Monday, September 16, 2013

112. Over the Rainbow

You show up at the meeting because your daughter urged you to go.  You hear her voice even now, like pieces of Styrofoam deliberately being rubbed together or an unexpected chainsaw going off in your backyard:  “Mom, we can’t visit you with the house being like that.  You have a real problem.” 

She didn’t use the “H” word this time, you are relieved about that.  You like to call yourself a packrat or clutterer or even messy and disorganized.  Those words don’t have such far-reaching implications as the “H” word. 
Hoarders are sick people. 

You are not sick.  You are a collector. 
“My name is Phyllis, and I’m a clutterer,” you whisper.  The group nods encouragingly, they seem nice.  If they have a problem with too much stuff, you can’t tell.  They look normal. 

But what exactly is normal?  Is it normal to celebrate Christmas at a local hotel because the house is too full of stuff and no one can sit anywhere?  Is it normal to call a contractor to add shelves to every room in your 3000 square foot home so you can cram in more things? 
You don’t have a problem, you tell yourself.  This is Tammy’s issue.  If she doesn’t want to come with her kids to see you, that is her problem. 

“Welcome, Phyllis,” they smile.  This is their rainbow:  they will get their houses clean, their offices organized, their cars empty enough for a passenger to sit.  If they work hard enough, they can throw things away.  They can live like normal people. 
“Phyllis, what did you do today?”  the leader asks encouragingly. 

You clear your throat.  You were not expecting to be called on.  This is just like third grade.  Third grade is when your dad died, so maybe it is not like third grade. 
“I cleaned out a drawer in my kitchen,” you offer tentatively.  Applause all around.  “I even recycled a few papers.” 

They beam at you, they understand.  Tammy can go to hell.      
 
 
MOV
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trifecta writing challenge/ exactly 333 words/ required word is "rainbow"

35 comments:

  1. This is one sickness I struggle to understand. I'm the type to just start tossing stuff and declutter a few times a year. But I imagine it feels crippling.

    Interesting piece.

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    1. crippling is a good description, yes.

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  2. My son has OCD and part of it is collecting. It's not as bad as it once was, and he has it organized and can part with some of his collection (vintage toys), but it can be overwhelming sometimes. You captured that sense of denial very well. There can be no changes until you recognize the problem is a problem.

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    1. and what if that problem is never admitted????? or just taken as criticism?

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  3. Interesting! Would love imagery of all the clutter stuff! What does she collect? Great character.

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    1. thanks, Sandra. I think Phyllis collects everything: papers, relics from childhood, clothes that no longer fit, new clothes still in the bag with tags attached.... the list goes on.

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  4. I really like your take on the prompt. Hoarding is a terribly crippling disorder. I knew a couple hoarder many years ago, but at the time it wasn't in the mainstream like it is now. I had no idea they were hoarders until much later. It's quite sad.

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    1. thanks, lisa. one of my loved ones has a hoarding issue. tough for all involved.

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  5. This is great... I have a part of me that's like that -- but it feels great to throw away stuff...

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  6. I can readily identify. I call it the magpie syndrome - where a person will keep collecting each and everything.

    Excellent take o the prompt.

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    1. well, what it is (at least for my loved one) is that every single item is a "memory" trigger-- oh, there is that ticked from when we went to that amusement park, and there is the matchbook from that hotel in NY, and there is the receipt from Chinese food when cousin Bob came to visit....... etc

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  7. I have family members who are on the line between packrat and hoarder. My parents - dad especially- likes to hold onto stuff. He's been working at it, and they might be able to park a car in their 2-car garage soon. It seems to get worse with age, and they really don't see it. After helping clean out my grandparents' house, I came home and got rid of a bunch of stuff! We fit both cars in the garage and I aim to keep it that way :)

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    1. oh, the garage and the basement are the Havens of Indecision. A decision NEEDS to be made, but it is easier to put it off by just sticking the item in the garage!

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  8. Very interesting piece, MOV, liked the voice!

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    1. thanks! it is hard to write in the 2nd person, but I do enjoy the challenge of it. :) I hope it flowed and did not get in the way of the story.

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  9. Oh, I loved this. And the ending was such an interesting crescendo or hope and denial and anger. Nicely done.

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    1. thank you, whispatory. your writing is always so strong, so your opinion means a lot to me.

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  10. Well done. I'm a packrat who recently chose to a minimalist path. It is liberating. My mother is a hoarder. D

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    1. it is liberating, isn't it?

      a great book I read about getting rid of stuff made the parallel about being at a rental house on vacation. you have everything you need (sheets, basic dishes, etc), and there is not so much STUFF-- you can actually walk on the beach or play with your kids and enjoy yourself.

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  11. The POV really gives this punch. You're right: 2nd person is not easy to do and you've done it well. I felt as if I were privy to that sick voice in her head that justifies/minimizes her behavior.

    This almost makes me want to clean out my garage.

    Excellent job!

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    1. thanks, ivy! your words mean a lot!!

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  12. That's some powerful writing. Great work.

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  13. Oh, I can see this day coming! Luckily I have a daughter who attaches no sentimental value to anything. I live in terror of her taking on my desk! lol
    Terrific story MOV, and the POV is on the money!

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  14. I once watched a documentary about a hoarder. She could not throw out some rotted meat because she was convinced she would use it and she'd paid good money for it. I was sad because the slant of the show was that she was weird, when in fact, in her mind, her reasoning made sense to her. We can never know what truly goes on in the minds of others, hoarders included. Out of respect for the woman, I turned the show off.

    Great piece you've written! It just goes to show that we all have our mountains to climb:)

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    1. thanks for writing, Valerie. you bring up a valid point: we all need and deserve respect. who knows what the mind maze of a hoarder looks like? they are not bad people, it's just they think differently (as a result, they sabotage themselves and their relationships).

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  15. I totally love to purge and I do it whenever I can stop reading or writing. That isn't too often. Your stories are always so interesting with humor intersecting throughout (even when the subject is more serious).

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  16. Oh. My the H word.I guess all addictions are similar. Nice touch about the 3d grade trauma.

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  17. This is fantastic. The character insight is clear and vivid. And passionate. My dad was a collector. Not quite to that degree, but he left quite a mess to sort through when he unexpectedly passed.

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  18. I really like how you conveyed her thoughts and feelings. It shows that this is a real problem instead of something to be laughed at. Very well written.

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  19. You opened a window into the minds of those who cannot throw things. I am a mild form of that. My mom keeps telling me throw out stuff and I am somehow convinced I will need them, someday! You have set me thinking..thanks.

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  20. My mom straddles the line between packrat and hoarder. I'd like to get her in one of those meetings. Thanks for linking up!

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  21. A different ball game altogether!I can so relate to this for my Hubby is a "collector" ,though fortunately not compulsive and me-I am the thrower,lol!This piece is an eye opener into the psyche of those who sail in that boat-what a punch in that last line-yep,one has only one life and igf you are happy ,rest can go take a hike :-)

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