Valley Oak

Moving my stuff from the hoard

When I finally moved my belongings out of the hoard (finishing the last of it after grad school), she fought with me about what I was doing with every little thing. It all reminded her of some point (sometimes imaginary) in my childhood. She bought it for me when I was twelve or I was doing such and such when I bought it for myself. Or she totally knows someone who could use that. She insisted in seeing every box that I was taking out. It took an hour to go through a small box because she had to reminisce about every object in the box. Finally I told her I was putting it all in storage. For some reason she could let it go then, even though it meant she had no more control over the stuff. I don't know how big she thinks that storage unit was (I ended up with lots of stuff - she encouraged collecting, probably to have something to do together). And it did go to the storage unit, as a temporary place for me to sort into garbage, goodwill, etc.

She was also under the impression that when I got all of my stuff out she'd have all of this room. She was going to finally convert my bedroom into the office she always wanted (even though by that time she was sleeping in my childhood bed). But I had been putting her stuff away in the closet and on the shelves as I moved out. I looked at her when she commented on all of the space she would have and said, but all of that stuff on the shelves is yours. She didn't even recognize her own things on the shelves.
Valley Oak

Crappy Cars

The endless line of crappy cars, familiar to many children of hoarders. I know them well, I could probably list all of the cars my hoarder owned from the time I was born. The red car that got stuck in cruise control and wouldn't stop, the car that blew the radiator on a mountain road, the car with electric windows that wouldn't roll down, the big red/orange truck that rumbled in the school parking lot (I tore a new pair of pants getting in/out of that one), the car that had been in a car accident before we got it and had a tear in the body welded shut (can we say unsafe?) the many cars that ran out of gas at various places, the borrowed cars from friends and families, including the truck with the side panels that said "Anything for a buck" - I was a teen and mortified. Working on cars at all hours in the yard with ethe extension cord running out to a lamp by the car in the driveway, grease under fingernails, scraped knuckles. The dead cars sitting in the yard because they could be fixed and worth money (including my dead father's ram - he died in 1991).

Like my hoarder I have paid cash for my cars (I borrowed from the bank for the last one), but I kept them maintained and sold them to others when I upgraded. I even sold one to the state under their clunker program (I recommended it to my hoarder, but alas she never could get the paperwork together before they ended the program). My hp only ever sold them to the junk yard for $50. And although I know how to change oil (thanks HP), I take delight in taking my cars to the shop to pay someone else to get greasy and change the oil.
Valley Oak

Birthday Checks

My hoarding mother's birthday is coming up soon. I had been carefully slecting a card (do you have any idea how hard it is to find a card for Mother's day that strikes just the right cord?) and sending her a check for Christmas, Mother's day and her birthday since I dumped broke up with her two years ago, and then we had a recent interaction (I'll write someday when I have the time) that has left us even more (possibly permanently - I see no way for her to make it better) estranged.

So this year I will carefully select a birthday card and not send a check. I don't want to encourage interaction and the checks just gave her an excuse to thank me at some point whenever it was she got around to cashing them.
Valley Oak

(no subject)

My HP mother helped a friend of hers after the friend's mother died. Turns out the friend's mother was a clothes hoarder. Piles and closets of clothes with the tags still on and a shed full.


My HP helped take some of the clothes to the thrift store and prep some for sale and brought three big black bags full home, you know in case friends and family might want them.


So being the good daughter at the time (it was a transitional time) I went to her house where we sat outside in lawn chairs (because she didn't want me to go in the house) to go through the clothes, that I didn't have to take if I didn't want, but isn't this one just your color, I picked it out just for you, and if you decide you don't want them you should bring them back because they're probably worth money and I know people who could use them.


She spoke about the friend's mother, amazed that she should have so many clothes she didn't and couldn't use (they were in many many different sizes), so many clothes that she just couldn't use all parts of her home like they were intended, what would you possibly need that much stuff for and wasn't it just wasteful, tsk tsk. This while we sat outside on lawn chairs because her house was too full of stuff she couldn't use because there was so much of it.




Don't tell, but I gave away 90% of what I took home to a woman's shelter.

Valley Oak


My mom has spent years saying how she always tried to treat my brother and I fair and equal while growing up (she never felt treated equally with her brothers). We have had quite a few go arounds about it too. With her eventually saying she never knew I was so jealous I was of my brother.

A couple examples of our equal treatment:

1. By the time I was about 10 I wasn't having birthday parties with friends anymore, we went out to eat with family for dinner (how very grownup). My brother (younger), with his summer birthday, had a BBQ with family and friends and a sleepover with his friends and our cousins. My mother has stated my birthday dinner for about ten people at a diner cost more than my brother's BBQs and slumber parties. My mom hosted BBQs & slumber parties for my brother until he was in his 20s. She expected me to help clean up the week before, cook during and clean up afterward. I also made breakfast for everyone. My brother did very little of the prep and then complained to his friends how mean I always was to him (not every year, but he definitely made snide remarks every year).

2. My mother taught me how to repair cars. She said she wanted us both to know how to take care of everything around the house. I recently however came across a journal entry of mine from probably the age of 12 or 13 where she was outside working on the car with my brother she told me I had to stay in the house and do the dishes until they were done (it was probably my brother's turn too). When she came back in she was mad I also hadn't taken care of the outside chores (some of which were my brother's).

3. When we were young my brother went to boy scout camp and asthma camp and other day camps. I never went to camp. I was under the impression we didn't have the money. I have no idea what I did during those days when he was at summer camp. She did borrow money to send me abroad as an exchange student during my junior year of highschool (I got a scholarship for half). The mother of one of my brother's friends used to point to that as clear evidence I was the favored child. He also went to Hawaii with the boy scouts while I was abroad. I still haven't been.

5. When my brother moved out my mother got him a microwave and a set of tools and sent him out into the world with pots and pans, dishes and utensils from the hoard. She got me a very small TV and VCR. I bought my own pots and pans and my friends and aunts and grandma gave me everything else. I also bought my own set of tools. Then she complained that my friends got me stuff she was going to. I also asked her if I could have the blender she never used. She told me no. So I went out and bought my own, when she saw it she asked me why I hadn't asked her for one and I said "I did, you told me no." She said I must have misunderstood, that she was joking and I took her seriously.

6. A couple of years ago my brother decided he was not going to my aunt's house for Christmas. My mom tells me how she is fine with that, after all he is an adult and can make his own decisions. Then spends a half hour telling me how awful I am for not spending the entire day at my aunt's house and instead going to Christmas dinner at my then boyfriend's (now husband) mother's house. And how selfish my soon to be mother in law is for wanting us to come over for dinner. We'd been at my aunt's house since 10am. My mother showed up around 1pm. She knew what time we were planning to leave, I told her the night before.

I am sure there are other examples, but these are the first to come to mind. Equal?
Valley Oak

Flip Flops

Growing up the metal knobs in the bathtub used to give electrical shocks, just small ones, when you turned the water on or off. Sometimes you would also get zapped by the water. It went on for years. But if you remembered to wear flip flops in the shower you didn't receive electro-shock therapy.
Valley Oak


Off and on throughout my childhood the water would drain poorly from the bathtub. Sometimes it drained so slowly you ended up with someone else's dirty bathwater swirling around your ankles or knees. Mostly though it was your own bathwater. Even though we were on a septic system and logically I knew it wasn't possible, I still lived in fear that piranhas would come up through the drain and eat me.
Valley Oak


Sometimes I worry someone I know will find this blog and read it and feel sorry for me or judge me harshly.

Sometimes I worry family will find it and read it and tell my mom.

Sometimes I worry my mom will find it.

Sometimes I hope they do.

Sometimes I think about sharing it myself.
Valley Oak

Christmas thoughts

I love Christmas. I always have. If the Christmas tree is lit up and all other lights turned off you can ignore the stuff, the crap, the dirt, the grime, the chaos and see the twinkling lights and ornaments.

But expectations are high. It's a time of high emotions.

I took over making Christmas magic when I was in high school. I cleared the space for the tree, dug up the Christmas ornaments (there were several years when we got our tree on Christmas eve, when they went on sale or got put out by the store dumpster, one year I made a tree from bare branches and white lights with tinsel, it was beautiful), put up lights and decorations and got up in the middle of the night to make sure there were enough goodies in our stockings, I even gave my mom and brother gifts from Santa. Because I was going to have a magic xmas come hell or high water.

But the one time I really got mad at both my mom and brother was xmas eve. They were sitting watching TV as I was trying to clear the table and set up the tree (there wasn't any other place I could put it). It was getting later and later as I was trying to make xmas magic. They ignored me cleaning up around them and they ignored my small requests for help, you know, "Hey can you put this away?" Finally I screamed at them and went to bed. Somehow they managed to put up the tree after I went to bed. And of course they pretended like nothing had happened in the morning.

And of course the annual expectation that mom and one of her siblings would have a screaming fight at Grandma's house.

And now that I am estranged from my mother I worry about running into her at family functions. With her angry beady little eyes boring into me while she ignores me and interrupts conversations I am having with my family (my parents got divorced when I was in kindergarten, after my father passed his brother started inviting us to family functions, my mother complained after every function how mean he was to her, how mean they all were and I asked, then why go. She said it was for us. It has been 20 years since my dad died and she still goes to the Christmas eve at my uncle's house every year.) or tries to guilt me because we're not going to be at my aunt's house at the same time on Christmas day.

But I have a beautiful tree in a clean house. I set up my tree the weekend after Thanksgiving in a couple of hours with minimal re-arranging required. And tomorrow there will be a thoughtful gift to me from my husband under the tree and one from me to him under the tree. And I will give my mom a check for Christmas.