An Update from Greg (1/2011)

(Author’s Note: The following is an abbreviated update based on an extensive phone conversation with Greg on 1/9/2011 –Hannah B.)

It’s been about eight months since Greg began what was supposed to be a six-month project to clear out his childhood home. Progress has slowed significantly in recent weeks, and months, as the sorting process has gotten more personal and difficult. “I almost made a post, like a confession to everybody. [For a couple of weeks], I hardly did a damn thing. I was kind of frozen… I went on a bender. I was going to the local bars and avoiding doing stuff in the house and if I wasn’t drinking at the bars, I’d be at the house drinking. It was pretty bad… That was kind of a wake-up call.

With the New Year, Greg has resolved to stop drinking for at least 30 days. He’s also resolved to lose 30 pounds. He’s gained a lot of weight in recent months, as the physical work involved in clearing out the home has given way to more stationary endeavors fueled by a junk food diet.

But progress, however slow, does continue. He recently donated several boxes of books, knick-knacks, clothing and blankets. The antiquated plumbing has been upgraded. And he’s made a small dent in the processing of his mother’s massive collection of costume jewelry.

He’s also kept a lot – and there’s plenty more to go through: His father’s study, with its massive piles of books, remains untouched; Two attic spaces need to be explored; His mother’s extensive collection of roadrunners, Indian and Hispanic artwork and crafts, and more jewelry needs to find a home. “She’s got a lot of nice stuff. I don’t want to donate it straight out.” So Greg is looking at options, from consignment shops to estate sales to a possible arrangement with the Museum of Man where his mother was a docent for many years.

There’s also a record collection, vintage clothing and hats, rare coins, and a myriad of other items that could find their way onto Ebay or Craig’s List, or into a garage sale. “I’ve also compiled a lot of Christmas stuff. So much stuff – including ornaments and cards – that I could have a Christmas sale. That might come next year.”

Meantime, the monthly bills keep rolling in for the storage unit of “keeper items” that need to be inventoried. And the job situation needs to be addressed. “I need to ‘man up’ and contact my work again. Quite honestly, I’m a little scared to, because I’ve been gone so long and haven’t been in contact with them. I’ve been avoiding it. I’ve been avoiding a lot of stuff. [But] pretty soon I’m going to lose my health coverage through the union. So I need to get an extension on that or I’ll have to go on COBRA. Sidney thinks – and I don’t think she’s wrong – maybe I should go back to work, at least part time, and have a little more ‘normality’ in my life, a little more ‘routine’… Sometimes I don’t know what day it is.” The project has been all-consuming, even when it’s stalled.

Greg is cautiously optimistic that his own hoarding tendencies won’t get the better of him. “I don’t have the tendency to go out and get stuff myself, per se. I really don’t think I’m going to start to hoard. And that’s one reason I wanted to go through this stuff myself… to show me that “’Dude, you can’t do this.’ But yeah – the slowdown sure has scared me a little bit, I will say that.”

So what does the future hold? Time will tell. “I’ll admit that six months [to complete ‘the project’] was a little ambitious. I think it’ll probably be more like a year. I don’t even know if that includes repairs… It’ll be a while before I get the house in a condition where Sidney is willing to stay there… so I need to have a sit down with her and/or an advisor to figure out our options.”

Stay tuned.

p.s. For additional updates, photos, finds, and random musings related to their journey, check out Sidney’s blog.

§ 8 Responses to An Update from Greg (1/2011)

  • Anonymous says:

    Greg. The most important things in life are people and time. Things/stuff are not important. Try and sell it all in one big garage sale over a fcouple of days. Then give away the rest to charity shops or throw it away. Only hang on to any high value stuff like the rare coins or any valuable jewellery (not the costume stuff) which you can sell over time.
    Dont waste time on all the ornaments, kitchen equipment, furniture etc. Its not worth it. GIve it away or throw it away. You will lose precious years from your life and end up a sad old loser if you try to “sort it out” or “organise” it.
    Get rid of it all ASAP, sell the house and move on.
    You are losing chances to have a relationship and maybe kids, just because of some stuff you dont need.
    When you die, you will have to leave behind not just the stuff but your own body. There is no point in being attached to all that crap.

  • maven says:

    Greg,

    After I sifted through my Dad’s trash for valuables (he had some legitimate collections), I hired an auction house to come in and have an estate auction. They were very helpful and kind – but I couldn’t bear to attend the auction myself. Anyway, after just a few hours, all of the semi-valuables were gone to good homes and the estate had several more thousand dollars in it to be dispersed later. My dad died without a will, too, but that is another story…

  • Gala says:

    Greg, I live in San Diego and my mom was a Class-5 hoarder. She died in the fire because fire/emt couldn’t get to her in time. The house was a total loss, and my daughter and I were left to deal with all that (and in another state in the midwest). If you just want the company of someone who understands, and would be glad to give you a couple of hours, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    And I don’t know if this helps or not: but you’re smarter than the mess.

  • Bizzy says:

    I am a therapist and want you to consider 1) getting 20 dumpsters 2) hire a work crew, and 3) have them get rid of everything.

    No donations, no selling. Just get rid of it all.

    It will be the most therapeutic and financially savvy thing you ever do.

  • Rich says:

    I can certainly understand where Greg is coming from. My mother has been a hoarder as long as I can remember. She is in her mid-80’s now and is not in good health.

    She and her nephew (slightly developmentally disabled) own the house they currently live in together. She refuses to make any changes to the condition of the house. For nearly thirty years, when asked about cleaning, she will say she will get to it ‘next week.’

    They own the house, but my mother also rents another house about ten miles from where they live. The landlord has no idea that it has become so filled that my mother cannot get inside. She simply moved to another house.

    Here’s the quandary. When my mother dies, the house will go to my DD cousin. He will only be able to take care of the house for a few months before he will get behind on the bills and move out, likely into assisted living.

    At that point, my two brothers and I have to decide what to do with the house. I work as a counselor, while one brother is an insurance agent and the other is trying for disability. We all will be trying to approach this from different angles. I’m sure there will be some arguments arising from what should be done.

    I’ve done some research on hoarding, and 1) growing up in a hoarding environment and 2) being a counselor, I want to eventually get trained in working with hoarders. (I’m an addictions therapist now…I sometimes look at hoarding as a form of addiction.)

    A final message to Greg and Sidney. Your story is not unique. I live a few hours from ‘home’, am married, and have a 3 year old daughter. I wont let my family go to the house, although my wife and I have visited before my daughter was born.

    I do wish you the best in the future. I would recommend that you both speak with a therapist. I’ve discovered that several of the traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic/Addict (ACOA) also hold true for Adult Children of Hoarders. You might want to do some research on these traits.

    • Sidney says:

      Thank you, Rich. And I’d suggest not to let “eventually” get in your way.

      Mrs. M always said about her taxes, “Oh, we have until August.” She didn’t have until August. May snuck up on her.

      Again, appreciated. Best of luck!

  • andrea kane says:

    nice retelling of greg’s (and sidney’s) story, hannah. good luck to greg in the coming months. one day at a time; one foot in front of the other, (and all the other cliches). it all sounds so trite but sometimes the only way through it is to go through it. it’s easy and heartbreaking to see why this project is taking so long. but don’t let it consume your life!!!!!

  • Sidney says:

    Once again, Brava, Hannah.

    Thank you.

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