Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dumpster Day 2

We made great progress with the house-clearing today. Dozens and dozens of boxes of papers were sifted through and tossed. Broken items, old furniture, dead plants, and other junk disappeared into dumpsters. Yesterday's overflowing 2-ton dumpster was replaced with a 4-ton model this morning, but to our newly experienced eyes, it looked too small for our needs. And we filled it before noon. The dumpster that replaced it was the biggest they offer. It was as big as a nice-sized room, with high walls and a door. One could walk around in it while it was still empty, which I did. I'd never been in a dumpster before. It was fun but I don't need to do it again.

In fact, I don't need to do any of this again. It's tiring and hard on the back and the psyche. The house still smells bad, not only from things you'd expect, but from a bottle of spilled, super-sweet perfume that is at least as nauseating as any dead old mouse in a bottle of oil. And I have bug bites; they bit me through my clothes.

There is a debate within the family about whether to allow our paper-hoarding relative to keep her copier. A couple of my relatives feel she relies on it too much to live without it. My husband and I consider her copier the Root of All Evil. All of us realize that the vast majority of the papers that have filled nearly three dumpsters over the past two days first poured out of that copier. Some of us hope that behavior will stop on its own, while the rest of us want to take steps to make sure it stops.

I liken her keeping it to letting a drug addict keep his meth lab. With it, she can fill up the house again in weeks or months. Just set the copier's counter to at least "100" and press the PRINT button. Scatter, toss on the floor, and repeat. Staples delivers paper by the case.

Hoarders whose houses were emptied against their will have a recidivism rate of about 100% — without monitoring and intervention, their houses fill right up again. It begins immediately. Our team of professional organizers knows this, and they feel that the copier must go. Despite the established facts and experienced opinions, my relatives remain on the fence. They want to wait and see how things go with a daily caregiver around to pick up after our relative. The head organizer pointed out that caregivers have many other things to do and tend not to be confrontational. I pointed out that it would be better for the caregiver to provide companionship or do necessary tasks like cooking than to chase after the papers our relative will spread around during the 21 hours the caretaker isn't there and the copier is.

I also believe that it will be easier on our relative, in the long run, to present her with all of these hard, drastic changes at the same time, and help her recover and adapt to them all at once. I don't want to have to wrestle the copier away from her later.

My relatives say that she will simply get another copier. I say that if the caretaker finds one, we'll take it away, too. She's miserly; she won't keep wasting her money.

If the copier stays, I told my relatives that they will be on their own. My husband and I are taking this week to clear and clean that disgusting house, and we're not going to do it again. They can deal with it themselves if it happens again via the copier. One relative said, "That's not the threat that will convince us." My husband asked, "What IS the threat that will convince you?" I said, "It's not a threat, it's a promise." We never heard the answer to his question.

I feel sorry for my relative if the copier stays. She is too scattered and confused to keep herself from drowning in papers again. She was wretched and uncomfortable in her filthy house, and while a clean house will be a shock, we're sure she'll grow to appreciate being free to sit in more than one chair, using her kitchen for making meals instead of stockpiling trash, walking without constantly climbing over boxes and piles, and living free of bugs, mice, and dirt. She was once an elegant, meticulous lady who followed the old-school principles of gracious living.

I have made my closing arguments and now I'm waiting for the verdict.


  1. If the copier is gone she may not even remember it. You could also disable it by breaking something inside.

    What finally worked with my husband's family was my deadline that if his relative was not in an assisted living by my birthday, I would no longer answer the phone (I was taking up to 8 phone calls a day from her) or run when she called, or do her shopping, or take her to doctor's appointments, or check her house. And, they KNEW i meant it.

  2. I have unhelpful relatives too - that's my kind version of it. Sometimes you just have to grab the copier by the horns and toss it in the dumpster. It's awfully good of all of you to do this for her. I hope she feels the love and that she sees the freedom that comes from loss.


Spam goes right into the trash but I appreciate relevant comments from non-spammers (and I can always tell the difference). I do my best to follow up if you have a question. ALL spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible gets deleted instantly. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please feel free to comment on what you read.