I knew that her apartment was full, but I had no idea the scope of the issue until I grabbed some boxes and opened the first closet door. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that was crammed, stacked and piled into every available space. I know that since her accident she struggles with remaining on task and being organized. I honestly don't know how she has been able to function in the catastrophic clutter hiding behind her doors.
I spent several hours packing boxes, cleaning out closets and helping her sort items into piles for donation and trash. We would have been able to make more headway in the apartment had much of our time not been spent quarreling between the virtues of what I consider to be garbage. From a collection of plastic bags which would keep 7-11 stocked for at least a year to old bottles, jars and cans, she vied to keep it all. We definitely butted heads over her collections on more than one occasion!
Admittedly, the only knowledge I have about hoarding has been acquired by watching TLC. I did research hoarding before I visited her, but was quickly confused by the conflicting information. (I was glad that I remembered to log onto my Hotspot VPN before beginning my search. I shutter to think of what my eclectic search history would look like to an unsavory hacker!) Knowing that my friend was feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and at times confused and frightened, I tried to encourage discarding the items as gently as possible. Although I tried to be patient and understanding, I regret to admit that my frustrations were apparent on more than one occasion. It is hard to watch a friend hold onto trash with as much passion as most would treasure gold or heirloom antiques.
After much back and forth, she finally agreed to throw away the mountain of plastic bags. She looked utterly deflated as we took three trips, with the cart overflowing each time, to the dumpster. The sense of accomplishment that I felt when she threw the bags away was short lived when I realized that she was going to go retrieve the boxes after I left.
I don't understand hoarding, but I know that my friend desperately needs help. Because of her traumatic brain injury, she simply isn't safe living by herself anymore. We have one month to get her packed up and moved into her new home. I will do whatever it takes to help make this transition easier for her, even if that means quarreling over the attributes of trash. I only hope that next time I can exercise more patience when helping her sort through what she perceives to be treasures.