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Hoarding

I am a hoarder. There, I said it.

My apartment isn’t just “a mess,” it’s really, really bad. Like probably a health and safety hazard bad. And by probably I mean almost definitely. If nothing else, I keep getting sick – and I don’t think I can blame that entirely on protesting in the cold, while being precipitated upon…

But I digress.

There’s a path through the apartment: You can walk through the front door, down the hallway, into the kitchen, around the kitchen table, and out the back door.

From the hallway you can enter the bedroom and access the near side of the bed. Around the foot of the bed is a bit hazardous, and you can’t walk on the far side at all. I’ve stopped using the armoire on that side for practical clothing storage, instead I use the bed. (Fox sleeps on a futon in the living room, his choice.)

From the hallway you can enter the living room and access Fox’s futon, the TV, my desk, and my piano (if you’re brave). You can access all the important things in the kitchen, but you can’t sit at or really use the table. You can also enter the bathroom, which, umm … I don’t remember the last time I cleaned anything other than the toilet.

Clothes, books, papers, random odds and ends, games, luggage, unwanted/unused gifts, decorative items, items with sentimental value, dirty dishes, trash … It’s pretty terrifying. There isn’t a horizontal surface that isn’t overflowing with random crap – unless you count the floor of the bathtub. Appropriate places to store items are full of stuff we don’t use (regularly), disorganized, and mostly inaccessible. I’m terrified to clean out the refrigerator. (We’ve been living on frozen meals, soup, and takeout.)

This has been a chronic problem my whole life, though it’s never been this bad before. My room would get messy, then I’d clean it, then it would get messy again. My mom would go through the stuff I’d decided to get rid of and say “You’re getting rid of this?!” and I’d feel guilty. Every decision to let go of an item I don’t need, but that could potentially be useful, is a painful struggle. We don’t really get rid of things in this house – when I was growing up, or now. Things go into storage in the basement, the front porch, the garage, the “attic.” When Fox moved in, the corners of rooms and the tops of pieces of furniture also became storage areas. I was raised by hoarders and I married a fellow hoarder and I can’t imagine life as a non-hoarder.

No one is allowed in my apartment. Sometimes Mom finds her way in. She’ll do some compulsive cleaning and make some painful comments until I chase her out. Banji used to come in at least once a year and spend most of a week helping me go through things. It would be a nightmare, but then we’d look around and feel good about what we’d accomplished and I’d promise not to let it get so bad again. Then, within few months …

I couldn’t do that to them again this past year. So the mess just keeps getting worse.

It’s not that I don’t care. I hate it. I can’t deal with it. And I can’t bring myself to truly believe it’s that Fox doesn’t care – he doesn’t really show it, but I think it bothers him, too. And he’s said we need to do something about it … just when the time comes, neither of us does anything. He works a crappy soul-sucking job that doesn’t even pay enough for us to live on, and when he has off he’s too exhausted to do anything except watch videos. He does laundry because there’s no other choice, and every so often he gets annoyed enough to do the dishes. I feel guilty because I feel like I should at least be doing that stuff. But it’s hard enough to get myself to eat something.

And the thing is, on the surface, my life is pretty awesome right now. I have important leadership positions in my state and county Green Parties. I’m friends with practically everyone in the state party leadership – and a handful aren’t just casual friends; I feel a real meaningful connection with them. I feel confident and outgoing and connected with others in ways I’d never imagined possible. I’m doing work that I love, and making a real difference in the lives of others. I’ve grown and healed so much in a really, really short amount of time. I’m making music again. I’m even starting to look into applying for internships, so I can actually begin my career in music therapy.

But the world is a mess and the people who would fix it are divided and the work that we do seems so small compared with what we’re up against. Everyone I love is sad about something – not just sad, deeply dissatisfied with some aspect of their life or struggling with some kind of hardship or worried that they may lose … everything.

I just spent a month learning to love someone I’d been taught my whole life to hate. We’ve both been marginalized and disenfranchised from mainstream Western society, but in different ways. By talking about our somewhat shared experience and attempting to understand each other, we formed this amazing connection. But just as he seemed ready to really open up to me, and just when I felt he’d come to see me for who I truly am … he’s moved across the country. He has yet to tell me why, but I can guess – and it has to do with people he loved betraying him, and feeling powerless to change what’s going on in an organization he’s supposed to be a leader of. An organization he led very well, and changed for the better, but that’s not what some of its most powerful leaders – his former and my current friends – are focusing on.

I … just … regardless of what they may say, practically no one truly sees me as nonbinary, or genderfluid. They see me as the gender I was assigned at birth, and there’s not really much I can do to change that. I try to educate them but it’s exhausting. People I’m close to are starting to use my pronouns, but I don’t think they see me as a nonbinary, genderfluid person whose pronouns are ze zir / they them their. They see me as a [gender I was assigned at birth] who insists that people refer to me using weird pronouns, and they do their best to comply. The vast majority of people – even in the LGBTQ community – can’t even seem to wrap their heads around the idea of there being more than two genders. They may pay lip service to nonbinary people when pressed, but at the end of the day it’s “ladies and gentlemen,” “brothers and sisters,” “men and women,” “he or she.” Even with Fox, we can’t come up with nonbinary terms to describe my roles in the family.

My friend who just moved actually sees me. One of our mutual friends says they can feel it when my gendered energy changes – I gotta admit, that’s effin awesome. Others … they seem to take my word for it, try to respect it even though they don’t understand … but that’s the thing, they don’t fucking understand.

So my clothes are strewn all over the place, the garbage is overflowing with dirty tissues everywhere, I’m feeling lightheaded because it’s 5pm and I haven’t eaten anything all day, I don’t have any surfaces free to cook in my own kitchen, and … you get the idea.

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5 thoughts on “Hoarding

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