The Mother of All Hoarders

So we moved in with my parents.

Maybe I’d feel more like a failure for writing that last sentence if my parents weren’t a thousand shades of awesome. Honestly. I’m not just saying that because they’re my new landlords roommates. I’m basically a younger, better looking, more talented version of my father so living with him is like living with a slightly less cooler version of myself. And since I know I’m awesome, that’s pretty great. And my mom is just about the most loving, caring, compassionate person I know. They love us, they love Will and I think this will be a great few months while we save up first, last and security to find a new place of our own.


Of course there’s a but. You can’t suddenly move back in with your parents after more than a decade and not have a but or two.

I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard of A&E’s TV show Hoarders. People who feel the need to collect everything in their homes and never, EVER throw anything away. Now before I go any further, I want to say I understand this is a serious condition. Also, my mom is not a hoarder. Well, she’s not a full-fledged hoarder. I guess you could say she hoards as a hobby.

Exhibit A is the picture to the right. Those are nutcrackers on top of the piano. Hundreds of them. Those creepy bastards freak me right the fuck out. I’d love to get rid of even half of them but my mom isn’t having it.

And my new sister-in-law Melissa can tell you about Exhibit B. It was last Thanksgiving and she was cooking something that needed nutmeg. My mom—who is a good cook but doesn’t cook often—pointed her towards the spice rack and all was well. Or so we thought.

I’ll never forget the look on Melissa’s face as she told us the nutmeg might be a little out of date. How out of date you ask? The expiration was October…1981!!

But with three of us moving in with all of our stuff, the real problem is in the basement. My friends can tell you the horror stories about the basement. We cleaned it out about 15 years ago. It took a dozen people a full weekend and we filled up two industrial sized dumpsters. There was that much crap down there. But the hard part isn’t the work itself, its the differing manners in which the members of my family feel it should be dealt with.

My dad and I are eager to clean it out. And just so we’re clear, our version of “clean it out” translates into “throw EVERYTHING away.” But the mere thought of filling up a dumpster with bags of stuff that have been collecting dust for 20 years is just too much to bear for my mom.

Fifteen years ago it was hell. Each person who came up the stairs with a bag of trash had to let my mom inspect it before it was thrown away. And what looked like a bag of shit to me was anything but to my mom. She somehow found sentimental meaning in every single piece of crap we lugged out of that basement. That was my first backpack on my first day of school, that’s the blanket my brother threw up on in first grade, that’s my first-grade report card. My poor mother was in tears trying to catch everything while we attempted to find ways to sneak it past her so we could finish the job.

Fast forward 15 years and not much had changed. The basement is still a mess, my dad and I still want to throw everything away and my mom wants to hold onto everything. Case in point:

I saw an old headboard that doesn’t fit on any bed, so I had the crazy notion it was trash. Not so said my mom. When I asked her why she would possibly want to keep it, she inexplicably started crying and said “Don’t you realize there are children with no place to sleep??” I not-so-calmly pointed out that it was a headboard, not a bed, and the children would be mighty uncomfortable sleeping on it.

Then we found some really old textbooks and I went to throw those out. But my mom’s Spidey senses started tingling and she came over to stop me in my tracks. When I told her they were headed for the trash bin, she turned on the tears again.

“Why not donate them to a library? You should never throw away a book!”

These books were more than 10 years old. One was a marketing book which referred to the Internet as “an upcoming and exciting technological advancement.” They eventually got thrown out, but not without some hurt feelings. And of course, more tears.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s tears over a headboard and antiquated textbooks. Not a good start.

But the kicker was my mom’s “donation pile.” She had us put a bunch of things in a pile at the end of the driveway. An old kitchen table, chairs, a desk, two bags of clothes and some other odds and ends. First my mom said the Boys & Girls Club was coming to get it. Then, halfway through Sunday, that was switched to the Epilepsy Foundation. My father expressed his concern that my mom hadn’t properly checked with them to make sure they would take everything, and we’d end up with a pile of shit that sits there for months. My mom said she had it taken care of. They were due to pick everything up Monday, and for all of our sanity I hoped it would go smoothly because my parents fight and bicker like—well, an old married couple.

When I got home from work it was still there. Or so we thought. Upon closer inspection, they actually did come. But they only took two bags of clothes and, just as my dad said, left the rest. A spirited discussion ensued. My dad saying he was right, my mom refusing to admit she was wrong and me feeling like nothing has changed since I was a kid.

In a weird way, it was the perfect welcome home.

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10 thoughts on “The Mother of All Hoarders

  1. She got that from her mother and father, so I’m afraid you’re not going to change her. After the months we spent cleaning out their house, my advice is to keep on her or it will be your pain in the ass when you have to go through 30 years of it! And don’t take the covers off of any bottles without labels!

  2. I dread the day we have to do that for my Mother-in-law. I love her dearly. But. She “collects” Precious Moments figurines like they are the very air she breathes. And she keeps the boxes they came in. She also “saves” clothes. She has clothes from her honeymoon – almost 50 years ago. I kid you not. She alone has filled a 3 bedroom house with crap. She is very sentimental and I am…not. I’ve already told her that when she dies my sister-in-law and I are putting all the Precious Moments on Ebay and splitting the money between the grandkids. She even jokes that when she dies we will just have to pull everything out into the yard and burn it.
    Lisa recently posted..ThoughtsMy Profile

  3. Umm, Melissa I will deal with you later! 🙂

    And Aaron – you exaggerate so much! The nutmeg expiration date was December 1983! Get it right!

  4. This makes me smile! It reminds me of how much I loved to work with your Mom as my boss! Her office desk had pretty much every single calendar that we had ever made at Ad A Day, and she saved every single copy (sometimes doubles) of those free magazines companies get in the mail. It made me giggle. Seriously, she was the best boss I have ever had! You are lucky to have her!

  5. Bill, it seems to me as though you are also one who is not able to part with expired items. Do you recall a certain blue car that you pawned off on some poor unfortunate soul that broke down in the parking lot the same day she took it over from you, circa 1999? That thing should have been buried with the nutmeg… just saying.
    Melissa recently posted..How to Save a LifeMy Profile

  6. That is one of the problems when living back with your parents. You need to adjust to their rules again. But still, it feels good that nothing has changed and you get to remember what it was like. It is really hard to convince someone who is attached to things to let go. It is unfortunate that you can’t make any improvements in your basement. I am happy that you get to spend time with your parents.
    Robert recently to get a girl to like youMy Profile

  7. That was a finely tuned automotive machine! I think I saw it drive by the other day! 🙂

  8. How is MJ doing with moving in with the in-laws? I live with mine and it was so hard at first. Now I feel closer to them than my own family. Just curious….

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