I spent exactly 22 hours at home for the 4th of July. And while some of this was spent watching my sister fire a cannon four times (no kidding!), most of the fireworks were in the house.
My mother did her usual pre-visit cleanup. While the room did feature a path from the door to the closet, bed, and dresser, it was sad to realize that nothing had actually been removed from the house, just stuffed/hidden/shoved/disguised elsewhere. I gave a tour of the room in its usual state if you need a point of reference.
|yup, that umade bed is my fault!|
|hey, I can get to the window this time!|
|oh, the horrors.|
Enough had been removed that I could identify things of mine that I didn't know were in the pile, like three boxes of centerpieces from our wedding. I unearthed these now only 20 months after our wedding. As the day progressed I managed to snag each one of my parents individually to ask some questions about how I was going to deal with my stuff. Here's how the conversations went.
Totally irrational conversation with Mom
Me: Mom, it's going to be a real pain to take 20 hurricane vases from the wedding down to Maryland only to drive 10 miles to a thrift shop to donate them. Could you take them to the thrift shop next to your office next time you're up there?
Mom: I'll take them when I take the two recliners of Gram's to the thrift shop.
Me: Mom, those recliners have been there since before Gram died, three years ago. Are you really going to take these things to the thrift shop?
Mom: I will.
Me: (picks up a ceramic candy dish that I asked her to take to the thrift shop at Christmas) What about this? You said you were going to take this dish from my room to the thrift shop but I just found it hidden behind the cereal on the kitchen counter.
Mom: But it belonged to Gram.
Me: We have lots of other things of Gram's. You didn't even know we had it until I found it in my room.
Mom: I just haven't taken it because I don't have time.
My mom is a tax preparer and has the Summer and Fall off. The thrift shop is a mile from her house. How does she not have time?
So my next thought is to put them in the recycling. My father has the habit of "editing" my trash, so I went to talk to him about this.
Totally irrational conversation with DadMe: Dad, I need to get rid of the vases we used for the wedding. I'm going to put them in the recycling. Please leave them there. I don't need them any more. I would appreciate it if you would respect my decision to throw items I've purchased in the trash.
Dad: But I do leave your things in the trash. I only take them out when they could be useful.
By this point my father had turned his back on me was was ignoring me in favor of the computer.
The finger pointing begins
Me: Dad, I know you both have been seeing a psychologist. I think you should consider discussing the clutter issues with the therapist.
Dad: I know your mother needs to. She has some very serious control issues. I'm starting to think she has a bit of a hoarder in her. I found catalogs from 2004 in the basement!
(Do I cheer at the fact that he thinks she's a hoarder? Or start to panic because now he's got a label he'll use against her? And he will.)
Me: I mean you too, Dad.
Dad: 90% of this mess is your mother's.
Me: Dad, mom and I had to throw out 15 packages of ten-year-old vitamins and decongestants this morning when I went looking for some sudafed. That was just the tip of the iceberg. Mom doesn't do the shopping for that stuff, you do. And your garage--it has so much stuff in it it's unusable.
(Ironically my mom was the one who threw out the 15 packages of sudafed after I found them. She seemed positively giddy, like she'd caught my father in some trap).
Dad: I know I need to talk to your mother about her mess. And we were using the vitamins back then.
(and then I was stupid and got preachy)
Me: Dad, this clutter problem isn't going to get solved unless you both stop pointing fingers at each other. You each need to take responsibility for this.
And then mom walked in. The conversation was over. No progress.
Ultimately all hope was lost; the hubs and I packed up the car with the vases knowing that we'd find them back in my room if we moved them to anywhere else on the property. It's a small car so there wasn't much room for anything else, which made it even harder to move anything else out. That gave my mother ammunition to use her favorite line: "But this junk isn't all ours, you're almost 30 and you still have so much stuff here!"
By this point all I could do was take my $10,000 worth of psychoanalyzed brains and leave. To hell with empathy for them. No amount of blogging or playing my guitar was going to calm me down. And then the Awful Realization hit me.
My parents aren't going to get help. Ever.
Why do I care so much? Why does it matter to me that the house is a mess?