Today’s Quest for the Arkenstone Hidden in my Dragon’s Hoard
Life in a Hoarder House, Part Zero (just in case I end up writing more of these…)
I just spent the morning rebuilding a wall of boxes in my living room after being called upon by my husband to dig out three small items from the massive hoard that is our house. Sometime earlier in the year, a student of his loaned him an Xbox and 3 video games (totally unasked: his students often assume he is as millennial as they are despite his claim that he is a technological idiot and does not keep up with current television or political goings on or any of that stuff that makes one “relevant.”) Anyway, the student loaned him this item with the assumption that he would actually have time to set it up and play with it (he did not). Thus it sat unused under our 1966 Magnavox cabinet radio/turntable/piece of furniture until a couple of days ago when the student’s mother relayed a request from the student for the return of his game system and games. Sure, finding the Xbox was no big deal. It is hard to get to Under the Magnavoxland in the first place, so it just stayed under there and collected a bit of dust. The games, on the other hand…well, I had no clue where they had gotten to.
Typically, when I clean up (if you can call it that) I will try to organize by slotting small items that seem to have no real “place” into little openings in a wall of stuff or on a bookshelf or even in a box. That last possibility horrified me, and I had visions of having to drag down the entire tower structure of boxes in the living room to locate these three small hot potatoes quickly. Long story short, I did have to tear up part of the living room, but I eventually found the games tucked way back into a tiny opening in the lower part of a bookshelf that had been “snowed on” and obscured by more junk piled in front of it. Perhaps, like Bilbo, I just had a knack for finding little treasures. (No, I just got lucky).
I do think this is, in part, due to my diligence in trying to be the good wife who maintains order in the household, even in a massive hoarder household like this one. I continually rearrange the hoard, repacking boxes, restacking them, recategorizing items that might have been strewn carelessly on the coffee table in a hurried search for something else. I’ve also sent many packed boxes off to a storage building in an attempt to create floor space large enough to roll out my yoga mat and have a good session in the living room like any other conscientious housewife who is into yoga. (The frustrating thing about that is my husband often finds a large piece of furniture that he just plonks down in the middle of this space (because I had thoughtfully cleared it out just for that, don’tcha know?). I have been known to drag the offending piece of furniture outside onto the porch, where it faced degradation at the hands of the unforgiving elements of the Tennessee Tropical Rain Forest. He complained incessantly about this treatment, but I simply point out that we don’t have room for the item, and he shouldn’t have brought it in the house in the first place. He doesn’t like this, but I think he realizes I do have a point, especially when he complains about how hard it is to get around in the house. (Geez, the irony….)
Just call me Mrs. Smaug…
Anyway, this is only one small vignette to illustrate the way my home life is rather different from the typical suburban or rural housewife. Living this way creates profound changes in the way my family relates to others and how we interact in social situations. I can’t tell you how many times people have tried to invite themselves to our house. We tell them we don’t entertain. Sometimes we tell them we literally don’t have room for them or that our house is a mess (true). About 60% of them reply that “oh you should see MY house if you think yours is bad…” No. Mine is worse than yours. No contest. Unless you’re the type of hoarder who never cleans up food waste.
Believe it or not, I have been in the house of a few people who fit this description. Oddly, they didn’t have the hangup about hoarding and its social stigma that I do. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to have a trailer in the front yard filled with garbage and a many-generational population of mice who animate said garbage in a vaguely ghostly way. They slept with mold-furred boxes of strawberries on the nightstand next to the head of their bed. Their cats were fat on the rats and mice who lived in their cramped and overstuffed dark living rooms. I suppose that’s one reason I’m so scrupulous about keeping food waste under control. We have enough of a mouse problem in here with the ideal nesting spots of stacked boxes with old military blankets, surplus, books, knickknacks and miscellaneous.
So, there’s my rant on one or two aspects of living life in a hoarder house. I categorize this state of living as an invisible illness, because of how it informs many of my social interactions (and lack thereof — therein lies more stories) and the fact that no one ever sees the inside of my house, beyond my carefully selected framework above. You won’t catch me posting up pictures of my living space BEFORE I’ve worked all day on it. Now I’ll close, because I need to walk my dog, for whom, incidentally, I am careful to make spaces, so he has a dog bed on the floor (complete with squeaky ball and rawhide) and a curl-up spot at the foot of the couch on which I’m typing this piece of long-winded catharsis. Thanks for reading!