My mother was a hoarder. This is a description that I wrote of what the hoard looked like when I walked into her house. It was the introduction to a published book that I wrote, "The Hoarder's Daughter: Memories of a Life in Chaos."
The smell on the back porch was putrid, but didn’t hold a candle to the over powering gross stench that hit you when you walked in the back door. It smelled like someone had gone toes up inside the house. You almost wanted to gag every time you walked into the house. It smelled like a combination of garbage, feces, and decay. It really was a noxious mix of odors that Louise had become nose blind to and denied that there was any problem.
Actually, before you even entered the house you could see contents spewing out onto the patio and even further onto the lawn, clear evidence that a hoarder lived there. When she would run out of room things would end up in the backyard and she thought somehow that by putting a tarp over it you couldn’t actually see it. She liked to “dumpster dive” and I can remember her once seeing nearly a dozen chairs sitting out at the curb of someone’s house for the garbage truck and she stopped to retrieve them. The person discarding the chairs had owned a restaurant in these chairs had come from that business. For whatever reason Louise decided that she just had to have them but they never actually made it inside the house and stayed in the yard until she discarded them herself at some point later.
There was barely enough room left uncluttered on the porch to find a narrow path to get to the kitchen door. There were many boxes of clothes, piles of blankets, discarded exercise equipment, spare doors, tables, bins, and bags of who-knows-what that you had to delicately make your way around in order to enter the house. I once described it as “Mount Trashmore” because it was just heaped up mounds of crap. There have been issues with critters such as possums and birds entering the back porch and hiding among the piles of stuff. On more than one occasion we found an animal’s dead body on the porch.
Stepping through the back door you were greeted by black flies and gnats swarming around your head. There were several times that we would find maggots on the toilet seat, in the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, and other places.
Looking in from the back door you could see what used to be a kitchen. The white stove was now dirty, rusted, and piled high with pill bottles, cast-iron skillets, empty butter dishes, Krispy Kreme doughnut boxes, stacks of mail, and jewelry. To the left of the stove was a microwave cart, which was inaccessible due to piles of boxes and junk in front of it. Laying on top of the microwave were stacks of mail, dishes, clothes, telephone books, and a radio. To the right of the stove was an old cabinet which used to store canned goods. Formerly white, it was now covered in food stains and serving as a perch for a broken coffee pot, another radio, and a pile of three or four inches of papers. Sadly, that was the cleanest and neatest part of kitchen.
My mom had apparently given up on using garbage cans and had been throwing her trash on the floor for quite some time. Ice cream containers, cereal boxes, canned food, and fast food bags littered the kitchen floor. The countertops were piled at least nine inches high with every kind of thing imaginable in another version of the back porch’s “Mount Trashmore.” Empty cookie tins, discarded takeout containers, giveaway bank calendars, empty soda cans, egg cartons, hair brushes, another radio, and portable phones were among the hundreds of items piled up on both sides of the sink. In the sink were a stack of dirty dishes and a handful of potato peels. Looking up, the curtains above the sink, though white, appeared black, as they were covered with gnats that flittered from the sink to the curtain.
Are you sure that you want to hear about the bathroom?
Sitting right off of the kitchen, it was an eyesore as well as an assault to the nose as you passed it. I don’t think she ever cleaned the toilet. She claims that she could not see it being dirty, but the toilet seat, the toilet lid, the sides of the toilet, and the floor were covered in feces. The bathtub was full of clothing, an address book, a flashlight, and other miscellaneous items that rendered the tub incapable of being used. This was the only bathroom that my mother utilized for the last 10 years, so she hadn’t had a shower or a bath in at least a decade. I would go as far to say that she hadn’t had a shower or bath in 30 years. Whenever she was hospitalized, my mother would tell the nurses that she took a bath every day but her version of “taking a bath” was standing at the kitchen sink with a washcloth and a bar of soap and washing only the necessary parts. She would go sometimes as long as five weeks without washing her hair.
The dining room was less of a health hazard, but still a mess. Four to five inches of thick greasy dust covered everything in the room. Various items were strewn across the floor. The dining room table and an old buffet were covered with clothing, baskets, dolls, and assorted items and boxes and bags filled all available space in the room.
Because Louise had quit climbing the stairs to the second floor, she had set up a bed in the living room many years earlier. There were no sheets on the bed and the mattresses were well-worn and covered in stains, both urine as well as human sweat. Near the bed was a portable potty filled with human waste. The floors had been stripped bare to the subflooring plywood and were covered in filth, food, trash, and stains. Just like the other rooms, this room was filled with piles of items: a guitar, an old suitcase, bags, clothes, shoes, old 78 rpm records, dusty and torn yard sale books, lamps, Christmas decorations and more.
When my mom started letting a stray cat come into the house and not letting it outside to play or go to the bathroom, I told her she needed to set up a litter box for it. At some point the litter box became so dirty that the cat started peeing in the drain of the bathtub and I’m not sure where it started pooping. After explaining to her that she needed to keep the litterbox clean or the cat wouldn’t use it she did in fact start scooping the litter. This was evident because there was a litterbox nearly overflowing with cat poop and several plastic grocery store bags full of cat poop sitting next to the litterbox, just three feet from the bed. I don’t understand why she didn’t throw the bags of cat poop away and chose instead to just sit them on the floor next to the litter box.
The staircase to the second floor was totally blocked at the bottom with old rolled up rugs, a fan, an old oxygen tank, picture frames, and wrapping paper. There was a bathing suit even though my mother hadn’t worn one in 40 years and a couple of faux fur jackets hanging from the banister.
In the entryway that led to the basement steps two bracketed shelves struggled with the weight of paint cans, artificial flowers, vases, an old mirror, curtain rods, and an amalgam of objects both useless and outdated. Boxes in the basement contained broken small kitchen appliances including four crockpots.