We have a little lake house in Canada where we spend many of our summer weekends. It’s small, quaint and comfortable, with a stellar view of Lake Huron. Over the years, we’ve kayaked, fished, lit fireworks, and have enjoyed many bonfires. Not far is a large national park with gorgeous hiking paths. We look forward to our weekends up here, except for one thing:
We live next door to a hoarder.
We didn’t know it at the time we purchased our little wooden piece of paradise, because way back then, his front and back yards were fairly tidy. The man who lives there was kept in check because it was his parents’ summer home and he only came up on weekends. But once they passed away- his mother, about 8 years ago- he moved in full time and the property has become a dumping ground of every imaginable portable object. We’ve seen large boat carcasses anchored in his front yard- on land- his own private party boats.
Discarded truck beds, swing sets (he lives alone), huge tents (empty), stacks of wooden planks, orphaned windows and who knows what….greet us every time we pull up our drive.
I’m a psychotherapist. I know that this man has a psychiatric illness.
“The current DSM lists hoarding disorder as both a mental disability and a possible symptom for OCD.” (Wikipedia)
Why am I writing about this? Well, I’m at our lake house right now and this week, the view next door is about the worst we’ve seen in a long time. Yes, we have gently discussed the problem with our neighbor, and he has tried twice in 15 years to remove the eyesore. But within a month or so, it all returns. It’s just different “stuff.”
I have some choices in how to deal with this. I can drive up every weekend and feel the aggravation pumping through my veins. I can focus on the mess next to me instead of the beautiful view in front of me. I can call the city authorities and complain. I can continue to request that my neighbor clear out his yards.
Deep down, I know that none of these will work. So I’m going to do my best to ignore the mess and enjoy Lake Huron and the wide blue sky, instead.
You have choices, too.
I’m often asked: where do I start with this pile/mess/report/chore, etc? People with ADD often get completely overwhelmed with this and end up shutting down without even starting. Many times I hear women with ADD say there’s so much stuff, that they’d never get it all cleared away.
Like my neighbor the hoarder, we with ADD often feel that no matter how much we try, things will just reappear in days (or hours): paper, bills, toys, laundry. So why even try? Instead, we walk out of the room and take a nap. Or fall into a self-hating mode, which for some can lead into a spiraling depression.
The answer, in part, is to stop looking for perfection. If you expect your house, your desk, your pantry to look like everyone else’s, you’re in for total self-defeat.
What you want is to just start. Start with filing 10 pieces of paper sitting on your desk. Or make that phone call you’ve been avoiding. Or set up your children’s dental appointments. Just start.
And you just might surprise yourself that once you start; you’ll keep on going until the basket of clean clothes is put away.
Can you choose one chore you’ve been avoiding – right now- and work on it for 10 minutes? If you’re brave enough, I’d love to see what you’ve chosen to do, by posting it in the Comment section, below.
Remember, you can choose to close the door and pretend it’s not there, or you can jump in, take care of it, and enjoy the beautiful view in front of you. Just like my own view of Lake Huron.