No Way to Live

I knew I shouldn't have let my sister into my house. So I'm messier than she is, so what? She's not perfect and besides, it's my house. I'm not rich, I don't have a lot of room, but I do have a lot of stuff. Who is she to tell me I can't have it all? My space is full, I live in abundance. But Janine doesn't see it that way.

"This is no way to live Patsy."

How does she know? So she needs space, pristine walls, glittering empty counter tops. My place is functional. I can use the sink, even if it's not sparkling. I can live with blobs of toothpaste and grime (as she puts it). I do clean, just not every single damn day. I've got better things to do.

I figured she might be a bit prissy or even judgmental but I never expected her to explode like she did, to say the terrible things she did, and I surely never imagined she'd call The Authorities on me.

"You need help, Patsy."

"Help with what? Becoming a stuffy little perfectionist like you?"

"You can barely walk through the living room. There's so much crap in your kitchen cabinets you have to store canned foods under the table, along the wall. You can't even open the door to your guest bedroom!"

"Is that what you're mad about? That you couldn't stay in the bedroom?"

Adult Protective Services showed up. Don't they have better things to do? They say I'm a "hoarder" (they think if they label you then they got you all figured out and they can brainwash you into being more like them) and I need to clean out my house or they'll call in some other Authorities who will declare my house uninhabitable.

I'm inhabiting it just fine. Who are they to judge how I live? I'm a productive member of society, I work in the Admissions office of La Baron Community College. I eat three meals a day and pay my taxes. So I don't like to cook? So I don't throw all the food containers out immediately? So they don't like the smell? Who asked them?

They sent out a hoarding expert. Give me a fucking break. She came to my house with this fake puppy dog look, like she needed to feel sorry for me or something.

"How long has your house been like this?"

Janine thinks it started when Jack left, but she's wrong. Yes, he was the neat freak, and the freak cheated on me, alright? So I threw his miniature sculpture collection, piece by piece, against the living room wall until they covered the floor in splinters and chunks. Then I threw everything he owned on top of the broken sculptures, his clothes, toiletries, CDs, books, golf clubs. Then I remembered his beer stein collection so I threw those against the wall and they rained down on top of the heap. I can't tell you how good that felt, how satisfying it was every time I saw the pieces, especially because I wasn't worried about what he might do, not anymore.

Jack said I snapped. He called it a tantrum, like I just did it for the hell of it. But I knew better. Whenever my daddy left bruises on me, he always made out that he'd done nothing wrong either.

So the expert thinks that's the "trauma" that triggered this "disorder." Please. After Jack got his stuff (he was so mad his face was red but he picked up every last piece) I cleaned up just fine. All spic n' span, washing that man right out of my life. So much for her "theory."

But as the years stretched I found it freeing to not have to be so freaking neat anymore. What did it matter if I vacuumed once a day, once a week, once a year? Who cares? Who decided there's this "right and only" way to keep a house and why wasn't my opinion queried?

I discovered thrift stores, my god. There are so many treasures waiting to be discovered, dishes, glasses, bowls, clothes, books, all kinds of collectibles, you name it. At some point I ran out of room in the cupboards and closets, so I got creative, utilized spaces not meant for storage. So what? I don't need that much room to walk, I don't need the whole bed to sleep in. I improvised. It's not like I get a lot of visitors. Why do I need to keep the couch and chairs cleared off?

The expert says this isn't living, can't I see I'm just "surviving"? What is she talking about? I live just fine. So I can't roll around on the floor. So what if I need to take it slow to maneuver around the piles of my belongings? There's enough space for me to sit and watch television isn't there?

It's like when I was a kid and the grass grew tall out in the field behind our house and we'd make tunnels to play in. I loved that feeling of being hemmed in by grass, protected, like being tucked into a soft safe bed at night. No matter how awful things got at home there was a sense of comfort and safety in being surrounded like that. And it prevented me from hearing the sounds my sister made when she wasn't so lucky to make it out of the house.

The expert says I have to clean or I'll be evicted. She says I have a mental disorder, it isn't healthy to be emotionally attached to stuff. I'll bet you she is too. What if I went into her house and told her she had to throw her stuff away? I'll be she wouldn't think I was so crazy then. You wanna tell me she doesn't have extra things, more than she needs? Let's try throwing out some of her towels or sheets. Does she need all the glassware she has, all the books and clothes?

I think everyone just needs to mind their own business and leave me to mine. As long as I can surround myself with my stuff I'm fine. She has a husband and kids. Let's see how she'd feel if someone told her it wasn't right to be so emotionally attached and made her throw them away.

"But it'll just get worse," she says. "You're not satisfied with what you have."

"Are you?"

"So you'll just keep buying more and more and more and then what are you going to do?"

"Then I will have to give some things up."

"But you won't be able to."

"How do you know?"

"I've seen it, I'm an expert on this disorder."

"But you've never seen me, you're no expert of me."

They insist they're trying to help me. But I think they're really just trying to help themselves. They've probably cut some kind of deal with the thrift stores. I'll bet you this is where they get all their cool stuff.