Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm not allowed to clean out?!

In today's installment of "insane conversations I had with my mother," we go over my latest attempts to empty out my room in my parents' house.

A while back I posted about just what I'm up against now that I'm trying to finally move out of my parents' house. A number of you rightly suggested that I need to get a u-haul and just take it all back to DC with me.

Why have I resisted?

Well, I've worked pretty darn hard to keep my current digs vaguely clutter-free. I don't want to clutter them up. I even went so far as to offer to give my sister the larger room so long as I could have the smaller one all to myself. At least that way I could have my own space. I would be able to go through my things without having to sort through other people's junk first.

A few of you alternatively suggested putting a lock on the door to keep my mom from hoarding it further. I really liked that idea. I had a conversation with her about this a few weeks back. I said that I needed the room to be mine; I didn't mention the lock, but the idea was in my head. Her reaction?

Mom: " mean I can't keep anything in that room?"

Me: "No, mom. Nothing. Just my stuff. Sis's room is less than half the size of mine. There's no room for your stuff and mine. You have over 3200 square feet in that house. Can I have 100 of them for myself, at least for a little while?"

Mom: "Nothing? I can't put anything in that room?" 

I gave up.

At that point I knew there was no way I could have my own space in that house. But the idea of perpetually being a guest frightened me. I was afraid that getting every shred of my personality out of that old room would cut the final thread between me and my family.  And given that my parents immediately fill up any potential 'guest' rooms with junk, I will forever be staying in a hotel, I suspect.

Wait...we're talking about severing connections from a mother who has let clutter rule her life in every way possible, and a father whose mental health problems made my childhood a scary place I never want to go back to.

I'm suddenly very okay with the idea of moving everything out and staying in a hotel. I think.

My therapist suggested I pick a specific time to finally move out. I found out I have Monday off work for a holiday, so I called my mom.

Me: "Mom, I have a holiday this weekend. Can I come up Sunday and Monday and move out?"

Mom: "This weekend isn't good."

Me: "You don't need to be there. I have a key."

Mom: "I can't have guests this weekend." [Read: there isn't a single inch of floorspace in your bedroom and the bed is buried under two feet of junk.]

Me:  I don't even need a place to sleep. I can stay in a hotel. I just need to get my stuff out of the house. I don't care what the place looks like. What's going on this weekend that's so much of a problem?"

Mom: "You can't come home this weekend. I'm not ready." [Read: it's going to take me over a week to clean a path so you could start to dig for the stuff that's yours.]

Me: "I'm going to need to clean out sometime."

Mom: "We can drive all of your stuff down to you." [Read: I don't want you digging through things here. You might try to take something or get rid of it.]

Me: "No. If I need a station wagon to fit it all, then it's too much stuff and some of it needs to go out." 

Mom: "We'll talk about this later. You can't come home this weekend." 

I have been downgraded to the status of a two-year-old. I apparently cannot do anything without being babysat, or having mommy do it for me.


  1. UGH! I'd be SO frustrated too! Part says you should just show up and give her no choice. It would force her to deal with whatever is going on. Or you can just wait and give her a date that you are coming rain or shine/whine.

    I've gotten to a point with my parents (ok, at least my mom) where I let her know that I am an adult, and I am allowed to make certain choices now. It's hard for her to swallow sometimes, but she's finally getting used to it. Here's to hoping your mom allows you to be the adult you are!!

    1. You're right. I think I'm just going to have to show up and do it sometime. Thanksgiving seems perfect. She *really* can't tell me I can't come home then!

  2. I'm so sorry. How much is actually there? If you can think of just a few specific things you really want, you can probably get them next time you visit for a holiday or whatever.

    But unfortunately you may have to just cut your losses.

    1. it's hard to tell with all of my sister's and mom's stuff in there. I also plan to leave most of the furniture which makes it harder to tell. My guess is a full car load if I don't throw out anything.

  3. Very frustrating, when you have decided it's time to just get it I supposed you just have to bide your time and get it done when you can. Although perhaps set a time limit of a year, and after that give up on it...

    1. Good idea, since I have a convenient birthday coming up. Time limit set! It happens before I'm 30, or not at all.

  4. How much do you need to take with you? Is it possible to fit the things you really want to keep in your vehicle without renting a trailer/U Haul?

    My home situation was just the opposite: I left a lot of things at my parent's house when I moved out, and then when I moved back in briefly I brought all my stuff back with me. Most of it was just junky stuff I didn't really need anymore (CDs I didn't listen to, VHS tapes, etc). My mom asked me countless times to go through various bins I left there long after I got married and moved out again.

    But once I got everything cleared out complete, my mom still filled up my old room with her sewing stuff like sewing machines, tables and so many bins of fabric they are stacked almost to the ceiling.

    1. that's a good question. It's hard to tell how much is left because of what's piled on top of all of it. I don't think it's much, probably a couple car loads. We have a small car. And I really don't want to leave anything of mine there because it gives her ammunition to say that the condition of the house is still my fault.

      It sounds like your mom is the complete opposite of you in terms of how much she owns. Did that motivate you to become minimalist or were you always inclined that way?

  5. I think your wellbeing is way more valuable than that stuff, and it's so frustrating to have to deal with your I'm wondering if it's worth it. At that point I think I'd rather leave all my stuff there and never mention it's just stuff, and stuff you don't miss at all because otherwise you would know exactly what it is and how much room does it take, am I right?

    1. you're right. My main motivation is to take away her ability to say, "you still have so much stuff here, this mess is all your fault!" But I know now that my mom's hoarding isn't my fault. And if I'm willing to remind myself of that, then I can leave my stuff to rot in her home. Letting go probably is the right thing to do. Thanks for your comment :o)

  6. Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for stopping by my blog - I guess you got it from Josh? At any rate, I'm glad to know about yours, also - I'm impressed with your dedication to un-hoarding, and the way you are confronting hard things honestly here.

    This post is a little funny to me because I have had almost the exact opposite situation in life, and it goes to show that an extreme in any direction can be harmful... My family moved near the end of my freshman year of college, on my 18th birthday in fact, and when I came "home" to "live at home" and work for the summer a couple of weeks later, the first night at dinner my mom welcomed me by, when I said I was going to go put something in "my room," telling me that in fact I would be staying in the "guest room." It was a very sudden shock to me to think that I no longer had a home, and that while my childhood things were still *in* a room at my parents' house, I should certainly not consider it mine.

    But fast forward 10 years: most of those things were still in that room, although I have never considered that house my home. After a good many years of harping and threats from my mom, John and I went back in May 2011 and I spend a miserable three day weekend sorting, packing, trashing, etc. all of my personal belongings. We were about to move, and finally be living someplace larger than a 1br apartment, and she refused to have my things in her house any longer, and having lost a handful of meaningful items already to her periodic purging of the house, I knew she was serious.

    (As a footnote, I should add that all of what I packed up is still in the house - it took us a while to actually move and buy, and she allowed the packed boxes to stay. But I think I now only have a month or so to arrange for movers from Illinois to Oregon....)

    Anyway, sorry for the huge comment - and I'm glad to see your blog!


  7. That's a bummer... I wish you lots of luck working this one out.

  8. Get what you want (or need - think essentials here), then tell her the rest can be thrown away or donated. Then if she tells you the mess is your fault after that, offer to come throw the rest away (or haul it to Goodwill).

    Having a mantra ("I'll cheerfully come throw it away. How does next Thursday work for you?") gives you an "out". Every time she starts harping on it, re-iterate the offer.

    She'll probably never take you up on it, but it should shut her down. It's hard to continue to assign blame to somebody who's actively offering to fix the problem.


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