An Update from Sidney (10/2011)

As of October 3, 2011:

I can share with you MY update. I’m working more, FOR PAY! Greg is making LOTS of progress. Relationship is still rocky, but I think we’re making progress on that front, too.

We are both still plagued by procrastination, denial, and communication issues. Again, though, I think we’re having some better, more respectful times with each other.

I am filled with hope for the future, and pride and support for Greg, which he doesn’t always realize.

We are both strengthening ourselves personally, with our individual communities, families, and friends, although, sometimes that can be a source of conflict in itself for us.

I want him home, and to finish “The Project;” I understand he has to do things his way, and try to remain respectful of his methods. He is definitely processing the loss of his parents as he works on the clean-up.  I would feel very comforted by his returning to work, even part time, for self-esteem issues as much as for income.

Sidney

(HB note: For additional progress reports and photos, visit Sidney’s blog at http://www.milbetweenus.com )

PREVIOUS UPDATES:

As of May 18, 2011:

For a progress report at the ONE YEAR mark, see Sidney’s blog:

http://milbetweenus.blogspot.com/2011/05/progress-report.html

Bottom line: Still a ways to go…

As of Friday, March 11, 2011:

Things are things here [in Burbank].  In a VERY small nutshell:  Greg is still not working for pay and his progress has screeched to a halt in San Diego, although to be fair, I’ve not been to witness that since you [Hannah] were there [in September]!  His anxiety, rage and drinking are escalating. He is not eating well, but says he has begun to get some exercise, which is very good.

We still aren’t getting along like peaches and cream.

I am concerned for Greg’s health and happiness, but have confidence he is capable of progressing further. I just hope it happens soon.  On 3/15/11, it will be TEN MONTHS TO THE DAY [since “the project” began].

Sidney

http://milbetweenus.blogspot.com/

As of late December, 2011:

(Note from Hannah: I met Greg and Sidney in September 2010 – four months into what was supposed to be a six-month “project” and created this blog a few weeks ago in order to share Greg’s story.  In light of the chord it has struck with so many, I asked Sidney for an update.  As you can see, this is obviously a story that is – and may forever be- a work in progress.)

From Sidney:

We are now past the seven-month mark and I feel Greg’s progress has stalled.  He’s working hard, but not on things that are moving the project forward.  Nothing has been listed on eBay.  Boxes of things make their way up to Burbank so that he can process them while at home, but that doesn’t happen, so he lugs them back to San Diego.  I fear that he is doing the hoarder-shuffle: moving things from one area to the next instead of eliminating them.

Our relationship is more strained than ever. Finances are tightening, and that’s not easy for anyone.  I’m still not working, so that is also an area of stress.  Intimacy is almost non-existent, with him gone for weeks at a time and his coming home so stressed.  I am pushing away, too, in an effort not to get hurt by his words and behavior.

I still support him (emotionally, not financially), and I fully believe that he is capable of completing this clean-up.  But I don’t know if he fully believes that.  There is a part of him who could just live in the house as-is and be perfectly content.

The article touches me to tears each time I read it, so I now I just read the new comments.  They often buoy me.  Greg?  I don’t know.  He’s not very free with his more delicate emotions, and frequently tells me not to wear mine on my sleeve.  He was very impressed by the article, but he doesn’t read the comments. I’ll read him one every now and then, but I don’t want to crowd his already crowded mind unless he’s really benefitting from it.

I don’t know where we are right now or where we’ll be in 2011.  Hopefully in a better place.

Sidney

http://milbetweenus.blogspot.com/

§ 14 Responses to An Update from Sidney (10/2011)

  • evavrgs says:

    My mother was beginning to fill up her bedroom with stuff–empty boxes, boxes from a buying channel, magazines, books. She would have narrow walk ways through her room and it was beginning to build. At first I made comments regarding this behavior and she always had reasons as to why this was necessary to do. One good excuse, “I just don’t have enough closet space” and that was because she still had ALL my father’s things in it and he had been dead for 10 years. So I began the declutter process with my dad’s things including paperwork keeping track of paid bills in shoe boxes, outdated how to’s for appliances, etc. It took a year to get her to remove his clothing–not all of it I gave her the option of keeping 3 things that meant the most to her. She was ok with this (clothing) and this took 4 months to do. Then I went on to another magazines and books. I had spoken to her about the rationals, reasons why she was doing this, emotions and she would nod and agree, next day I thought we could start the action process of removal or donation to discover that her reasoning processes where the same as before I spoke to her. I started all over again, but started the stress level measurement, recognizing what her stress level was at before then after she put it in the box, and she smiled at me and realized that her heart did not break. I often wonder why this stuff and not my dad’s stuff, but who cares as long as it gets done. Right? It was during this time that the shows were starting about hoarding. At first she refused to watch (stubborness, about being one) I insisted that she MAY not be one, but who’s it going to hurt; afterall your bedroom is just a bit cluttered I would tell her. Her first reaction those poor people, then she started to related to their feelings about their stuff (this she verbally would tell me why she couldn’t let this go or that go). I would find her in her room discarding little, minute pieces of items but they were nevertheless –going and they were going because of her not me and my pushing. She’s still moving through the process and it’s been much better.
    Once she got out of denial, it was smooth sailing. Ok, not all the time, but most of the time, because now she saw it for what it was–her responsibility and no else was going to fix it for her. Of course, she was just in the beginnings of this what I call a “disease”–addiction. Once she saw that she was powerless and onlysomeone’s help outside herself would get her through it, she did ask me to help her and God to keep her going (Serenity prayer helped her during this time). Now she feels she’s been restored to sanity, but every once an awhile she’ll still ask me about an item. I tell her, “how long has this been lost to you, you haven’t seen it–you forgot about it?” and she tell me, “I’ve seen it now, now I want it.” I tell her, “but mom, you’ve lived all this time without seeing, even realizing it was there and your heart didn’t break did it?” She would smile, and say “no, I didn’t break”. She would say this proudly. Some people for whatever reason can’t get out of denial, these are people with mental issues and they can start developing when the HOARDING is developing. DON’T WAIT!!! As soon as you see the signs, address it NOW. I am a recovering drug addict (25 years) and the principals, 12 steps of recovery I used, with a twist here and there, I use for her.

    We ALL are recovering from one addiction or another, but we have work to do about it if we use the TOOLS. We have to replace that addictive thinking with something positive PERIOD.

  • Hoarder's daughter says:

    I am a hoarder’s daughter and dread the knowledge of all this to come. I have long stopped visiting my father’s house and had huge rows and panic attacks at losing even my keys and handbag so I couldn’t get away when visiting.

    I fear for Greg’s immersion in all this stuff and his fear that if he doesn’t go through it all carefully he might miss something important or valuable. The longer you are in it the harder it is to leave it behind and the more warped your view of the world is by being swamped in it.

    All those hours of missed social life and relationship a second time is an insane voluntary punishment rather than getting help to sort as best you can and get back to your life before it is overwhelmed.

    Please accept the help you need to deal with it! Heartfelt sypathy x

  • Sidney says:

    Wow. Such diverse, supportive comments! You all shared such kernels of wisdom with me, and none of you are off the mark.

    For those of you with your own hoarding struggles, I wish you all the best.

    Thank you so much for your understanding. And your tough love! I think I need a bit more of that…

  • Angela says:

    You know it’s a Friday night I’m knackered it’s been a mental week at work – I work with a lot of USA colleagues so I didn’t get home from work till late so it takes me a while to wind down, not to mention I’m a night owl.

    BUT somehow I stumbled on this website after reading an online article in the Guardian.co.uk re. hoarding.

    OMG what can I say……it has opened up a whole new world to me, of course lots of people have heard of ‘hoarding’ but it’s only now having read these heartfelt articles that I truly start to understand what you people must go through.

    What can I say? I don’t know anyone who ‘suffers’ for want of a better word from this but it had me rushing around my house to tidy it up.

    I really feel for you and for all of you on this ‘journey’ I wish you the very best and hope that it all comes good.

    From someone in the UK!

  • John says:

    This is a personal journey, but plainly it affects a lot of people. I’m fairly young, but I can already see a hoarding “signal” within my own lifestyle. I think for most people it’s a matter of having stuff, reaffirming yourself with “your” stuff. It’s the extension of people believing money is the key to happiness, just with stuff.

    It’s hard to quell, because it is something you do with expendable money. (How do you tell someone what to do with their money?) The money that goes towards bills and other required spending is gone, and it’s gone toward something we rarely touch or appreciate. (The same could be said for the stuff hoarders accumulate) But the things we buy that aren’t consumed are what define us in a way. Well “hoarders” at least.

    It’s all psychological in the end, and the fact that I can watch tv, and see the same habits in me is slightly upsetting. From my perspective, relative wealth has a lot to do with it. It’d be interesting to do a study of self proclaimed hoarders and the connection, if any, income plays in it.

    I don’t know. I’d like to address the actual reasons behind the hoarding in the first place, and since it’s not exactly an isolated experience, I think a lot can be said for looking into our societies implied expectations and the responsibility that has. Maybe we just need to stop buying shit?

    I know it’s not that simple, but it’d be nice.

    Also to getting rid of the hoard, you have to want to. If he wants to live there with you it has to go. If it’s too much for him to handle emotionally (it must be hard dealing with all the memories) an “outsider”, whether that be a specialised company, or a conscientious friend, could help a lot. It’s tricky, I wish Greg and you the best of luck, and hope the “stuff” won’t keep you apart much longer.

  • Jen says:

    I feel for you and for Greg.. both my parents and my husband’s parents are hoarders. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when it comes time to sort through their things (and my grandmother’s things, since my mom held on to closets full of her stuff).

    My parents had to clean out the home of my dad’s aunt and uncle, who were hoarders in a giant 3000sf home.. They saved the valuables and family heirlooms and hired a cleanout crew to get rid of the rest and sell it at an estate sale.

    My husband and I grew up in the same type of environments, so we are constant working together to avoid the hoarding habit. We just got rid of 3 bags of clothes and stuff this weekend. But things are easier when you come from the same background.

    I give you a humongous amount of credit for sticking with Greg through all this. When I tried to help my mom pare down her stuff, she made some progress but then got stuck. I tried the forceful tactic – “you have to get rid of that” – the patient tactic – gentle coaxing to get rid of something – and everything in between. Everything would work for a little while, until she got “overwhelmed” and wouldn’t be able to keep paring down.

    I still haven’t found a way to get past her ‘stuff shuffle’ (and now they moved to a new home, so the stuff is spread out between two houses), so unfortunately I’ve got no good advice for you on that. Only empathy. I had it easy – I could just move away and not think about it for a while – but I know it will come back to haunt me when it comes ‘time’ to clear out her stuff.

    Keep it up – you deserve the most credit here, for being so supportive of Greg. I consider myself more patient than most people, but even I lose my patience when it comes to watching someone I love lose themselves in piles of rubbish.

  • Kathleen says:

    I have to agree with Gary V- pull the plug on the “project”. Then you both can grieve properly, make the house your own and move on with your lives. You are hostages- break free!

    Best of luck to you both- very interesting story!

  • Nancy says:

    Thank you so much, Sidney, for this blog. I just found out about it through the Newsweek article. My in-laws are hoarders and my husband has the tendency also. He is an only child and we live states away from his parents. His parents are declining with one recently diagnoised with deminthia. We are just starting to get concrete with his parents about cleaning up the house, most likely, we hope, with professional help. My husband used to joke we’d have to quit our jobs when his parents died so we could clean out the house As the years have gone on, and now with the dementia in the picture, it is not a joke. I find the whole situation terribly depressing and sad. I’m anxious to follow the blog as I can see it will be helpful on many levels. Thank you so much.

  • GaryV says:

    Sheesh! Greg is obviously a hoarder himself, or is in active training. Pony up for a cleaning crew and a dozen dumpsters and dump the stuff and all its “value” and move on or be caught in the whirlpool and never get out yourselves. If Greg doesn’t do this, then rather than dumpsters, dump him and save yourself.

  • Di says:

    This breaks my heart. My aunt is a severe hoarder and I wonder what will happen when she dies. I just am not sure how anyone can go through the things she has.

  • Sidney says:

    DIL,PA and Nina. Thank you. Your support may not move us forward but it does feel so good to be supported.

    I received last night such a well-written, seven paragraph Facebook message from a sorority sister of mine, who is going through something similar with her MIL. It was as if she had no one else to confide in and simply let everything spill out into my inbox with abandon.

    That, I think, is all I can do.

  • a daughter in law says:

    I read this with tears in my eyes. Tears for what just “stuff” has done to people’s lives – especially Greg and Sidney’s lives. They should be building a beautiful life together – moving forward – and yet are stuck in someone else’s past. I also have a heavy heart for what lies ahead when my husband and his siblings inherit their own hoard from their parents. I know a long road lies ahead for all of us. Reading this story and Sidney’s blog brings a face and reality to a paralyzing disease that families don’t want to discuss. It is a sad comfort to know others know the same struggles. Sidney, I wish I could hug you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your journey into words.

  • It’s truly a tremendously balancing act, trying to be supportive and yet NEEDING to say, “Enough already! Git ‘r done.” Kudos to Sid and Greg for working so hard.

  • Nina Sug says:

    Thank you so much! Great Blog. Will help many people cope.

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