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Thomas's story


I'm still a messy person. My girlfriend (fiancée now) helps me out. She knows I'm a messy person, and reminds me when things get messy. I now am able to clean things up and throw things out. I'm still in major credit card debt from "the dark times," but I'm working on bringing the debt down. (It got to the point where I was over $10,000 in debt from my pity purchases) Our place is at a Level 1 at the maximum, although squalor is pretty much banished from the household. It's not a perfect home, but I've finally come to terms that I can't live the way I have.

I spent years being ashamed of myself. I knew I had a problem, but I was unable to fix the problem. I'm a hoarder. I still do it now, but I finally have it under control. I love building plastic models for example. I now have a rule that if I want to purchase one to build, I have to dispose of two. It is a good thing, as I get rid of more than I have, and de-clutter myself a bit more. I know I can do better though, and I look forward to the day when I can say to myself that I do not own anything that is not junk.

Thanks for the inspiration, squalorsurvivors.com. You gave me the guts to write this, and hopefully the tips I've read will get me out of this rut. I think I'm doing OK now, and I honestly believe that sharing my story may help. Now that I've had the chance to start over due to a truly understanding person,I know it's not a dead-end. Squalor can be overcome! It's likely harder than to stand up at an AA meeting and say you're an alcoholic, but it can be fixed. If you're living in squalor you can change things. Even if it's personally humiliating, you can dump a couple bags of clutter every week in the trash. Don't give up, and you can do it! Take care of things before they have the chance to humiliate you - believe me from first hand experience - it's a heck of a lot easier!


I'm still pretty traumatized over this whole thing, and would rather go by a pseudonym for this story. Let's call me Thomas for this one. I grew up at the top of my class, went to a school for gifted children, and always seemed like the only "normal" child in class.

I grew up as the son of a single mother. She left my dad when I was fairly young, moving to my grandmothers house. My grandmother had spent her youth in England during WWII, and the rationing she had endured during this time set the stage for the next two generations. After a few months with my grandparents, my mom found us our own place and we were on our own...

My mom was always at work. She didn't have the time to take care of myself and my little sister, so we were pretty much on our own. As she was brought up with the "hoard gene" built in, the messiness that I produced wasn't addressed. My room slowly got messier and messier - but I was not asked to clean it up often, and when I was, it seemed almost half-heartedly. It eventually got to the point where the bedroom that I shared with my sister was so cluttered that junk that my sister started sleeping on the couch, as her bed had all kinds of toys, books, and various other stuff that she didn't want to bother with making room at night. Our room at that point likely did not have any free floor space. I was a teenager at the time, and although I knew something was wrong, I didn't know how to fix things. The room progressively got worse until my mom found a good man, married him, and they moved to a new place. We left that apartment with such an incredible mess that I still look back at it and shudder at the thoughts of the poor people who had to clean it out.

I lasted about a month at the new place. My step-dad wouldn't tolerate the messiness, and not knowing how to keep things clean, I simply moved out. I ended up back at my grandparents house, who welcomed me. Begin takeover of the basement. Things were great for about a month. Although I was making a fresh start of things, the "clutter creep" slowly started to affect my life again. About that time, I started getting into computers. I spent a lot of my time on bulletin boards chatting, and meeting all sorts of people who I would never actually have to meet in person. Even when the WWW evolved to the point where webcams were the norm and most of my friends were online personas, I had that horrible secret - that my clutter was getting worse every day. I actually had a webcam "pointing direction" that did not include the clutter.

Mental picture: One basement. Main storage area filled with junk. Boxes of stuff all unsorted. Filled with everything imaginable, and piled up randomly. 30 Year old living in his grandmothers basement. My room itself - approx. 8'x12', with one bed, a computer table, and about 2' of JUNK on the floor, leaving only enough floor space to open the door 2/3 of the way. Whenever I would look at the mess, I KNEW it was wrong, and it would depress me. When I was depressed, I liked to buy stuff. It didn't matter what - stuff for some hobby I planned to get into, some tools for a repair I meant to perform, something to read, something to take my mind off the clutter... All I did was add to the pile. About this time I would spend all my nights on the computer chatting to others. I was helping to administer a large website at the time with 80,000+ users, so I had to pay attention. About that time I started using bottles to relieve myself during my "shift." Not surprisingly, I failed to dump some of those bottles, and ended up with an unhealthy collection of urine beside my computer.

During this time, I had ended up getting intimate with a woman that I had known since my childhood. We had known each other for years, and by chance and unusual circumstances, we ended up together. We became an un-seperatible couple, and were together for a good 5-6 years. I don't think she ever suspected how bad my "secret life" actually was. I tried many times to change my ways around, but all I did was end up doing was moving piles around. I was unable to actually throw things away. I couldn't do it, although I KNEW it had to be done. One day, she decided to surprise me and show up at my house. I was asleep, and she went down to my room to surprise me by waking me up. I was absolutely MORTIFIED as I woke up to her voice asking me if I was OK. I got her out of my room as quickly as I could and explained that I had fallen asleep while in the middle of doing a major cleanup. Although she seemed to believe me, I could never be sure again... The next day I bought lock for my door so that wouldn't happen again. I knew I had a problem, but couldn't address it. I started searching the Internet for solutions to my problem about that time, and that's when I discovered squalorsurvivors.com. Although I read the stories, got some great tips, I still couldn't seem to get rid of the clutter. One thing that it did get me out of was the level 3/4 clutter - I made sure to get rid of the human waste that had collected in my room. I even found a couple bottles that were full of a good couple of YEARS old full of crystallized urine.

Fast forward a couple more years: My grandmother passed away and the house was being sold. Knowing the L3 clutter I had in my area, I was doubly traumatized. After talking with my girlfriend (9 years at this point) she said I could move in with her. But what to do with the clutter? I spent almost a month going over my stuff - putting it into 3 piles:

  1. Stuff I had to keep
  2. Stuff I wanted to keep
  3. Stuff I could get rid of

Piles 2 and 3 were HUGE - I had to do something about them. In the end, I put ALL the stuff in pile 2 into pile 3. I ended up being able to move everything from pile 1 in two carloads. Pile 2 and 3 ended up taking up 2 FULL garbage containers ($450 EACH) of stuff. I'm sure I threw away a lot of valuable stuff, but I had to toss it - I simply couldn't take it all, as I was moving into a 2 bedroom apartment with someone else.

Fast forward to the present: My wife gives me a hard time about my clutter. My desk is still a mess. Looking to my right right now, I see bills to be paid, model paints, tools, various paperwork, and misc other computer related stuff - but it's manageable. She keeps me in line, and if things start to get out of hand, she will let me know by telling me. I think after she saw my room many years back she knows how bad things can get. She's seen how low a person can go... I truly found a wonderful person - one who is willing to help me through my clutter issues, and one who is also able to let me know when I let things get out of hand.