Monday, 25 June 2012

Sometimes it's worth getting 'crunchy'.....!!

If you read my post yesterday you'll 'get' the post title today !!

On Friday we headed off up the motorway for a weekend with my Mum, it wasn't for a nice social time, of talking and enjoying ourselves, it was for a weekend of work, hard work.  Mum kept us fed and watered and helped in every way she possibly could, but it was a weekend of lifting and shifting.  Of blood, sweat and tears, a sobering weekend that left us all drained both physically and emotionally.

The top picture of this post is of my Dad's garage, it's not even a 'Before' shot, my brother had already taken at least 26 large black bin bags to the tip and Mum has been constantly filling her wheelie bin each and every week since my Dad's death in March.  But it is a 'Before' shot of this weekend.  The one immediately above this, is what's left that was worth keeping to sell, not all 'good' stuff but stuff that will be interesting to some folks at car boot sales and should make us some money.

Over the course of two days we filled one medium sized skip to capacity and took a truck completely full to the top and back with broken up furniture and wood, my brother drove backwards and forwards to the tip with more bin bags and smaller items in his car.

This is the same view 'After', when our large truck is full to the roof and back with the things to sell.  There are still things tucked in the cupboards and drawers at the back which we will be picking up soon.  We have never once left Mum's house with an empty car after a visit since Dad's death.

Another view towards the garage door before we started sorting on Friday afternoon.

Almost the same angle at the end of the weekends work.

Lovely Hubby did some minor repairs to the garage door when we had almost finished, this was after all the first time we had been able to open it in twenty years, yes you did read that right 20 years of the garage being inaccessible from this end.  And why did I call it Dad's garage earlier on, because in the whole of this space the only bit that was ever Mum's was a tiny corner of the top of a cupboard near the side door where she stored a a handful of gardening things, oh and the freezer that she used to store their harvest in from the allotment, but when that broke down a couple of years ago it couldn't be taken out and disposed of because there was no way of getting it out of the space it occupied, so instead it was used as a cupboard and more 'things' were stored in there.

Do I sound slightly bitter here, yes I guess I do, someone asked in the comments after Saturdays blog post about 'Things'  how I could 'get in the mindset to get rid of things' and said that they would keep things 'just in case'.  I get in the mindset very easily, I have seen and felt the pain my Mum has been through over the last 20 years because of  'things'. 

It started gradually with my Dad, worked it's way into their lives almost imperceptibly when I left home to be married at eighteen.   There was suddenly a spare bedroom, he filled it with 'things' gradually over the course of a few years.  When they moved house his things and the others that he had added to them suddenly had more space, a loft, a garage, a shed, and then came the allotment where 'things' are almost expected, after all you had to hold on to useful things there for re-using, re-purposing and re-cycling.  He moved things from the garage to the allotment to make himself more space for more things in the garage.

What you have to be aware of though, so very aware of, is that 'things' can take over.......and in my Dad's case they did.

This problem is now widespread, my Dad was of the age when he and countless others like him saw their mothers scrimp and save and have to make use of every morsel of food, every inch of ground to cultivate and every item of household goods over the war years and after.  That is understandably hard to shake off, now however, the problem is different, we live in an age where it is almost a national past time to go shopping at the weekend, for food, for clothes, for things to possess.  Why things make us happy?  I know from personal experience they do not.

A jokey photo, but we were shattered!!

So why do I find it easy to get rid of things.....because I never want or need to own more than I can use.  I do see the pretty things I have and I use them.  Nothing lurks in my cupboards that needs sorting out and deciding over.  I have what I need and I like it that way.  When something breaks I fix it, if  I can't I will replace it, I don't mind where from, it can be secondhand or new, I do buy what I need and I occasionally I buy what I want, but what I want are usually things that I need so there is never a conflict.

I will not depart this earth leaving work for others, yes, there will be some sorting, there always is, both financial and physical but it will take a couple of days not a couple of months.

My name is Sue, my Dad was a hoarder, my Mum loved him dearly and helped keep his secret, but now it's out and almost sorted through and we are all absolved from the guilt and the pain it caused.

I loved my Dad dearly and I still do, he loved us all too and this was his illness.

Don't let it be yours.

Sue xx


  1. Well done. This is a salutary message.

  2. Oh Sue. I fear you feel rather criticised here. I read all the comments & can only see admiration not criticism.
    It is very hard for some people to get into the "mind set" for clearing.
    I know myself that the badly needing decorating state of our house had got me very down but I did not have the energy or skill to tackle it myself. Friends asked why I didn't do it myself. It was too overwhelmimng for me & husband's job is very physical so painting was not on his agenda !

    By having a painter in ( very reasonable rates ) It has transformed the house & inspired me to tidy sort & clean. A huge weight lifted. Every time we move house we clear the loft but over the years it fills again. It's daunting but I know we will sort it again one day.

    After two "down sizings" my mother has vastly reduced her "things" and we talk about what is left & what will become of it when she is no longer with us ( yes we do talk like this )

    You have made a world of difference for your mother who through loving your father endured his "things"

    I've loved reading about your changing from town to country - becoming basically self sufficient & now frugal. You reming me of the old homesteads.

    You are an inspiration and some of us dream of being like you but it remains that - a dream. You need to find someone like minded to share your dream and you have with lovely hubby.

    Carry on telling us how you do it. I especially like reading about your animals xx

  3. Thanks for your comment Penny.

    This was not a Blog post answering comments left on Saturdays post, nor do I feel criticised AT ALL so don't worry. This post was purely done with intention of letting our family put this behind us.

    Saturdays blog post was done on Thursday and scheduled to be published while we were away, it was not done to reflect what we were about to do at all and was actually quite coincidental.

    Although hoarding can almost be genetic, passed from generation to generation, with my Dad and me it has had a completely opposite effect, thank goodness. Where he saved I jetison, where he saw value I see things for what they are. Much of what we got rid of was pure rubbish, he saw it as treasure.

    Who else would keep 500 plastic drinking cups, every felt pen he had ever acquired and used no matter that they had dried out and should have been binned, every leaflet that ever came in an envelope with a bill or hundreds of wooden stirrers from Costa coffee but a hoarder.

    Take this post for what it is, a warning to others that this illness and yes, it is now a diagnosable illness, can creep up on you over time and pull families, however loving apart.

    Sue xx
    Our New Life in the Country

  4. Sue - my mum keeps all brown paper & string from parcels and says it comes from a wasten ot want not attutude from the war ! I must admit I keep brown paper too !

  5. I can so relate to this post. When my F in L died, his garage was similarly full but most of it useful. Work tools, carpenters tools etc. Hardly any of it could we bring down with M in L so we asked the neighbours to help themselves, the rest went in a skip. We had just 3 days to move her! When she died, we had yet another house to clear.

    We have a rule in our house, if it is not useful, or you haven't used it in 2 years (ie hidden up in the attic) or is a true work of art, get rid. We do this every 2 years or so. No way, do we want anyone to go through what we had to, it was hell.

  6. Sue, I just want to say I think you have been brilliant in the way you have supported your Mum through all this. What you haven't detailed in the blog [but I am sure they happened] are the moments of utter frustration when bags split and threw contents all over the floor, or when you dropped heavy things on your toe,or when you ached so much you could hardly move. Or the times when your eyes welled up with tears because memories came flooding back as you opened another box of 'stuff' and you missed your Dad, and your Mum misses him even more.

    I love your positive attitude and your commitment to the family - keep going and keep inspiring the rest of us!

    hugs and blessings x

  7. Hello Sue,

    I admire your courage in talking about your Dad's hoarding. While many mistakenly see this as harmless, it can create huge problems for those that live around it, both physically and psychologically, and it is often triggered by a traumatic event or change a person has experienced.

    I wish you all the best with the continued clearing and give my best to your Mum.

  8. I have a friend with the same problem, they even have an off site storage unit they rent for her stuff. It really is such a sad thing to see, and still she shops for more stuff :(, glad you are able to help your Mom begin to clear out and clean up. I know it means so much to her

  9. Glad you got your dad's stuff sorted :)

    A friend once told me that you spend the first half of your life collecting up stuff and the last half getting rid of it! I have found that statement very true...

    I guess I am a hoarder :/
    I have got rid of heaps of stuff but still have plenty to sort through. Just got to figure out where to start, might get myself a skip I think. I always feel so much better when I sort through stuff and toss it out. My dad is a hoarder, a big job ahead for us two kids one day, should be fun!


  10. Your post hits very close to home. When my mom died in 2005, I began to buy everything I could that reminded me of her. an ashtray that resembled one we once had was a necessary purchase, even tho I didn't smoke. I filled my house to the brim, moved it all once to another home and when I moved to the UK, I had to get rid of it all. No one wanted it, I gave some away, sold some, but most of it was just left behind for others to sort out. I now try not to just buy stuff because. I buy things I like, things that have some real meaning to me, things I will use. Once they have lived out their lives with me, they go on to a new home. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

  11. I have adhd and I do or used to hoard and spend both in equal measures. Its taken me 2 years of sorting and threaphy to come to the point of differeniating want and need. Im getting there.
    My dad died the end of Febuary leaving my disabled mother. Its been hard for us sorting everything out as we live in the Midlands and she lives near in the Lakes. So I know what it feels like.
    I love reading your blog as it inspires me as I want to be frugal and only buy what I need and I'm taking slow steps to achieve that.
    Im pregnant with my first child and I want to teach them to be money savvy and that possessions dont make you happy.

  12. Sue, the weekend took strength, the blog post took strength. I think hoarding is often a symptom of something else going on. I know from experience with a person I love. I'm sure this post will strike a chord with people, and will give others the strength to recognise a problem and 'get it sorted'.
    Jane x

  13. A very good post and a timely warning. We are in the process of moving and I am now having to sort through my parents things as well as ours. When they died, I just stored most of their things, thinking it would be easier to deal with later, but it's not. We are determined that we will not leave a lot of unnecessary things for our kids to have to sort through when we're gone. It's too emotionally draining.

  14. Wonderful post - as ever - dear Sue and I echo Angela with her comments on the way you have supported your Mum. I am sure mental health services would not be as busy is families were still there for each other. I love the way you write 'as it is'. Thank you. I am also tackling my own hoarding tendencies; my legacy of a childhood of abuse and neglect and you are SO right - 'things' do not make us happy. I am on track for my 10,000 things this year and determined to own nothing that is neither beautiful nor useful xxx

  15. Poignant post. It's never easy to sort out anything after a person close to you dies. 'Things' do not hold the memories, you do.

  16. Gosh i got worried reading the comments until i came to your reply.I thought i had accidently upset you.I dont class myself as a hoarder but i do have too much stuff.Too many now just 3 at home. I will try to put a few items a week on freecycle.
    By the way this was a lovely post.

  17. Well done Sue, that took a lot of doing.....both the sorting and the writing of it. And so true.

    Bless you, hugs, Sooze xx

  18. When my mother was moved into a care home, we did the house clearance bit, a big 3-bed parlour house she lived in on her own for 25 years, every room was full of things, about 90% of which ened up in the skips.
    There was a wardrobe full of my dads stuff, he'd been dead for 25 years.
    Made me realise how much clutter we hang on to.

    Then when I was made homeless about 6 years ago, I had 5 or 6 black plastic bags of things after 35 years of marriage, just my clothes and a few pairs of cuff-links.

    So I had the ultimate clean-out then, but have noticed I've gradually become a hoarder, and reading this post makes me realise how much of my hoardings are just un-necessary bits of junk, our back bedroom, my den, the garage and garden shed are full of things.

    I think you've given me the push I need to start de-cluttering seriously.

  19. You have done well sorting it all out Sue.

    I hoard a bit but also do go through stuff periodically and sell or donate. I do not want a sterile house with no craft materials/knitting wool and books. When I have read the 'novel' type of book I give them away but travel books I like to keep.

    We have periodic sortings out in my mum's garage, like old plumbing tools and my dad could always find a part to fix something if it went wrong. Since he died all of that stuff has been given away to various people.

    There are still a couple of bikes in there but my mum doesn't want to give everything away, she likes to see the bikes that they used in their leisure time, cycling was their hobby and life until about 3.5 years ago, in their late 80s. My mum still meets with her cycling friends. She would feel that everything has gone if they were disposed of just at the moment.

    Their garage was never a cause of concern to my Mum, as she still had plenty of room in it. They stopped using it for the car when it got too much trouble to get it in as it was a bit of a struggle, width wise.

  20. We moved house two weeks ago from a 2 bedroom flat to a 2 bedroom bungalow. We have a loft which we didn't have before but have one shed instead of two and are missing a walk in larder and a huge walk in cupboard. I will never ever be a minimalistbut I do get where you are coming from. Several members of my family are hoarders and I think the worst thing is that you can't clean properly where all the stuff is stored and you can't find anything. I have some more decluttering to do as we unpack; some things will be repacked to await shelving and cupboards to be erected to store them, but lots wil go. I can't bear being overwhelmed with stuff, even though I do like my pretty china, fabrics, enamelware etc etc.

  21. When my Dad died, and I helped Mum clear out his clothes, we sent more than 30 black sacksful to the Salvation Army charity shop - he owned over 100 pairs of socks,he had dozens of pairs of shoes and items of clothing still with the labels on them, bought because they were a bargain, but never worn as he already had so many of them. The basement was the same - tools, screws, plant food etc - you name it he had it and he'd bought it in huge quantities. He didn't really hoard what we would term rubbish, but he just couldn't resist what he saw as a bargain. For me it's only a bargain if it's something I really need or will use.

  22. You have done so well Sue.

    I hoard to a certain degree but I am in the process of decluttering and I must admit it feels really good.

    Hubby is not a hoarder, thankfully.. but I keep imagining what would our poor son do if anything happened to us. The things he'd have to sort out and after reading your post I'm even more determined that it will not happen to him. The clutter and stuff will go.

    Love n hugs
    Julie xx

  23. Well done..for posting hubby is a secret hoarder..the amount of times i have cleared the shed is unbelieveable..a broken rake,snapped spade,bits of string and when he is at work i go in and sort it..he doesn't even notice i have done it..but i do..
    Its hard for him to stop doing it..he grew up in a family of when he got something for himself he kept it..
    I am a simple is as simple does kinda person..i have de-cluttered my house and i am hoping i can keep him under some kind of control...

  24. A very moving post Sue. Thanks for sharing.

    I am just a little bit of a hoarder. There are a few cupboards and drawers that I avoid opening because I feel guilty about the clutter when I do. And I particularly find it hard to get rid of clothes - even after they are stained, worn thin, or completely unflattering to me.

    After reading this I feel inspired to make a fresh start at decluttering. Thanks.

  25. My Dad was the same; when he died my hubby helped my Mum sort out the garage that was full to the rafters with 'just in case' things - little offcuts of wood that 'might come in handy'; small lengths of metal piping; broken telephones; old tools (most of which were duplicates, if not triplicates); even my cot AND MATTRESS (!!) from when I was a baby, taken to pieces and stored up in the beams (I'm now 40, so that cot was kept for quite a long time after it was ever needed or used!)
    I can see this same trait in myself; perhaps it helps that I know I'm like it, but your post has spurred me into trying to clear the clutter a little bit faster.

  26. A great post Sue. My mum is a hoarder and I am too! We are moving abroad in 3 weeks time and it has taken me almost a year to rid my house of stuff. Iv'e booted, ebayed, Freecycled and charity shopped all the excess stuff, secure in the fact that I would only be taking what I wanted/needed. What has been an eye opener for me is that the removal costs are £125 per cubic metre and one does have to consider carefully if the contents of that cubic metre are worth that amount, mostly not. So again, I have thinned out some more. It has been very difficult, but my new life is far more important to me and I am so looking forward to the fresh start.
    Jak x


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