Here is one thing that I must come “clean” about before I go any further. Although I have said it a few times already, I am making one more statement, I am a Hoarder. I might have also used the term, hoarding tendencies, but the incapacity of maintaining your living quarters in a clean fashion tends to define this dis-order. So my “junk” does not reach the ceilings and there are clear paths through the house, and you can see from the front door to the back of the house, but the fact is that no matter how much we try to clean up there is always a mess. Nothing is ever in “its proper place”. I look through Better Homes and Gardens magazines and wonder, how do people live so tidy and clean all the time?
I actually failed at marriage due to the fact that I cannot keep my house clean! Now, I am not saying this so we can march down to my ex’s house with pitchforks and torches, because he actually did me a favor. Until then, I did not realize how bad my disorganization, clutter, and shear messiness was. It hurts. It hurts to lose that which you wanted so much, something that when as a little girl I dreamed of, to be married and have my kids. As I grew up and realized the joys of working, the idea of being a stay at home mom kind of went to the back burner.
When I became pregnant, staying at home was not even an option, but my husband thought it will be better for me to stay home. I resisted, that was not me anymore. Slowly, very slowly, I warmed up to the idea and I decided and agreed to stay home. Then, I met my mother-in-law! A virtual Martha Stewart. We joke about this now, but at the time it was super intimidating. How is a slob like me going to compare to a Martha like her?!
Married life was not anything as I expected. It was far more difficult. It doesn’t help that I didn’t know my ex-husband very long before we were married, but we were pregnant sooner than expected. In a nutshell, within a year I was married to a man I had just met for a few months, had moved across country (south to north), and was caring for our first-born while pregnant with our second. Needless to say, a whirl wind.
To write down that stage in my life made me think, what was I thinking? The truth is, everything went by so fast! I got pregnant, and you so want to do what is best. Sometimes, the best is not the obvious answer. I still do not regret a second of it. My ex and I are pretty good friends now, and we look back and laugh, and recognize many mistakes were made, but enjoy the good things that have come out of the turmoil.
Back to hoarding.
My marriage lasted 3 years, and I was not able to adapt to the stay-at-home part. I tried everything. No matter what I did I could never keep the entire house clutter free. It was so disappointing. I even asked my mother-in-law for cleaning/organizing advice. I watched HGTV, Christopher Lowell, and other decorating shows continuously hoping something will be absorbed but NOTHING.
I kept spiraling down in a depressive state. My life seemed pointless and redundant. Wake up, feed the babies, do the dishes, do laundry, clean the bathroom, snack, the living room, prepare lunch, clean the kitchen, snack, the basement, make dinner, clean the living room, dining room, and kitchen, snack, bathe the babies, put them to bed, clean the living room, dining room, and kitchen, go to bed. Why do my hair? Who is going to see me? Why change out of my pjs? I will only have more clothes to wash. Why clean the living room, dining room and kitchen every time the boys are done playing in those areas? Might as well clean it at the end of the day. Then, at the end of the day I was so tired and depressed I didn’t feel like cleaning after the boys anymore. I couldn’t take it.
My ex-husband will come home and be disappointed that I could not deliver the household he wanted. I kept trying, for three years I did my best until the final blow. “I cannot live in this Hell Hole anymore.” There was nothing I could say to defend myself anymore. I wanted to die at that moment and have the earth swallow me whole. In my mind I had failed as housewife, as mother, as a woman. The one thing I always thought I would be good at and I have failed miserably.
Depression is not fun and no one wants to see you depressed. People do not know what to do when you are depressed and we sometimes don’t know what we need our friends and family to do for us. I know I quickly learned to say everything was good when asked, and smiled even when I didn’t feel like it, and laughed even when it hurt.
At home, it was something else. My walls could go up as high as I wanted them. For me, the walls were piles of laundry, garbage on the floor, dirty dishes, and boxes of papers. All of this became a double edge sword because it depressed me to live in such a state yet I kept accumulating the mess. After all, it was the mess that ruined my marriage. Again my flaws threatened another aspect of my life, the place I lived. I was told to clean up or be evicted. Not my first eviction either since the divorce. Hoarding is not just a physical matter, it creeps into your financial life, and your way of life and thinking.
For my second eviction, I asked my friend to come and help. It takes and enormous amount of courage to ask ANYONE to come into your dwelling and see you at your most vulnerable and it takes an even bigger amount of courage to face your shortcomings in front of someone you hold dear.
What she said to me that day, was very hard to hear and I was nowhere near ready for it, but I did need to hear it. She couldn’t understand why I had so much junk all over the place. Why couldn’t I just clean up a little every day. I bowed my head in shame and took it. It felt like the last big argument I had with my ex. Equally painful. With the apartment cleaned I stayed for another year. At the end of the year I moved back to Florida to live with my mom, where I realized we share some of the same tendencies.
So far, my hoarding had stayed at home. At work, I am a different person. Something that threw my ex for a loop because of how well I can organize myself in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, I got a job as a Sous Chef once, only by the way I organized my section and quickly made a sketch of the kitchen and was able to direct my assistant to areas clearly and efficiently. I know I have the capabilities of keeping things organized. For some reason I cannot transfer those skills to my home.
After the move to Florida, my self-esteem grew stronger. Messy at home, but keeping it together at work. I started working at Disney, and quickly started working towards moving up the ranks. I needed to be closer to home for the boys so I took a position as a Kitchen manager.
Work was different and challenging. Organization was key. Unfortunately what worked for me didn’t work for my supervisors. Year after year more comments on my organization skills kept coming up, until last year, when I received a communication on the lack of organization I possess. Hoarding had finally creeped into my work like. I no longer had a safe place and it is now threatening my livelihood.
The decision to seek help was not easy. I have been dealing with this all my life. As a child I was just lazy, but as I grew older and I could not overcome the simplest tasks of doing dishes, laundry and other things, the frustrations grew, but no one could see them, so it didn’t bother me. I decided to take the step of dealing with the issue. A friend and fellow yogi who is a practicing psychologist, referred me to a colleague whom was able to sit with me. To be able to talk things out and deal with my issues objectively and not emotionally has helped. The battle continues. Hoarding has many different stages, phases and looks. The difference for myself has been awareness.
I researched cleaning for hoarders and hoarding. One of the places that seems promising is www.hoardingcleanup.com. Hoarding Cleanup has resources for people trying to come to grips with this disorder. It lists companies that will come and help clean, as well as guidance help to help people navigate through the root of their issues. www.hoarders.com, is another similar site offering education, guidance and help cleaning and organizing. I have been following The Clutter Diet, www.clutterdiet.com. It has given me some neat ideas of how to see clutter and organize, keep, or throw away. This pdf file from the International OCD Foundation is very helpful too on some hoarding tendencies and information, https://iocdf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Hoarding-Fact-Sheet.pdf
This is an aspect of my life that has ruined my marriage, threatened my livelihood, and has kept me from moving forward socially, but since I have started voicing out my situation, and expressing myself about my story, the sense of claustrophobia of living under these conditions is slowly lifting. I am not just trying to physically rebuild my house, I want to also have a home in which friends and family will come and stay a while.
This will be the HOME that Zoe Rebuilt.