Hoarders: The Secrets that Hide Beneath

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My husband and I have been staying with his 90 year old grandfather for a few weeks now. I am off sick from work because I went off the rails again from my PNES symptoms or as the psychologist I went to for a formal assessment calls it “Conversion Disorder.” Apparently, according to him, the two terms are interchangeable. It also is called “pseudo-seizures” and/or “functional neurological disorder.” Whatever you call it, it is incited by the anxieties of my workplace. I also have a cyst on my right wrist which makes writing difficult, as well as typing, and stapling. As a teacher, stapling is one of the most tedious, annoying parts of the job. Stapling handouts of stories (I’m an English teacher) takes forever and the hand movement causes great pain. You may be wondering: photocopiers have stapling functions enabled on them, so why do you have to staple by hand? Well, I’m mighty glad you asked. Because the school is too cheap to pay for the staples. My hand was getting very painful before I left to go on sick leave but it is my brain that is the reason I went on sick leave. In any case, that is not the purpose of my story this morning. As I said, we are staying at my grandfather-in-law’s, and just like my cyst that hides under my skin, his home has some secrets that hide beneath as well.

20171117_054107.jpgThe secrets are mainly in the basement, but can also be found in pretty much every drawer and cupboard in this house. You see my grandfather-in-law is a hoarder. Not the kind that you see on TV that you can’t even open the door to get into the house, but he certainly has great difficulty with throwing things away. Both he and my late grandmother-in-law, bless her soul, are people who have/had difficulty tossing anything away. And not just sentimental things. EVERYTHING! 20171117_064128.jpgMost of the items are in the basement. I go down to the basement about once a week to do the laundry. Doing the laundry is a fun adventure, because I always take the opportunity to sneak around the basement to see what cool things I can find… you know, like when you’re visiting someone else’s home and you rummage through their medicine cabinet. You just never know what will be in there!

Since we’ve been staying here, my husband and I have been trying to get his grandfather to throw things away. But it’s always the same with him, hemming and hawing, “I might need that someday.” For example, in the summer, I cleaned out his cupboards of all the expired food and went through with him what we should throw away and what we should keep. When I came to the Cake Mix, I was not allowed to throw it away. “I might bake a cake some day.” My husband laughed, “My grandfather has NEVER baked a cake. Now at 90 20171117_054843.jpghe’s going to bake a cake?” But in the end I prevailed (not with the cake mix but with other things), mainly because I waited for him to be asleep or out running errands. In those times, I quickly grabbed garbage bags to throw things away in such as cans of beets that expired in 2005 and had leached through the can. In the end, I threw out about 5 garbage bags full of expired canned goods, and baking supplies like sugar and flour that were all as hard as rocks. After organizing the kitchen, I was excited to tackle the basement. (I know, I’m a weirdo who loves to organize things… when properly medicated that is (ADHD)).

At first, my grandfather-in-law was receptive at the idea of cleaning up the basement. But then he got kind of funny about it. He decided he better get down to the basement before C. (my hubby) or I went down there. Just like me, secretly throwing old food away, he waited for us to go out for the day and, at 90 years old, climbs down the rickety stairs and into the maze of things lost and sometimes found, (but usually not found until a new one has already been bought.)  For example, he doesn’t have a dog, and hasn’t for at LEAST 30 years, but I found 5 heated dog bowls down there, 3 of them in the original packaging. In fact, my husband and I have decided to no longer shop for items we need before checking the basement. So far at the Lost and Never-Found Basement Store, we’ve picked up a spice rack, a paper shredder and a Pyrex lasagna pan. The prices couldn’t be better- FREE! My grandfather-in-law has no idea what he has and what he doesn’t have. Yes, we are horrible people. But back to the old man in the basement; he went down with a ladder and started moving things around. He did create a path that loops around the perimeter (for the most part) that allows us to maneuver around the piles of stuff. But the thought of my 90 year-old grandfather-in-law going down those dangerous stairs (even I’m nervous of falling) and climbing up on ladders, especially when he’s home alone, scares me more than Donald Trump being president of the United States (you know, because Trump can press “the button” at any time.)

So for now, my husband and I have decided against organizing the basement. We don’t want to be responsible for any accidents that could beFALL his grandfather down there. But for your viewing pleasure, I have taken photos of some of my favorite discoveries in the Lost and Never-Found Basement:

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Expired food. Notice the bottle of cleaner on the right- hand side of the photo. Yummy, canned goods, water and cleaner. The Heinz Chicken Gravy expired in 2001. Still good eating though…
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Above: Wardrobe bag. Right: Wardrobe bag inside an old Wardrobe Chest.

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How old do you think these ice skates are?

 

 

 

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Old wood for the fireplace that hasn’t been used for around 40 years. Notice there is also a toboggan, the old lawn chair, and on the left-hand edge, old cans of paint.
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More old paint. The house was built originally as housing for soldiers in World War II and some of the old paint in the basement is from when the house was originally painted.
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A broken chair along with empty garbage bags, rope, chemicals, an old humidifier and other junk.
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Broken exercise bike. There is another broken exercise bike upstairs in the kitchen that my grandfather-in-law won’t let us move out of the kitchen because “I’m going to fix it.” So he has two broken exercise bikes.
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Who ya gonna call? (Still works.)
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ASS. And if you wondered, yes, it is an Electrolux vacuum on the left. It still works and it is the vacuum they use.
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???????

As you can see, there is a myriad of treasures in the Lost and Never-Found Basement, along with piles and piles of just plain junk. I guess some people just have difficulty parting with the past, so they hoard. But if you have so much stuff that you don’t even know what you have, then how can you enjoy those items with sentimental value?

If you or someone you know is a hoarder, JUST THROW THAT SHIT OUT! PLEASE! Just rip it off, like a band-aid. You can’t miss something you forgot you had in the first place. And objects are just that- things. They can’t stand in or replace people- and you’ll always have the most cherished parts of people you’ve lost in your memories of them.

O.H.

ADDITIONS!

 

I am a teacher.

I’m a teacher.

It’s a phrase that sometimes makes me proud and sometimes makes me want to keep as a secret. Of course, I live in a small town, so I can’t go anywhere without being recognized. When I go grocery shopping, to the drug store, for a coffee, to the movies, you name it, there is always multiple people who will call out my name. I can tell when I taught them by whether they call me Mrs. Hayward or by my maiden name. Some of them get so excited as if they are experiencing a celebrity sighting. It’s like they don’t realize that teachers are people too. No, I don’t live at the school and yes, I do have shits and have to buy toilet paper.

So when I’m home I can’t go unnoticed. I have tried, of course. Sometimes if I’m feeling lazy or sick, I’ll put on a baseball cap and sunglasses and try to be anonymous. Sometimes I wear a scarf. Sometimes I isolate myself in my home and pull a Greta Garbo just trying to get some privacy. The worst is if the students figure out where I live. I try my best to protect myself from that. You can be the best teacher in the world, everyone’s “favorite teacher,” but it only takes one student with a hate-on for you to result in having your car egged. And yes, my car has been egged before.

I am always a teacher when I’m home and I can’t fly under the radar. But when I leave this town, I have the opportunity to be truly anonymous. In the summers when my husband and I travel, it’s absolute freedom. I have the choice whether or not to disclose my profession.

This leads to very interesting outcomes sometimes. Such as this past summer, when I went to a party with my husband where most of the people did not know me. Overhearing conversations people have about teachers are sometimes the most fascinating things for someone who is a teacher. So it’s time to debunk some myths. Below are some actual things I have overheard while “undercover.”

Heard at the summer party from a lady in the private sector: “Those lazy teachers get paid on snow days, and I have to work for my pay.”

Okay, first of all teachers are not lazy. Anyone who ever says this has no idea what a teacher actually does. If you’ve ever had to give a presentation, you should know how much preparation and effort goes into that. Likely, if you have given a presentation, it was maybe 10 minutes long at the most. I have to prepare for five 1 hour long presentations a day. It’s A LOT of work. However, preparing for the presentation is not even the half of it. I have to make sure that those listening to my “presentations” have actually learned from them. So I have to create assessments, have the students complete them, read all of the completed assessments to ensure understanding, give feedback and I have to do that for 150 students. My day starts before the students even arrive, preparing in the morning, and ends long after they leave, staying late at the school making copies, and going home with bags of marking. I get an hour of paid prep time every other day. I often work through lunch and stay after school giving extra help. And I haven’t even got to the extra-curriculars like sports and teams that teachers volunteer to do on top of all the other things related to their jobs. During the school year, I work days, evenings and weekends. My home turns into a scene from hoarders because I’m so physically and mentally exhausted that I often neglect cleaning. So I get a few snow days off during the school year- I need them. It is one of the few perks that gets me through the school year. It allows me to clean my house, do laundry, and get caught up on school related work too. Furthermore, teachers don’t get “personal days,” because we have March Break, Christmas Break and Summer Break, so we are expected to do anything related to appointments, vacations, etc. during those times. So we get a few snow days here and there where we’re paid to stay home, and that’s only if we’re lucky enough to get a snow storm that’s bad enough to close the schools. We deserve them.

Heard at a restaurant from a parent to a child: “Be a teacher when you grow up. You’ll have the summers off, as well as Christmas and March Break and get paid for them.”

Really? Okay, so technically, no, I don’t have to report for work during the break times. But I do work during those times. The only difference is I can make my own schedule. For example, I don’t get paid time to set up my classroom or clean it up at the beginning or end of the year. These things have to be done, so I go in during the summer to do these things. I also generally get new courses each year, so I spend my summer reading curriculum guides and textbooks so I can plan for September. Yes, I can do that reading on the beach if I want to, so that certainly is a perk. That covers part one of the comment.

Apparently, teachers get paid for the breaks too. Nope. Not true. Teachers get paid for the school days in a year, depending on how many school days there are in the district or region where they are employed. The number of school days are different in every province and/or state- they can range approximately from 185-210. Most places where there are a lot of snowy days tack on about 10 extra days to compensate for days that school closes for snow. But teachers are only paid for the school days worked from September- June. In many places, it may seem that teachers get paid all year because the pay they get for the 185 days (or whatever it is) is prorated to ensure the teacher gets a pay cheque over the breaks. If my gross pay were, say, $45 000, my daily rate of pay would be $243.24 (before taxes.) So let’s just say I win a vacation for 5 days in Mexico during the month of April. There is no April break so if I want to go, I have to take 5 unpaid days if I actually want to go on the trip. Five unpaid days= $1216.22. It wouldn’t even be worth it to go, because that comes off my next pay cheque. So no, we don’t get paid for those breaks.
I could go on a lot more about the so-called “perks” of my job, but I won’t for today. What I will say is this: we all have good and bad aspects about our work. No one has a perfect job. What’s important is to enjoy your job and to have purpose. Even though I work really hard and am exhausted much of the time, I am satisfied with my job because I feel like I make a difference every day. For me the biggest “perk” of being a teacher is that I change kid’s lives every day- I help them read and write, I help them deal with anxiety and depression, I listen to them when it feels to them like no one else understands, I buy them lunch if they don’t have anything to eat, I encourage them to be the best person they can be and to follow their dreams.

I am a teacher.