I didn’t know anything about hoarding until September 7. That’s when I moved into a new house in a new town…directly next-door to a hoarder.
I wouldn’t have moved in next-door to a hoarder if I had realized she was a hoarder. No, HAZMAT came just before we moved in and cleared out her backyard. She seemed like a nice old lady with some old lady-like stuff on her porch, at worst, when we got here. Things have slowly gotten worse in the past two months. The view from my kitchen window is bags of trash, old animal carriers, boxes, clothes…
Shortly after we moved in, the city condemned her house. There is something wrong with the pipes but her house is packed so full of stuff that nobody can get in to fix the problem. Most of the time, she won’t let anybody in. Her backyard looks like a flea market. Lots and lots of bags. My neighbor is obsessed with grocery bags and trash bags. She steals people’s garbage on trash night, picks out what she wants, and hangs the used garbage bags on the fence dividing our property to air out. They’re greasy and they smell. Her car is packed with bags and the only spot that is open – the only spot that you can see – is the driver’s side.
And because she is not allowed to sleep in a condemned house, she sometimes sleeps at one of my neighbors’ houses…or on the front porch…or in her car.
She has been kicked out of 4 other homes in the city, not including a garage she rented for storage. Neighbors started to complain about rodents and strange odors, and my neighbor would not comply with orders to clean the place up, so the city went in and found her asleep on a chair, surrounded by dead and living rats.
I’m a mental health blogger. I have my own mental health problems. But – just being honest – sometimes the situation angers me. I “get” that my neighbor is sick and can’t help it. No one dreams of sleeping on their porch or being surrounded by rats. If she was a healthy person, she would not be living this way. But I’ve had her stinky bags on my property, on my porch and in my backyard. I see the mice that run out from under her house. I’ve been told that sometimes her house reeks in the summer and that I should call HAZMAT.
My neighbor is sick, but yes, it does irritate me that I have to deal with the consequences of her problems.
But it’s more important to be kind than right. I’ve asked her, firmly but politely, not to hang used trash bags on the piece of fence that is right up against the side of my house. I did report a huge box full of half-eaten food left at the side of her house. Otherwise, I’m just as nice to her as I am to everyone else.
The rest of my neighbors are nice, but there is a gang mentality that forms when my hoarder neighbor is around. She is constantly yelled at, belittled and ridiculed. One neighbor calls her “fat @ss” and “stupid b**ch.” They’re sick of her garbage, smells, rodents and lies… They try to pull me into the bullying but I refuse to bite. I understand their disdain, but in their minds, she’s just a lazy slob. How can no one else see the truth? Maybe they do and they just don’t care. Maybe they’ve just had enough.
More than once, I’ve had to stop myself and say “Remember who you are and what you stand for.”
It’s not always easy but I force myself to remember that my neighbor is ill, probably severely depressed, and likely so overwhelmed by her own piles of stuff that it seems hopeless.
I don’t want to bury her even deeper.