In Discussions, Life, Lifestyle, Minimalism

If I had my way, I’d throw out everything in the basement and anything in between

Every time I am in my parents’ house, I want to junk stuff.

I get this itch to grab big black garbage bags, and just start throwing things in.

Empty boxes start to look mighty tempting to me because I want to fill them up with all these old, outdated textbooks from my collective familys’ college years (seriously? a book on programming from the 1990s? WHO IS GOING TO USE IT?!!?) and just … BURN IT ALL.

BURN ALL THE CLUTTER!

stock-fire-pit-wood-burn

Okay, maybe not burn all of it, but at least bring it to the nearest Goodwill (of what makes sense to bring), and get rid of the clutter.

Just to give you an idea of what it’s like, here are a few choice photos to give you an idea of what I am living in:

A SPARE “GUEST” BEDROOM (nobody visits, they all go to a hotel)

Parents-Hoarders-Extreme6

 

RANDOM CRAP IN THE HALLWAY


Parents-Hoarders-Extreme5

UNDER THE KITCHEN SINK, ONLY THE BOXES ON THE LEFT ARE USED

Parents-Hoarders-Extreme2

 

THEIR “OFFICE” AREA AND DESK.

THERE IS A LAPTOP SOMEWHERE IN THERE IF YOU MOVE THE FOOD AND THE BROKEN FAN.

Parents-Hoarders-Extreme

 

I’d love to help them get rid of all of this junk but alas.. I know I cannot do this.

Why?

1. MY PARENTS ARE PACK RAT HOARDERS

They’re hoarders. Maybe not quite as extreme as the ones you see on TV but pretty bad in my opinion.

I have discovered over the years things like this:

  • A box of old hotel shampoos/conditioners/lotions circa 1980 in a box underneath the bathroom sink
  • EMPTY tissue boxes — somehow they think keeping these tissue boxes as a frugal storage option is going to happen
  • ALMOST EMPTY bottles of old cleaners — there’s just a little bit left, so they can’t bear to throw it out but forget to use it
  • Very outdated textbooks on subjects that are no longer relevant (e.g. computer programming back before Windows existed)
  • At least 10 TIMES the amount of tools needed — e.g. 10 hammers, 10 flash lights, 10 screwdrivers (all the same heads), etc..
  • Boxes of random leaflets, flyers and papers — not even important ones like bank statements
  • Old broken dishes and cups
  • Old chairs with the wheels missing or part of the leg broken off
  • Magazines from at least 1995 piled to the ceiling that they promised they’d get around to reading but don’t / never will

…. it drives me mad. Totally mad.

They buy things again because they can’t find the stuff they already have. I mean who has 10 hammers?

Who has 10 almost identical screwdrivers save for age or the colour of the handle?

All my tools are in a pouch or in a larger toolbox with one hammer, one screwdriver with each head type, etc.

ALL MY TOOLS.

In contrast, there are 4 tool drawers (those big honkin’ ones) in the basement that are so full of tools, the doors can’t even close.

In their house, I have to try and block out about 90% of what I am seeing and concentrate on a blank space to find my inner zen.

Photograph-Zen-Singapore-Nature-Eco-Friendly-Green-Broad-Leaf


2. MY PARENTS CAN’T STAND TO LET ANYTHING GO, EVEN JUNK

Case in point:

My mom actually cried when I sold some old, manual exercise machines they found FOR FREE ON THE STREET.

These stupid machines were taking up a third of the entire kitchen and NO ONE could walk in that area because of them.

They started putting boxes on the machines, and hanging plants off them, and I knew it was time to junk them, because they would NEVER get used.

She was in tears.

She was feeling actual, physical pain when I told her I found a willing couple on Craigslist to come by, pick up the machines and deliver them back to their own house.. while paying for the privilege of doing so.

Total Profit: $100

Total Work Required: 0 — I did all the negotiating, handling and coordinating

Whenever I go to try and junk things I know are useless, I have to do it in secret or else they get mad at me or start crying.

3. MY PARENTS HATE SEEING EMPTY SPACES

When they see an empty space, their brain thinks:

Hmm.. something.. is off here.

Something’s wrong.

Why isn’t there a huge pile of junk or random crap there?

I feel very uncomfortable.

Let me go find some old useless crap and fill up that space. It just isn’t natural.

Thus, every time I clear a spot and want to leave it EMPTY and CLEAR, they bring in a bag of .. crap. I can’t even describe what is in it because it’s just crap.

I once opened a bag of crap that filled up an empty corner of the house, and found in it old broken eyeglasses in its original eyeglass case, random leaflets from a catalogue of a company that went bankrupt years ago, 2 bank statements, 3 screwdrivers, empty boxes of medication and an old rag.

You get the idea.

This actually happens more often than I care to admit. I cleared the kitchen table the other day and put everything away / tossed it when it needed to be tossed, and the next morning, there was a pile of CRAP back on the table because it was too empty.

Me: *twitch* *twitch*

In the kitchen, they keep all their bank statements and random pieces of papers from the past 20 years — in kitchen cupboards where you are supposed to put pots and pans.

So where do the pots and pans that we use go?

On another shelf in the kitchen that they had to buy to store all their junk because the kitchen became their office as well. In fact, it’s pretty much the only living space they use in the entire house except for the bedroom and bathroom.

4. THEY CAN’T ORGANIZE TO SAVE THEIR LIFE

They think organizing is finding ways to pile that crap up in a neater manner.

They don’t realize that organizing means decluttering, which means getting RID of stuff.

If you have 100 items in a room, and they’re sucking up all the space in there, you need to get rid of some of those 100 items BEFORE you stick it all back on the shelf and “organize” it.

Otherwise, you’re just shifting clutter around and trying to put lipstick on the proverbial pig… (poor piggie.)

The ironic thing about all of this? My mother loves watching HGTV (home and garden television) and designing shows.

She LOVES the Swedish style of design where everything is so Ikea-style that it makes your eyes hurt.

You know, white walls, blonde wood, clean, empty, open spaces, and just a sculpture on a mantlepiece.

Basically your minimalist home design wet dream, kind of like this:

Studio-Oink-Bedroom-Minimalist-Germany

I tell her she can achieve all of this if she would just JUNK 50% of her crap, and she gives me a horrified look.

SO MY PLAN HAS BEEN TO DO IT IN SECRET!

To secretly junk stuff while they’re away.

While they were out of the house one time and we were decluttering and downsizing our own things (which by the way, is NOT A LOT OF STUFF), I even managed to sneak out those two broken office chairs with missing wheels and/or snapped seats.

Fait accompli!

While they were on their vacation, I successfully got rid of a full garbage bag of crap (old hotel samples, random tissue boxes, etc).

Another time, I got rid of 50% of the coats in the hallway closet because they were ripped, stained, etc.. and my mother didn’t even notice.

I wanted to get rid of these 50 pairs of old track shoes kicking around from my brothers’ marathoning days too, but that’s another mission for another day.

I basically refuse to let them open those garbage bags of crap and I rope my minimalist partner in crime to do it (my partner).

He loads up the car to which only he has the keys to so that NO ONE can go in there and fish out that junk, and I find things to junk.

However I am aware that I can’t go too far because once they start seeing how oddly “clean” and “decluttered” the house is, they might get suspicious. So I suck it up, and wait for opportune moments to get rid of things I know should go, and hope that they don’t go out in a panic to buy more crap to fill the space.

Anyway, this just makes me want to buckle down and be even more of a minimalist.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on September 7, 2016

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54 Comments

  1. L
    Leah

    I can relate to this article so much. I’ve been trying to help out my parents but they don’t see it that way. They don’t even know what food they have because they had it all chucked under the counter-a lot of it was expired. My dad hoards empty jars and empty coffee containers. I finally threw out a ton in the garage since it’s been so messy that he hasn’t been back to the garage in months. He has started putting garage stuff in the house instead of just cleaning or getting rid of things. He doesn’t think he has a problem-there’s furniture blocking the upstairs hallway in case if there ever an emergency. My Mom hoards for her online shop. I finally convinced her to ged rid of empty boxes and packaging that was to the ceiling. She still has plenty of packaging and empty boxes to use. We opened up a booth, so now when I go through things I ask her-is this for your shop, the booth, or donate? Unfortunately most of the time she keeps saying Etsy even though I know damn well it will sit there for years without getting posted like it has. Her office is consumed by her Etsy stuff and she has it in the guest room, dining room, garage, and storage garage. I have been helping and it has turned me into a minimalist seeing how they live and how wasteful they are. I love them but I hope to never live like them.

    They go grocery shopping only once a month and spend a ridiculous amount of money on junk food, 2+ carts of food. It takes 3+ hours to go grocery shopping with them. My Dad asked for my help and I finally said I would just not how he wants it done and he blew up/called me a POS. How can you ask for help and then be closed minded? They don’t even live that far from the store-it wouldn’t hurt them to get out more.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I would say my parents are not quite as hoardy (?) as that but it can be frustrating. What they need is professional help to let them understand why they do what they do — growing up through a war or having had a very poor childhood would affect you very much and they need help to get over it…

      Best of luck.

      (Maybe help her start listing stuff for Etsy??)

      Reply
  2. A
    Angela

    Great article..
    Doing it in secret is the key! You will never win the argument to throw something away (or not bring it into the home in the first place) so the best option for everyone is just do it discreetly. I have been sorting and throwing away my girlfriend’s mom’s useless trash now for almost 2 years. She never notices anything missing, it’s great.. But you’re right, you have to be wise and not do too much at once or they’ll be on to you! I’ve decided if I’m ever caught I’ll say I’m borrowing it ir have given it to a friend desperately in need of that exact item from that EXACT ERA Lol… Thanks for the good read!

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Hahahha you’re welcome. I do it when my parents are at work 🙂

      Reply
  3. A
    Aphire

    I’m still living in my parents’ house as I’m saving up my money to buy my own house (Can’t wait for it).

    In short, my father still keeps his old work files, old office posters, old diaries etc although he retired since 20 years ago. Humm great.. He keeps a lot of empty plastic bottles too.

    My mother? She hoards clothes. She just can’t stop buying clothes although she has three wardrobes full of them. Ah, not forgetting our childhood clothes since 30 years ago. She still keeps them in the luggages (more than 20 big bags) in her room. Apparently, she hoards dinner sets, glass sets etc too (a lot…). We have 5 kitchen cabinets full with those things which we don’t even use. Thanks mom. The ironic part? She whines everyday that uuuh, why can’t our house looks decent and clean like the IKEA house. Her other hobby? Checking on everyone’s rubbish bin just to save those rubbish. Omg..

    My sister on the other hand, is the worst. She hoards all sort of things and couldn’t even bother to differentiate between rubbish and useful items. She just piled them up. Mind you, her junks were all around our ground floor unit. We had termite infestation last year because of her. Those wicked termites infested her bed and junks that she didn’t even care to notice. She only realised it when she saw termites on her hair. Pffff….. I ended up calling the pest control while she whined about everything. And guess who’s the one cleaning? Me! (again and again)

    Brothers? They’re in the middle stage, not a hoarder/pack rat and not a neat freak. But I get irritated when they only say this and that but don’t even offer any help (more to NATO = no action, talk only.)

    I guess I started to be a minimalist because of my family. Or perhaps it is also because I’m very sensitive to dust (I got a very bad cystic acne last year after I cleaned up my sister’s room. It was full of junks and dust.) I enjoy my own room as it is white and I only keep my necessities. My room is my zen space in the house. My mom complains that my room needs more stuffs to feel alive but I just… don’t care. (She should feel grateful instead. At least I’m not the one who caused the termites infestation)

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      OMG I feel you. I’m a pack rat at heart but trying to be an IKEA minimalist. It is not easy but .. I’m trying. My weakness is shopping and clothes but I do regularly clean out and replace items that should not be worn any longer.

      Reply
      1. A
        Aphire

        I have a soft spot for bags (I have 11 bags right now). Luckily, I stopped buying since this year and I have to slap myself whenever I saw the latest arrivals. **ouch**. Lol.

        Regarding my sister, I moved her stuffs (after burning 80% of them, most are junks) from the ground floor living room into her own room. Mind you, she was shouting and crying hysterically at me at that time. *smirk* She ended up installing a small padlock on her door (Good!, I like that. But hey, I’m in good in unlocking it). Anyway, I know she starts to hoard more stuffs in her room right now… What’s ironic is that she keeps on talking about the importance of feng shui (Seriously? That’s gibberish. Then why don’t she starts by decluttering her stuffs…)

        Our ground floor living room and hallway are quite clean now, and I’m in the process of painting the walls+ceilings in white. I’m so happy!

        Reply
        1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

          I think once you’re on your own it might be easier .. for now, control what you can control 🙂 I have tried to change my parents but they keep hauling out my rubbish

          Reply
          1. A
            Aphire

            Yes, that’s why I constantly remind them that we need to keep the ground floor unit clean so that we can have guests coming during Christmas party/carolling.

            My parents are like, “oh, right…” LOL. They actually got better than before. My main concern right now is my sister. I set the boundaries by warning her not to put her things in the living room+hallway and storeroom anymore or I’ll just burn them (I don’t care about her room, as long as she doesn’t spread her junks to somewhere else in the house). It seems working right now. **We no longer talk to each other for 6 months since I burned her stuffs**

          2. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

            Whoa! That sounds extreme….. I would caution you in burning anything. There are ways to get things done without destroying them 🙂 Catch more flies with honey, not vinegar.

          3. A
            Aphire

            Unfortunately, honey doesn’t work for her (I had tried that for the past 15 years). LOL

  4. M
    Melinda

    After my mom died back in 2007, I and my brother were depressed, actually did nothing around the house. My dad, took it upon him to become a mom also. Problem is that he is a hoarder, he grew up poor and therefore, in his mind, I think, he thinks that throwing away ANYTHING is a waste, furthermore, he used to be a builder, so he figures, one day I will fix that. Another problem we have is that, even though his intentions are good, he does a cheapy jobs around the house, nothing matches, we have a million different door handles, 5 different types of doors, a million storage cabinets he made to “hide” the junk all in the name of saving money. Our kitchen has 3 different counter styles because they were either free or cheap. This consequently, leads to more mess and clutter. I started throwing things away without him noticing, but this will never work without his understanding of the problem. We used to have a back yard patio which totay serves as a junk-yard for old clothes, tools and basically anything anyone can imagine. Last week, I found an old toddler bicycle which was broken. We are 35 and 37! He complains that we spend all day in our rooms with our computers and tv’s but it’s because we cant stand the house. Oh, may I add that he doesnt sleep in his room anymore! For the past 6-7 years he moved a bed in the living room and lives there! It’s just too much.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I would like to recommend that you call a Hoarders Helpline. This is a real issue, it is affecting your life and could be a real hazard emergency-wise.

      http://cluttercleaner.com/hoarder-hotline/

      Reply
  5. J
    Jordan

    My mom has a very messy and cluttered house. Her junk in the basement in particular shows her mild hoarding habits. Hoarding is somewhat of a mental disorder related to obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s sad because hoarding gives some people false security, but their lives become increasingly disorganized and disorderly. My mother in particular hoards items of dead family members whether or not they are useful (ex. broken wooden boxes, broken furniture, kitchenware, clothes). She is emotionally attached to gifts from friends, and sentimental mementos.

    I really want to help my mother who doesn’t allow other people (even friends and family) to ever enter her house. I never realized how strange it was to have never had a family member visit in 20 years of my childhood… but helping my mother is very difficult. I understand asking her to throw away her junk if probably too much for her to handle, but at least let me help her organize her junk by building shelving units FFS. She’s running out of room to walk in her basement.

    When I was 15 one time I stacked and labeled some of her boxes for easy access and I got in huge trouble… she freaked out and needed to call her sister for emotional support and told me to leave.

    Whenever I ask her about cleaning the basement she panics. Seeing her panic over stacking a few boxes makes me realize how much of a mental disorder this is. As soon as I asked her she began talking about things I had never heard of before. “It’s your father’s fault… divorce fault… child welfare workers fault… grandparents fault… F’ing boss’s fault… the reason I’m obese is their fault… the reason I’m sick is their fault… doctor’s fault…”

    My mother is freakishly organized at work. Her office is the definition of pristine, proper, and orderly. It’s disinfected daily. She’s a clean and neat freak, but why is her house a sh*thole? Mental disorder. Her house is getting old and falling apart, but she won’t let me or other people like plumbers into her house to fix it… I am starting to intervene because she is sick and needs someone to take care of her before she falls apart as a human being.

    Reply
    1. sherry@savespendsplurge.com

      I think you might need to call someone in (a pro) to help her with her hoarding tendencies… It sounds serious and I’d be afraid of things falling on her, caving in, maybe starting a fire and trapping her. It is all serious and can happen.

      It also sounds like she needs to talk to a therapist or psychologist to understand why she is hoarding.

      Reply
  6. E
    Elie

    After seeing those pictures, I am having a hard time breathing. Time to go through my stuff and thin out again. I do it twice a year but I will do it again this weekend. My parents aren’t quite as bad but they are close. My mother just keeps buying and buying. It is suffocating. I too have to focus on a blank space when I visit them or I start getting dizzy.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      I just try to avoid the basement at my parents’ home. Apparently it has gotten better but.. those little hotel soaps.. *groan*

      Reply
  7. H
    Hot Toddy

    Wow! Those pictures made me feel physically ILL! But I know from whence you speak. I was raised by a Mom and 2 grandparents who lived thru the Depression. The motto on our family crest was ” Don’t throw that out, it might be good for something”. My grandmother would beg me to help clean the house but when I did she’d inspect every bag of trash I created and be aghast at what I was tossing out. To her cleaning the house was simply putting one pile of junk in a different location. Margarine tubs from the ’70’s (dozens of them), bread wrappers, every receipt and bill statement from the days when telephone numbers began with letters instead of numbers and canned goods from the Eisenhower era that nowadays would need a Haz-mat license for disposal. My older brother’s philosophy is similar, ” I paid good money for it, I’m keeping it”. Yeah, well tell me when they start making Betamax tapes again! My in-laws are the same way. I dread the day they pass on and we have to sort thru all that detritus. I know for a fact the 2 chest freezers they have in their basement contain several strata of meat and frozen goods that were bought 20 years ago. Not sure I’d even leave that for the buzzards. Fortunately, my wife and I ( most likely due to our upbringings)cannot stand clutter. As we age our decorating tastes turn more towards the Japanese aesthetic…an American sense of feng shui as it were. I call it Appalachian Zen. LOL! Ponder on THAT one for awhile!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Oh my goodness. It runs in the family then.. ? Or have you bucked the trend?

      Reply
      1. H
        Hot Toddy

        @save. spend. splurge.: Oh, definitely…we are quick to toss what is unnecessary and try to stay on top of potential clutter situations. And my interest in minimalism has grown exponentially over the past year. Every day it seems I am becoming more keenly aware of what is really important and what is truly necessary in my life and surroundings. But the hoarding I mentioned from my in-laws and my own family is nothing extraordinary. Most people I know keep a bunch of stuff around “just in case” they need it or more likely because they feel guilty for throwing out ” good stuff that they or someone they love paid for”.The fastest growing business in my area seems to be those rental storage units. I have a 10 by 12 commercial outbuilding myself that is extremely handy but still more cramped than it needs to be. Still, slowly and surely, we are wheedling it down. People don’t seem to realize the load it puts on one’s soul to be attached to so much stuff. Truly, the average consumers mindset is to see who can die with the most toys. Plain and simple. My mother in her final years was an antiques dealer and collector and after her death it was such a physical AND emotional chore to categorize and sell the pieces she had accumulated. It’s a situation I do not want to leave to my children.

        Reply
        1. save. spend. splurge.

          I hear you. I’m starting to re-embrace minimalism again, but this time, attacking my only major weak spot — my wardrobe.

          Reply
  8. L
    Lila

    This post made me laugh. I know it’s frustrating for you and I’m not laughing at you nor your folks. But the way you write when you insert your own style like “twitch, twitch” is very humorous. Were your parents hoarders when you and your siblings were growing up at home?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      Well I’m glad you liked it. I made it to be a funny post so I achieved my goal if you laughed 😉

      My parents were DEFINITELY HOARDERS. When we moved from our first house to our second, they had 2 semi trucks of junk.

      We moved from our second to our third, they had to toss an entire skip and a half worth of crap from the basement (an entire level dedicated to junk).

      Reply
      1. L
        Lila

        @save. spend. splurge.: Oh wow, I can see why you’re a minimalist! I’d be irritated too!

        Reply
  9. Erin @ Red Debted Stepchild

    Oh my god, this hurt my minimalistic heart. Both my parents have too much crap (in my humble opinion), but neither are quite this bad. My grandparents are total hoarders though, they keep everything.

    It’s sad when people care that much about “stuff”. My suitcase was lost on my last flight and they said there was a possibility it wouldn’t be found. I didn’t even sweat it. It was just clothes and I would be reimbursed. Who cares? They did find it though.

    I wish more people had the minimalist mentality. Not to say that everyone else is wrong, it’s just nice to free up the cash and time spent on possessions to be used for enriching experiences instead.

    Reply
  10. Ksenija

    My hear goes to you. My mother is a total hoarder and it’s always been completely frustrating for me. She never throws away anything except the daily garbage. Broken pans, pots, even my baby clothes (30 years old now), old magazines & newspapers, schoolbooks – you name it. To make things worse, when her parents died (14 and 8 years ago), she inherited their crap she refuses to part with. Make me insane. Whenever I am staying with her, I feel like a prisoner. I even have to jump over rolled rugs that are standing on top of the used ones, just to get to my bed. She has stuff in her fridge that’s years old. Absolutely. Horrifying.
    I used to do what you’re doing – secretly throw away random piles of junk, and she too, almost never noticed. Sometimes I even wonder how much time will I need to spend going through all the junk when she passes away.
    I honestly have no idea how I got to be of a completely different mind set. When we faced the real possibility of being refugees during the bombing in 1999. I learned that I can live form without major worries with things I can pack in one medium size suitcase. Then when I moved to Holland, I lost all my digital data (files, photos – really everything) from my previous life. I had to pack my whole life and enough to survive for an indefinite period of time in two suitcases. And I felt liberated. It may sound silly, but the mere fact that I am alive and healthy really makes me happy and influences my perspective on what’s important in life.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      OMG! My parents have things in the fridge too. Old perfume bottles to be kept “fresh”, film… it’s ridiculous. Half of our fridge can’t be used because they’re storing crap.

      I think you’re a different mindset because it bothers you so much (like what my parents have for me) that you went the other way.

      Reply
  11. Michelle

    I thought you lived in a house separate from your parents? If you’re living with them, then I TOTALLY understand the context of all of your posts when you’re discussing parent/child issues. I have to admit I found it sad to read how bad the situation is. My Grandma (dad’s mom) isn’t a hoarder-everything is organized, neat, and clean HOWEVER she has duplicates, upon duplicates of: church hats, shoes, jewelry, coats,product, magazines and food. She likes being able to give people stuff, and she has had to help relatives out with: product, food, and other items.

    My mom collects dishes and furniture. She’s one person. I am constantly downsizing and organizing as I am trying to get to an almost Scandinavian minimalism. I think people feel like if they don’t buy something they will forever lose that opportunity.

    I want to avoid buying extra sh$t so that I can save my money and do things (travel,etc.)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Michelle: *LAUGH*! Yes I am currently with my parents paying rent to them while I wait for Baby Bun to be born, then I am moving to another province.

      Not just avoid buying extra stuff, avoid COLLECTING free stuff. I say no to free things all the time if I can’t use them.

      Reply
  12. M
    Michelle

    Wow! Your parents and mine should get together sometime. While my parents are away for six months of the year, I secretly throw out broken crap they won’t notice and organize like a maniac. I have to be careful because my dad sometimes notices when he gets back. My parents are hoarders too, the entire basement is full of – just in case stuff. For their bed, they have about ten extra sets of sheets crammed in the linen closet and the basement is rammed with boxes upon boxes….some of which have those tacky green and orange pyrex bowls from the 70’s, there’s also an extra sofa set not being used, VHS tapes, vinyl LP’s, a patio set…..and on and on. I’ve been after my dad for three years to clean it up and every time I mention it, he panics and says he has no time. Sure dad, you’re a retiree…no time. Uh huh. Denial I think! Now I’ve threatened a garage sale this spring, we’ll see how that goes! It’s tough living with them sometimes with all the crap around…..it makes me want to clean all the time. LOL!

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Michelle: My parents try to have matching sheets but it never works out for some reason. It just ends up in the linen closet in a big pile of .. “WTF is this and where does it go?”

      Reply
  13. M
    MelD

    Hoarding is such a sad problem, especially when the hoarder has such a physical response. You have probably also seen the hoarding shows where psychological help and therapy are provided – these people have a real problem they can’t control. You do know the house will fill up again the moment you turn your back, no matter how well-meant your actions are?!
    Hard for us to understand, I guess, and you have said before about your folks growing up seriously poor. My grandad saved hundreds of inhalers, neatly separated and bagged up, among many other things – he grew up in hard times in the 20s/30s. My granny went to town decluttering after he died! But she is also extremely frugal and can’t stand waste of any kind, she generates very little trash.
    My in-laws are different, it is hidden hoarding – everything looks perfect but all the antique furniture (very beautiful family heirlooms, not dusty old stuff!) is stuffed with so much antique silver, textiles, documents etc. that she has had to get a specialist in before now just to open a drawer without the whole thing breaking… And in the kitchen there is a floor-to-ceiling pantry cupboard where half the contents is hundreds of tea-towels, some antique and monogrammed, others from her own grandmother and threadbare…!!Oh, and all perfectly laundered and ironed – how many tea-towels does a person need?! I have a small pile I could easily halve, I use maybe 6 in rotation. Don’t get me started on the food – three enormous freezers and a large fridge, my in-laws have lived alone for 12 years at least and don’t entertain. When we cleared the fridge out while they were bed-ridden in 2011, we threw stuff out dated 1998… and got in trouble for it. Now my MIL is alone, her fridge is still always full, as is the rest of her food storage (hundreds of bottles of spices from when she used to do fancy cooking…) and yet for most of the week she gets meals-on-wheels!!! Aaargh.
    Yeah, this subject gets me. I hoarded a little bit for a while when my kids were young – my dad threw all my childhood stuff away and I am still a bit upset about some things that were “lost” but I got over it and decluttering has become a way of life, even my hoarder husband is doing really well, now, and our small house has things we love but very little in it that is unused or unloved, it’s an ongoing process.
    Good luck with your parents; when will you and your little family move into your own place (for your peace/piece of minimalist mind??!!)

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @MelD: You know, I can understand my mother hoarding because she grew up with nothing. Literally NOTHING.

      My father though? He’s not hoarding because he wants to hoard, he’s hoarding because he’s too lazy to walk to the garbage can and clean out his room.

      As for hidden hoarding, my brother does this. He has a basement full of boxes all neatly labelled with all the crap they’ve collected over the years. Kind of drives me mad because he never even opens the boxes but knows exactly what is in them…

      We will be moving after Baby Bun is born 🙂 I am not staying here any longer and we’re putting the wheels in motion to leave permanently.

      Reply
  14. Midori

    loool… very entertaining. 😀 Good luck! Be stealthy!

    Now I want to clean my room after reading this. 😛

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Midori: I’m glad it motivates you 😉

      Reply
  15. A
    Ariana

    Is it possible that the hoarding could be a symptom of a childhood issue with your parents? Maybe they didn’t have much while growing up and now that they are adults, try to make up for the lost time by hoarding?

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Ariana: Yes! My mother yes, my father no.

      My mother grew up with nothing. Literally nothing. I should write a post on this.

      My father grew up with everything a middle-class kid should have (he was actually spoiled), so this is not the case. He’s just too lazy / doesn’t care enough to clean.

      Reply
  16. Tania

    My parents aren’t quite as bad but they do still have a ton more stuff than I think they’ll ever need. They are quite frugal though and don’t buy too many new things. I live next to them now in my own very open design studio apartment like space, which was added on to the original home when I returned to Maui. I do think I’ve influenced them now as I’ve noticed some major purging going on and they’ll happily show me how empty a space is as they’ve cleaned it out. We usually have family dinners on my side as I have a big kitchen island with comfy counter stools (without stuff on it) and they always comment how much they like my living space. I do still have to sneak things out that I personally am getting rid of as my mom will want to keep it if “it’s still good”. I jokingly told my dad I’ll just have to get rid of it later when you two are too old to care. A few weeks ago he showed me a bunch of textbooks (he’s a retired teacher who still coaches science students as a volunteer) and said “look I’m getting rid of these now so you don’t have to do it after I’m gone”.

    I can’t even imagine dealing with all of that girl, I do empathize with you and agree with your secret approach. Better to do a little now here and there. You talk about your mom a lot and I can see how much you care for her and would like to see her living a simpler and happier life. I did have a college roommate who flipped out on us because we threw her three month yogurts away. (We also found a ton of OUR dishes under her bed and in her closet with half eaten old food in them.) Hoarding + eating issues.

    Totally dying over the minimalist smart storage all white futon bed. I fricken love that and wish I had done that in my space. You could totally use that platform for tea time, yoga, back stretches (I have to do work on my spine with certain foam roller type things) when not sleeping.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Tania: I am doing it in small batches. Slowly but surely the 60 coats in our front closet (YES.. 60!!!) and that broken ironing board will end up in the garbage one day.

      Reply
  17. j
    judy

    I can’t stand clutter or junk..it drives me crazy. When I purchased my grandparents house I had 50 years of junk to go through and out most of it went. Now my mom lives with me but we have a rule for every one thing that comes in one goes out.

    I am also trying to totally go over one room and month. If we don’t wear it, use it, watch it, know what it is or will need it in the next two months it is going out. I am selling some on ebay, donating, telling friends to take stuff. As long as it is not in my house. I do have a crock pot problem but I use all three of them 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @judy: Ebay and Craig’slist has been great for getting rid of stuff.

      The problem is that my mother doesn’t want to get rid of anything and my father does but he’s too lazy to do all the work of setting up all that stuff. He just wants the money so I’ve given up trying to help him sell anything because he never reciprocates in kind to help me in other ways.

      Reply
  18. Morgaine

    Man, and I though my Mom has a lot of crap! I have to admit your parents are worse, but my Mom is still pretty bad. Her house is full of tchotchkes and she never says no to any of her sisters (also hoarders) when they give her their crap. She’s also a food hoarder and its impossible to find anything in her 2 fridges or chest freezer. And most of the food in the fridge is bad. Gross!

    Another friend who lives with her hoarder Mom has a garage sale once a year while her Mom is in Germany visiting relatives and every year her Mom doesn’t even notice anything missing! Apparently they make a good $250-300 a year getting rid of her crap 😉

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Morgaine: Food hoarding is a problem. I don’t food hoard at all because I’m kind of a freak about fresh stuff…

      I thought about a garage sale but then realized my parents would be the #1 buyers.

      Reply
  19. K
    Kathy

    When we cleaned out my deceased mother-in-law’s house, we found bags full of empty bags and boxes full of empty boxes. Drives me nuts the things they hold on to.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Kathy: And it’s taking up valuable square footage!!

      They could have a WONDERFUL basement that is empty, great for guests or a quiet relaxing office space or even with a TV and instead it is full of crap.

      Reply
  20. S
    Sheryl

    I feel your pain. My father was a pack rat (his final request to me before he passed away was that I “take care of his mess”) and my mother is a hoarder. It has been a huge job trying to clear out my dad’s stuff, as my mother tries to go through all the “garbage” before it leaves the house.

    The difference between them? If someone needed something, and my father had it, he would give it away (not tools) to anyone as long as it wasn’t going to wasted. My mother on the other hand is a hoarder, emotionally attached to everything she owns, and won’t let anything go. She claims to want to help her kids, but on her terms. She is alone now, no one but herself to cook for. She owns at least 15 lasagne / roasting type pans (assorted sizes and materials). When my one, single pan broke, I mentioned it to her, she reluctantly LOANED me a pan to cook the thing I needed to cook. I ended up asking for a new pan for my birthday (which my daughter bought for me).

    I am trying my best not to fall into the pack rat / hoarder trap, and for me it requires daily diligence. I envy people that can just dispose of things that don’t fit in their lives anymore. I always feel that I may need that thing again in the future.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Sheryl: Because of my parents’ influence, I am someone who both hoards a little (I hoard digital data and clothes to an extent), but generally I am pretty good at chucking what I don’t need in the garbage or donating it.

      It’s gotten much better since we have had to move countries (U.S. and back), and homes (moved 19 times in 2010), so I have it down to a science now.

      I am always evaluating what I have and what I can get rid of.

      Reply
  21. t
    tomatoketchup

    Hopefully your parents will have the foresight and courtesy to do something about this problem when they’re older so you don’t end up inheriting this big pile of garbage, but from your description of them I doubt it. We went through this recently when girlfriend’s father died, and it was overwhelming how much unnecessary trash was present in all corners of the house.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @tomatoketchup: I am already budgeting in an amount to have a skip out front and for us kids (and our kids of course will not be off the hook) to just start chucking things in there.

      I’m kind of getting a head start on the chucking if that makes sense. I am also keeping in mind that currently I’d need about $70,000 to redo the house to a presentable state to be sold as well (remove all the crap DIY he has done), but the decluttering is #1 on the list.

      Reply
  22. jane savers @ solving the money puzzle

    You can run a finger down the side of each shirt in my mother’s closet and not touch the shirt on the other side. She is clutter free.

    My mother would open closet doors when her friends were over and they would compliment her on her uncluttered life. She has always told me that she doesn’t want to leave any messes when for anyone else to clean up when she dies and getting rid of stuff now will mean less for us to get rid of when she is gone.

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @jane savers @ solving the money puzzle: You know, that’s a good philosophy to live by. My mom says the same thing and then accumulates more stuff.

      Reply
  23. Ati Aziz

    Hahah, I can so relate to this!

    My parents are not so much hoarders, but in the same way there used to be so many junks in our house. Thankfully, they downsized a couple years ago (from a two-storey house to 1-bedroom apartment) so I had a mad time purging a lot of stuffs.

    And naturally, I turn out to be a minimalist too! I remember reading 10 years ago about a room being spartan and thought to myself, that I can aspire to! Well, that was “the” word before I knew minimalism… 🙂

    Reply
    1. save. spend. splurge.

      @Ati Aziz: My parents have downsized TWICE!

      We used to have a home 3X the size of the one we have now.. and somehow, this house has become too cluttered and small in 10 years even though they junked a lot of crap.

      Reply

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