My Family Secret

I have a secret. I have kept it for thirty years. My parents are hoarders. I grew up surrounded by stuff. I lived in my parents’ house until I was eighteen, when I left for college. In the years that I lived with my parents, I managed to keep the house from getting too much worse. After I left, though, it quickly declined. I have been gone for eleven years now. I cannot even get into my old room because clothes are piled on the bed and on the floor. Trash covers the countertops of the kitchen. There is one chair and a small space to sit on the floor in the living room. The basement literally has junk piled to the ceiling. How can a house become so overrun with belongings? The truth is that my parents have gotten rid of little of the stuff they have accumulated in the past thirty years. I think it’s time for a change.

I stayed with my parents for a few days in June 2010 and devised a plan. It all started when I couldn’t get ready in the mornings because the sink in the hallway bathroom had every surface covered with toiletries. I would lay my toiletries on the sink and inevitably two or three of my parents’ items would fall in the floor. I convinced my mom to help me go through the items on the bathroom sink and in the cabinet. I thought if she could see how great it looks when you have fewer things even in a small room such as the bathroom that it might motivate her to dehoard the rest of the house. My dad watched us from the hallway. There were three boxes of q-tips, four bottles of rubbing alcohol, three bottles of aloe vera – the list could go on like this for a while. We filled two garbage bags of stuff. My mom said, “I need for you to help me do this in my bathroom.”  This was an astounding statement from a pack rat! In the past, I was always reprimanded for trying to clear clutter. And now, my mom was asking for help in doing this very thing? And so the clearing of clutter in my parents’ house began.

So far, we have worked on the hallway and the kitchen. I have delivered about fifteen 30-gallon trash bags of goods to a thrift store. I have thrown away thirty bags of trash. I can’t see a huge difference yet, but it will come. It hasn’t been easy – my mother is so afraid that I’ll throw away something she needs. Both of my parents are adamant that their names and address be removed from all papers due to their fear of their identities being stolen. Sometimes I find things that are scary, such as the plastic container on the table that still had a piece of cake in it. In my hurry to get it to the trash, I tripped, the container fell on the floor and burst open, and the most horrible rotten smell hit me. Disgusting! I keep working, though. My mission is to declutter the upstairs rooms of my parents’ house. Or at least to be able to sit on the couch when I visit.

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