The God of Broken Things and the Jack-Leg Man

I’ve learned a lot from watching the show Hoarders. I’ve learned that people can stop caring about themselves and their surroundings based on sudden decisions and events. One moment life is fine and then you get divorced, lose your job, have a fight with your mother, or receive a bad review and it seems like even the simplest things are no longer worth doing. At first it can start slowly, you drop newspaper on the floor and tell yourself that you will clean it up later or you come in with bags of the latest fashions and put them in the corner of your living room by the couch and say that once you lose some weight you will put those clothes in the closet. You let your kitchen fill up with dirty dishes and used food wrappers to the point where none of the appliances are usable. Maybe that is okay, you tell yourself. You like to eat out anyway so it makes it all good. However, the truth is that once you stop embracing immediacy and daily-ness, you begin to hate yourself. Once you wait to do the thing you need to do, that pause makes you insecure, it brings in questions of whether or not you deserve a clean house or good health or space to move around in.

Confession: my mother was a hoarder, but not like the hoarders on the show where they keep their conditions unsanitary and allow trash to litter every inch of usable space. She was a collector of things, mostly paper–loved to save newspapers, magazines, paperback books, legal journals and files from old cases. She loved ideas, so she would stack her books neatly in piles on her bedroom floor–piles that reached more than halfway to the ceiling. She also loved things for the kitchen. However, because she was my grandmother’s daughter, she had a Nazi-like sense of duty to cleaning. Everything had to be done without delay, the dishes had to be washed immediately and not left in the sink when we were finished with them, clothes came hot out of the dryer and folded. We could not leave things lying all around the house. She would immediately put our stuff on the step, which was our cue to put it up in our rooms. I cannot even begin to describe her obsession with keeping a neat yard. However, if something broke often it would stay broken, or she would talk about getting things fixed eventually–a time which never came. Sometimes she would call the “jack-leg” man to fix things like air-conditioners or cars. Being “jack-leg” meant that these fix-it men had no license, training, or shop, but they could fix things just enough so that they would work for the next few months until they broke again. This made me learn lessons about daily-ness and immediacy.

So knowing this, what is the result? I still have the belief that you put something up or back in the place that it belongs immediately after using it. I can’t stand dishes in the sink. I refuse to use laundry baskets because I am afraid it will encourage me to leave my clothes lying around. I wonder why everyone doesn’t stand and fold clothes as you take them out of the dryer like I do. I clean a little everyday. However, I don’t write daily. I don’t workout daily. I tell myself that I will start eating better tomorrow. I have elevated procrastination to a high art when it comes to dealing with my finances. All of this makes me sad, ashamed, disappointed, and tired. The only true thing is daily-ness and immediacy. So today I am back to writing 30 minutes a day. I will also work out for thirty minutes and not think about tomorrow. It is not that I strive to be perfect, it is just that I am tired of worshipping at the altar of the god of broken things. No “jack-leg” man is coming for me, and for that I’m actually grateful.

Hoarding: Buried Alive

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