My life as an episode of Hoarders

The story of a Sunday morning pancake epiphany

Those of you who know me are aware of, and often despair at, my love of crappy reality TV. Eating nachos in front of ? Check. Gratefully appreciate being single whilst watching complicated love drama? Check. But instead of its usual numbing effect, one of those recent binge-watching weekend sessions brought with it an unexpected epiphany. Whilst watching an episode of with a stack of pancakes floating in maple syrup, it hit me: the show was a metaphor for my life. And believe me, if that realisation wasn’t depressing enough, I really wish it didn’t happen whilst I was sitting on the sofa in my old tatty dressing gown in the middle of the day whilst stuffing my face with carbs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an actual hoarder. I don’t compulsively hold on to random Ziploc bags just in case I might need do an art project with them in a few years’ time. I am a fairly tidy and organised person and the only thing I seem to collect are awkward dates with emotionally distant weirdos who don’t quite know they are weirdos.

So how is the story of so many hoarders anything like my life as a thirty-something (yes, I can still say that) professional with an apartment that looks like it has recently been visited by Marie Kondo? Well for those of you who are familiar with the show, you’ll know the format is fairly standard. For those who aren’t, let me elaborate on that. Hoarder person of the week is living, quite happily I might say, in a house so full of random items that they can barely exist. And often enough, they don’t necessarily want to change that either. Enter surrounding family, friends and neighbors who take great pains in illustrating the urgency to act as the current situation is unsafe / causes them issues / is a bit smelly. Follows a painful process where the previously fairly-happy person has to get rid of things that have brought them comfort over so many years. The house gets emptied. And then, the shit really hits the fan. Only when the house is cleared of its piles of teddy bears and receipts from the last 40 years can the damage to the structure really be seen. Follows realisation that the floors are rotten, ceilings are failing down and the building is generally unsafe. That’s when the possibility of the hoarder being homeless hits home. Scary right? Bet you wish you hadn’t started this process in the first place, now you’re not only emotionally distressed but you also potentially will be sleeping in your car for the foreseeable future. Hooked yet?

Again, how does that relate to me you ask? Well when my self-growth story started a couple of years ago, I just thought it would be good to get a few things sorted. Tweaks, if you like. But then, as I had to dig deeper, I realised those tweaks were actually key blockers, stopping me from achieving true happiness. So I rolled up my sleeves and started the clean-up process. It could only get better right? Cut to months later and this journey has proven difficult. Much more difficult that I initially thought. I had to get rid of a lot of emotional crap I had just stored away at the time, and doing so has meant revisiting said crap to decide if anything good could actually come out of it. Kind of like sorting out each item from my entire hoard: worth keeping and growing from, throw away and decide to move on from it or donate said crap to someone else who deserves it (that one is my favorite by the way).

I mean I only needed a few tweaks to start with. Kind of like just wanting to clear a path from the front door to the living room so I could escape in case of fire. Nothing very taxing. I could still function with the rest. Had to be a positive thing right? So why am I now standing in the middle of a falling house wondering if there is any hope at all that this can even get fixed? For the first time ever, I am just taking in the extent of the damage, wondering if any amount of work can salvage this wobbly structure. And whilst this may look a bit discouraging, I decided to see it another way. With unwashed hair and a face full of pancakes in my mouth, I decided that, yes, maybe I had done more damage to myself than I thought. But it was ok. I was only at the 45 minutes mark.

Because this part, this particular point when all seems hopeless, that’s never when the episode ends. That’s when all the love comes in. That’s when random strangers put in extra shifts to help get the distressed hoarder back in their house. That’s when family members offer to take them in. That’s when hugs fly around, and feelings are shared. You know, human contact and stuff. That’s when true connections are formed and people finally pull together because they love that lonely Teddy-bear-collecting mothereffer. And if the most grumpy, stubborn, deluded know-it-all can find people to help them get through the worst time in their lives, I’ll probably do alright.

So when the going gets tough, I like to tell myself that it’s ok. I’m just 45 minutes in. And then I call someone to remind myself that the grumpy, stubborn, deluded know-it-all that I am can choose to go out there and feel the love. And eat more carbs.

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How I am trying to focus on the Minimum Viable Product version of myself

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Annie Gelinas

Globetrotting freelance writer. Founder of wecouldbeheroes.ca. I value kindness in all its forms. (She/Her)