Monday, August 13, 2012

Update on the life of a hoarder

Last week, I stepped into my house again, for the first time about two months.

I'd hired the son of a friend, and his best friend, to haul away the worst of the accumulation, on the stipulation that, if it wasn't obviously garbage, they would have somebody review it before it went to landfill or burn barrel.  

Well, when I went in last week -- to sell a couple of pieces of lawn furniture to another friend, I found myself walking out with an unpleasant sense that the boys who were hauling had been... less than careful in handling my things.

Granted, the place is laden with dust and mildew and G0d-knows-what-else, and therefore so are the contents, but this does not mean that a piece of art glass is a worthless piece of crap.  I found shards of depression glass, bits of pottery ground into the carpet. These were not there when I had been living there.

With this sense of unease, I approached a neutral friend and asked if she would please go rescue whatever breakables there were, "to take some of the burden of responsibility off the heads of the boys," and also because I knew this friend at least knew heirloom from Hobby Lobby, and would pack away accordingly.  Besides, she had made the offer earlier.  On top of that, I have trusted her with my things, before. 

Well, today she came in to tell me that the boys had simply piled all the smaller things I'd once had around my bedroom, and dumped them into the trash can with the aim of putting them on the curb tomorrow.  In that "trash" were one of my jewelry boxes containing about $2000 in rings (now in a safer place), a stack of antique ink bottles and ink wells, fountain pens and antique writing/drawing pens, and countless other items they had simply scooped up and not even bothered to examine.  IN THE FREAKING GARBAGE CAN! 

On top of that, an antique oak folding drafting table, which I had inherited from my dearest great-uncle (the man I always knew simply as Grandpa), was lying in pieces on top of the bed, its hinges bent and hardware conspicuously absent.  My friend has promised her husband will be able to effect most of the repairs needed, and I trust her implicitly on this.  Still, I find myself finally at the point I feared.

This project, which I know is necessary for health and sanity, is tearing me apart.  I don't want to admit it to my friends, but each piece of what I amassed in my house is attached with a lifeline to something in my heart.  Some items are small. their ties threadlike, holding only a moment of laughter while with friends at an auction or a yard sale or a strange little shop somewhere in my peregrinations.  But there are still a few – only a few, mind you – things kept from those I love who will not return. Intellectually, I know full well that to lose the thing is not to lose the person, but to a person whose senses are often exaggerated, a caress of a pen easily becomes the brush of a long-gone finger, the sight of a chair may reinforce the memory of sitting in a most-beloved lap and feeling a scratch of whiskers against a sunburnt cheek.  

The drafting table… well, that's simply the heart of my family.  Folded down into its compact form, it was always with me, no matter where I wandered.  Open, it stood oaken, looking spindly, awkward, improbable at first, but supporting well a board on which were spun works straight from imagination.  Sure, it's just a thing.  Sometimes, we need a thing to serve as an anchor, something our fragile minds might use to keep us from drifting into its natural chaotic seas.  

Well, I know that I have my family, still, and I have a good friend who knows to do what she can to fix the damage.

And I also have the power to inform the boys that, while they drew a paycheck from my family for hauling things out from the house, they will no longer be needed for packing before hauling. I still like them, but I don't trust them. Somebody else I know will be putting things into boxes  and crates.  Somebody else I know will be deciding what is grain and what is chaff. 

And, now, I will go try to untangle my emotions some more.  Writing therapy, followed by cat therapy, followed my another good cry… not sure what follows.  I don't have anything to throw against a garage wall to take the edge off my rage, any more.  I may simply have to take up chopping wood and splitting rails.  I have a feeling, though, it's going to be a difficult week – for several people.  

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