Tag Archives: hoarding behaviors

Self-Interest, Selfish, Bullying or Abuse – What Is It? – My Opinion

I grew up in an abusive household. The woman who was my abuser wasn’t related to me, but she might as well have been, in everything but genetics, she was my mother. Young kids believe anything parents tell them. She told me that I was stupid, ugly and so flawed that even God couldn’t love me. She did this in a 1,000 small ways, verbally, the way she treated me, the tone of her voice, what she said I could do and what I would never be able to do. She convinced me I was dumb, fatally flawed, and my family and God hated me or couldn’t love me.

Because of my past, I have “radar” about abuse, most abuse surviviors do. I thought I could NEVER be abusive. Hah. Not true. I have twice apologized to my husband for behavior over a period of time which I later saw was abusive in nature if not actual abuse.

How? Well, think of it this way: abuse and bullying both start with self-centeredness. I had a boat-load of problems when I came out of my childhood home, and what I’d done or the opinions I’d formed about how the world worked to me weren’t just opinions, they were FACT! and NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL!

Because of that, I wouldn’t and couldn’t entertain other opinions or feelings as possibly having merit, including those of the man I married. I had a boatload of rage that I hadn’t resolved and that also pushed me to not even listen to my husband’s opinions, ideas, or feelings about some issues. It didn’t matter what he said, it was wrong, unless it agreed with what I thought and believed.

And isn’t this a form of bullying too? I mean really, think about it. Isn’t bullying imposing your opinion and/or wants on someone else, no matter what they say or do? I kept that up for a few years.

I also used the pattern I’d learned with my first husband, who’s parents (divorced) had called each other stupid, given each other charley horses, etc.

I called my husband names, made fun of him — in front of him — in public,. One day he started to bend my thumb back when I did this. I was outraged! How dare he hurt me?

He said, “You’re hurting me too by what you say. If you stop, I will.” And I did. I never knew you could have a relationship with a man that didn’t include making fun of each other in a nasty way, I thought it was just the way relationships worked. I’d never had another model.

There were other ways I believed I had to have my own way, no matter what, that no one else’s opinion mattered. As I’ve grown up and away from the wounded child I was, I’ve learned that they, like the lousy model I had for marriage, were born from the wounding, not truth. Yes, I have opinions. No, I don’t always think everyone else is right. But I do think that everyone’s opinion is valid and should be listened to these days. I’ve grown up. I don’t have to have my own way all the time any more to feel safe.

The hoarding is the last of these behaviors (I hope). And, yes, it’s another form of abuse I’ve inflicted on my patient husband. It’s hard to move away from something that makes you feel safe, even when you know it’s wrong. No one ever said adulthood was easy — I’m working on it!



I’m reading a book, well, I’m reading several, as always. But one is the Lessons from Madame Chic, which is where the French Dressing clothing purge originated. She talks about French women dressing in basically 10 pieces of clothing, and that’s it (not including foundations or outerwear (coats, etc.) The challenge of that and the notion of deleting enough clothes that I could actually put everything away has got me going that way. I’m a sucker for measurable and I think possible challenges (like the stuff out tally I guess?).

The 2nd is John Bradshaw’s book dealing with shame. In it, and elsewhere, since I’ve started reading about shame, are a long list of influences in our culture (and in my childhood home) which breed shame in youngsters. I found an article about self-esteem on the Psychology Today site that included the quote below, which I found mind boggling.

“This is uniquely evidenced by the well known anecdote regarding a conference on Psychology and Buddhism some years ago where it was necessary to spend an entire day explaining the concept of self-esteem to a group of quite learned Eastern teachers and contemplatives, including the Dalai Lama. It’s not that they didn’t understand the construct of self-esteem, but, more, it’s that they didn’t understand why such a construct was even necessary.” You can find the entire article here:


The notion that a quantity of my shame may have been layered on me by my family and the culture I live in just makes me MAD. The stuff as camouflage isn’t news to me, but that the reason for much of it may have been imposed on me by impersonal notions, like the culture in which I was raised, was something that I hadn’t really considered.

This is rather like discovering I’m a DES daughter. The knowledge hasn’t changed anything, except that I’ll make sure my docs check for the type of cancer I’m more prone to as a result. What it did change was remove a huge quantity of shame I carried regarding how I was affected, including not being able to be a mother. My mother taking DES during pregnancy was another way I was victimized and it bred more shame.

Discovering that the cultural norms related to the Judeo-Christian ethic as a breeding ground for guilt/shame isn’t news either — it’s a good part of the reason I couldn’t stay Christian. I didn’t need another impossible to reach standard, namely being perfect for God, I already did that. My reaction to years of emotional abuse was, as I’ve said repeatedly, “being perfect was to be merely adequate.”

That level of shame isn’t congruent with a system of beliefs that someone “died for my sins” as they’d already done that, and it didn’t help, did it? And of course the abuser used this too. “Proof” I was unacceptable, even to God as well as my family was the fact that I continued to hurt and no one seemed to care.

When I read Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, it seemed his perspective was that God doesn’t have direct control of people’s lives, He starts your life but doesn’t use good/bad things to evaluate you nor can He do anything specifically to help you. That’s nice, but it means to me if that’s true that God is an alien and we’re a thought experiment. Why “believe” in something like that? That wasn’t any help, even assuming I had faith to believe. In what? An alien? That would make me a Scientologist. Not my cuppa.

Then I’m stuck with the same old thing — just me. If I discount the abuser’s “God hates you, see? You’re hurting and no one cares!” AND the portion of that created by being a normal child reacting to the crazy things around me by assuming they originated with me, instead outside of me, there’s not much left for me to be ashamed of.

My mother died. I was neglected. My primary caretaker was an abusive alcoholic. No matter what, I didn’t “deserve” that, it simply occurred.

The hoarding behavior is my way of acting out my shame. Of “showing” that I’m unworthy, and trying to hide. [One of the few techniques that worked with the abuser was pro-active guilt. Admit/take on guilt before she had a chance to give it to you.]

The Madame Chic book talks about living life using your best, not hiding it away. About honoring yourself with choosing the things in your life with care, to take care as you interact with others, how you present yourself, etc. Direct opposition to the hoarding and shame-filled approach. It’s honoring yourself and who you are.

Between the two books, I may just forge a new path, to my authentic self, where the need to hide is unnecessary.

Internal revolutions are interesting!


I’m where I can “see” the cleared living room, and every time I do, I freak out, in some way or the other. So, despite doing a lot of work on the emotional stuff, obviously, I haven’t done enough.

I do not know what the answer is. The part of me that is 50+ and has been playing this song and dance for 50 or so years is frankly sick of it. But the reason I got here, the abuse, the PTSD, the neglect, etc. are still running my life or at least part of it, obviously.

Thinking “tough” doesn’t work, forget that. “Giving it to God” doesn’t work either, forget that too. We have no money to hire a professional — that’s out.

The only thing I can think of to do is to ask others to help. With others involved in the process, I can probably clear out a space. It doesn’t always stay that way, [Okay, it NEVER stays that way.] but I’ve gotten better about that. Areas I’ve cleaned out now stay clean for 2-3 days before “something” happens. I cleaned the kitchen REALLY well for Storm Sandy. I know what a pain in the butt cleaning with no power is, so I made sure I’d cleared the dishes off the counter, etc. I have done it, but I really don’t like washing dishes in my stew pot & water canner.

The kitchen has degraded some in the past 2 days, I’ve got a cold. (This stuff makes me so crazy that I wondered or a while if I’d caught the cold “on purpose”? Rather than simply thinking about the fact that I’d been wandering around outside in chilly weather with wet feet, etc.)

DH is working on his workshop, so I can’t ask him to clean the kitchen. He’ll do the “it has to be done stuff” but not otherwise. I’m lucky he routinely washes dishes and does laundry! I know a lot of women whose partners don’t do any cleaning, except perhaps the BBQ grill.
Maybe I’ll have a party?

So, I guess another of those life lessons my mother never taught me was: If you can’t do it alone, ask for help!

I have a pathetic tally to add to the end of October. I’ll move it to the history from the tally page when I post the first “real” November post, not today. The last October tally is up today (11/2). I haven’t been anywhere/done anything much since 10/30 between Storm Sandy and getting a cold!

P.S. I may have had a pathetic tally for the end of October, but I started out with a bang in November! By doing so, I earned another section of the target (7250 items out), which is below.

Last day of the month and

tomorrow we start the LAST quarter of the year.

BOY am I behind where I need to be!!!

So my job today is to find stuff to GET RID OF. I think the most I’ve managed to get rid of in a single day is something like 300+ and many of those were papers. I can do that, but it will take the entire day, standing, and my feet won’t stand that. (No pun intended.)

So, I’ll just have to look around and see what I can find to get rid of around here that I’ve missed before?

I’m off to make breakfast and contemplate this!

P.S. I worked in the kitchen and you can see the results in today’s tally. The next time I update the tally, I’ll move August’s data to the history page. I’ve filled another section of the target btw! 😀

Want to help? (A research study)

There’s a fair amount of people who hoard and don’t know why. I’ve spent several decades in therapy, so I’m probably at least more aware of what I do/why than most. (Or,  my vanity wants me to THINK so anyway!)

Case Western University is doing a survey to try and find some answers. Info here:


Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are conducting two online studies about the relationships of individuals with OCD or hoarding.  Each study involves completing questionnaires online about relationships, emotions, OCD, and hoarding.  You must be at least 18 to participate.  Those who participate may enter into a raffle for a Target gift card.  The information gathered from this study may help to improve therapies for OCD and hoarding.

For individuals with OCD and/or hoarding:


For relatives and significant others of those with OCD and/or hoarding:



It says it takes about an hour, but it didn’t seem to take that long to me!

Status update

Got some of the laundry done, of course there’s still more to do. [Is there a space-time where all the laundry is actually done?]

The kitchen is much cleaner and there’s 3-4 boxes of stuff to go to the antique store this weekend. Some of this has been hanging around for a while, but more of it is like the oil decanter.

I’ve used the old one for years, but decided I wanted something slightly different. I bought a new bottle last week. The oil got transferred, the old bottle cleaned/priced, and it’s packed for the booth. In the past I would’ve kept it hanging around. I love the shape and  color of the old bottle, the reason I bought it in the first place. Then I decided if I was going to keep it, I had to use it; and I have, for the past 5 years or so.

I don’t need two. And, like it or not, I can’t keep everything I like — so it’s going. If it doesn’t sell? I may bring it home and use it as a vase. . . but I don’t need another vase either. If it doesn’t sell, I should take it to the swap shop or donate it somewhere . . . we’ll see!

I priced the coffee service that I culled in the SPACE BUDGET of the china cabinet; it’s packed.

Someone asked me this week if shedding stuff made me sad? The answer is no. What it makes me is anxious. I feel naked without the camouflage. At one point, I really wanted a clean desk, and my obsession with having the clutter as a mask caused me to consider having TWO desks — one as camo., the other an actual workspace! Seems idiotic? Mostly it makes me feel  sad for the youngster I was who felt so threatened in her own “home” that she had to erect barriers. I regret that it took so long  before I was diagnosed with PTSD, and then another 7 or so years of work, before I could feel safe enough to even try and live a life without the camo.

Shedding 10,060 items isn’t the real challenge for me here, shedding the behaviors is much harder.

Didn’t get anything done yesterday,

well, I did, but not on the cards.

When I said this: “The excess stuff & mess were also ways of appearing incompetent and nonthreatening — camouflage.” I was talking about my family. The two “kids” near my age are both 10+ years older than I. One of them has still got sibling rivalry problems, overtly. The other doesn’t acknowledge they have any fallout from their youth, so nothing overt. The latter is the person who called Sunday.

Okay. My total reaction was predictable, numb hiding and then incompetency. I didn’t really think about either, but it’s what I’ve always done when I felt assaulted. I “go away” somehow, then make myself not a “target” that is, incompetent or non-threatening.


Okay, time for me to get MAD. Two or three other points: 1)I’ve sat at the computer so much the past few days my back isn’t happy. 2)I have gotten some things done. This is another piece of the “broken” yardstick. My really old pattern was to read and do nothing else at all. But I managed cooking, some gardening, and some cleaning, just not what I was trying for. I need to give myself credit for that, but I need to get back on track too!