Mon, Jan. 3rd, 2011, 06:19 pm
They will clean our garage with a shovel

after watching almost every episode of Hoarders, I only have two questions:

one, how do the husbands/wives of these people become so toothless and complacent about living in such awful conditions?
and two, how the hell do you become a "certified professional organizer"?? I can only imagine what the finals are like. "which of these things is not like the other?"
-Griffbo the Great, via Facebook the Website

I can't speak to number 2 because, haw haw haw fleerrrrrrp, but I have plenty to advise about point the first.

See, Griffin, I'm going to be one of those dudes someday. I know this already, and I've grown somewhat accepting of it. We as well have watched every episode, but mostly for pointers about how to deal with it when they come for Spring and demand that she split the pile of feathers into "keep" and "throw away." When she begins screaming at all the workers to get out, EVERYBODY GET OUT I NEED A MINUTE, I want to know whether this is one of those where I stand on the periphery, just outside the kitchen, or whether I walk in with the organizer/therapist and attempt to pry the aqua candy dish out of Spring's hands. "If I let go of this, it's like I'm letting go of my mother," she'll say, and our children will roll their eyes and wish they were on Spring Break anywhere else but here.

Or maybe not. Aw hell, who am I kidding, totally yes.

The thing is, Spring just has a lot of stuff. She likes stuff. It's in her blood. You always know when you are in a house decorated by a member of Spring's family because there is an animal skull on the wall beside a shelf full of knicknacks from some other country, next to painted figures, next to a cool-looking old camera that hasn't worked for forty years, next to a tortoise shell, next to ceramic sculptures, and on and on. And, before I go any further, let me make clear that I (for the most part) think this is really awesome. Being in her parents' and sister's houses makes you immediately realize you are in the presence of curious, intelligent people with eclectic tastes and curiousities.

Our house reflects this same taste, but I have made great noises about feeling crowded out of my own home. I don't own much, I don't take up a lot of space. So there is an alternate universe where Spring and I never met and she lives alone, and the apartment looks exactly the same. Maybe the shelves are a little lower because she can't reach that high, but that's it. In our entire living room, my only real presence is in the hundreds of CD's mounted to the wall. Otherwise all of it: the curio cabinet of plastic figurines, the ornate mirrors, the mini chandelier, the skull hanging over the fireplace, the shelf of old medicine bottles, all of it comes from her mind.

When we have this...discussion...Spring is quick to point out that it's not all necessarily hers, that the furniture is mostly "ours", in that we came upon it while we lived together, which is fair enough. But the little things, whatever personality exists in the apartment, is all her. I am crowded to a small corner of the bedroom, on my side of the bed. From the bed to the wall, those five feet are mine all mine.

In fairness, Spring has insisted that I am entitled, encouraged even, to decorate the rest of the house if whatever I bring to the table is tasteful enough. But it never is, and I concede this point. My five feet of the apartment are clearly owned and operated by a big stupid dummy. This is where you want to go to find a stack of guitar magazines, or a framed picture of the San Antonio Spurs, or a bunch of baseball caps crudely hung on nails in the wall. I would become an adult, but I'm too busy sitting in my "office" with a snare drum on my lap, adjusting the microphone stand and knocking over a pile of burned CD's I swore I'd put away months ago.

I mean, my framed copy of the Daily News cover announcing George Harrison's death is really cool, but it's out of place in Spring's tasteful assemblage. I am saving it for the next house, when we have more space, and I'll have my own little office/man-cave/drug den/judo school.

Anyway, this new house is the thing that I fear.

We are cluttered, but I have no illusions about this stopping or slowing down once we have more space. There will just be room for more clutter. A garage. Maybe a back house. All just filled with broken picture frames and banisters from condemned hotels.

That's what they'll find, Griffin. They'll crack open the garage and find thousands of decanters, of every imaginable color, some of them filled with skeletons from the rats that crawled in and died. Feral cats scattering. Cobwebs.

*****

"Hang on. At least my hoarding isn't smelly."
"Not yet. That lady there probably said the same thing when she was 30 and started collecting soda bottles or whatever. Then it gets away from you."
"I'm not gonna be one of those where they walk in and say they're 'overwhelmed by the smell'. I can barely handle it when the litter box is dirty."
"You'll get used to it."
"Your cat shit on the floor again."
"Sigh."

*****

The answer to your question, Griffin, is that we get worn down and just give up after a while. I am a young man, full of piss and whiskey. I can still put my foot down. Spring will pick up any old goddamned thing off the street and carry it home, even if it's a dead bird, but when I'm with her I police it. She likes to tell the story of the time she found a whole box of ceramic piggy banks, and I sat on the stoop in front of this person's house and refused to move until she had gone through the box and picked out a few that she absolutely couldn't live without. I thought I was gonna cry.

She kept the matching black and white dogs, the twin mermaid set and all of the ones that are Jesus.

Sometimes I flip out, like when I can't find my snow boots under the mountains of salvaged canvases, doorknobs and doll parts. I stomp around and make a fuss about how I CAN'T FIND A GODDAMNED THING IN THIS FUCKING HOUSE, and then Spring gets that look on her face and she cleans up a little and we find my boots and I drink a juicebox of beer and everything is fine.

But this will fade, Griffin. I will not be so willing and able to fight or to lash out. I will diminish under the sheer volume of things, once we've outgrown her even bothering with the perfunctory "Can I keep this?" She plans on owning a pickup truck, Griffin. Right now it's just about weird umbrellas and ceramics. Soon it will be furniture. Interesting machinery that does nothing but looks cool. I'm in for it, man.

So I look at those dudes, those old sad-eyed dudes, and I relate. I get it. I see that they probably tried, at one point, in their vigorous youth. But the goalposts get moved, compromises melt and topple, and next thing you know the dining room table is inaccessible because of all the snowglobes.

None of them are young, Griffin.

The only way out is death or divorce. And, even in divorce, those same dudes come back and are standing out there by the garage with their kids. Arms folded politely behind their backs. This is a family thing, and the new wife is just going to have to sit in the car until we figure this out.

It may not come to this for us. Possibly Spring will control her hoarding and just be like the rest of her family: charmingly cluttered but nobody having to call the police. Maybe I will have my little room, with the computer and music equipment, writing plays and making music surrounded by tastefully framed concert posters and pictures of Vince Young. It will just be good fun, and Gonzo will come home and help mom put together the next weird sculpture for the front porch from the things they find on the side of the road.

All I know is that last night on Hoarders they showed a lady that spent years shitting in bags and throwing it in the garage, because they got their water turned off and she didn't feel like dealing with it. A whole room filled with nothing but dried human shit. And I was not joking when I turned to Spring and half-yelled YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO THAT. And she said, "Come on, have you ever shit in a bag? It could feel great." And she laughed that way that she laughs when I make that face where I don't know if she's kidding or not and I'm worried about the future, because sometimes I just cannot take a terrifying joke.

Wed, Jan. 5th, 2011 01:23 pm (UTC)
sherinyb

this post made me glad that, although my husband is messy, and cluttered, at least most of it is clutter of his own creation (paperwork, audition sides, receipts like snowdrifts) and can eventually be contained.

also, the 3 last sentences are like marital communications distilled to one of their purest essences. a familiar one. thanks for writing again. sorry it took corporate-land to drive you to it.

Sat, Jan. 8th, 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
squibbohere: I was a teenage packrat

I used to be really bad, but it faded with the children. I would find things and realize I had not looked at them literally for years. Now it all just seems like junk I can't get rid of fast enough.

Tue, Jan. 18th, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
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