long process because it was hard to know where important things might be tucked away. But we were able to get it done and in the process we made some great discoveries. On the first day of cleaning I found this tucked in with a bunch of un-used gift cards.
And later in the week I found the wedding ring my dad had given my mom nearly 40 years ago. You can tell how little her fingers where. My wedding ring is a size five and her's didn't even fit on my pinky!
By the end of May, the apartment and car were done. I go back in a few weeks with hopes to get everything out of the storage units. And then in the months that follow, we will have to start on the house. That will be a much longer, much more emotional process I'm sure. Geoff and I have so much history there. So many memories. I have only been back to the house a handful of times since I moved out during my freshman year in high school. One visit was only a few months after I left and another time after college I took two friends to the house, at the recommendation of my counselor. Then I took Brandon there when we were dating and most recently, I took two friends in when they came to town for my mom's funeral. Each time I go in the house it is a little easier, but it still so very overwhelming to stand in the midst of all the mess seeing flashes of your childhood. The memories can sometime feel like a dream, until you are standing there in the middle of it and it is all staring you in the face, very real and very much like you remember it. It is not at all like watching an episode of Hoarders on TV. It is worse. Much worse, so much more suffocating and sad. The house will be hard to deal with, no doubt. But I also am looking forward to seeing the healing and redemption that comes from cleaning it up. I only wish mom could have experienced that healing from it as well.