S: Journal of a Hoarder
FC: Journal of a Hoarder by Sarah Mathys and Tyler Sultenfuss
1: Journal of a Hoarder by Sarah Mathys and Tyler Sultenfuss
2: Copyright © 2010, QUEST Enterprises Text copyright © 2010, Sarah Mathys and Tyler Sultenfuss
3: To all the hoarders in the world - seek help. Things can and WILL be better.
4: May 6th, 1990, 6:03pm: Edwin Kemp, Hoarder My name is Edwin Kemp. I bought this journal because I am afraid of what I am becoming; though it is probably nothing, I must tell someone. My ... problems, as I suppose I must call them, truly began two years ago, with the death of Hannah, my fiancé. It was a car accident, nothing I could really control – or so I tell myself. I cannot help but believe that I could have done more, been better to her, helped her more. But instead, I watched her die, held her in my arms as she bled in the passenger seat of the Camero, stared silently as the lid came to a slow close and the cherry wood coffin was lowered into the dirt. Though this tore me apart, I healed, as all people heal, but with a numb hole where she once was. In time, I suppose I shall find new love to fill that spot, but for now it is empty. My real problems now, though, are my things. After she died, I was forced to move to a smaller house because of my limited funds, but even this was not enough. As the pile of unpaid bills on my new kitchen counter grew steadily larger, my paychecks and spending money quickly decreased from thousands to negatives. I was in debt - deeply so. I knew I must do something. I had to sell her things. All of Hannah's possessions were lined up side by side in my parlor - her silver washbasin, her old cherry-red wardrobe, her grandma's antique
5: furniture and books. As the men from the pawn shop came by to pick up my final memories of her, I felt a strange hesitance. Hannah and I were very independent - not very open, at least not in the sense that most people are - and I knew she would want me to get rid of all of her things if it meant my survival. Still, though I was unhappy about my decision, I was resolute. Her things had to go, and with them, her memory. Hannah was no more. Of course, I did not go through with it. The second they laid a hand on her things, I snapped. Walking quickly forward, I explained that those were not the items they were meant to take away. Leading them into my own room, I allowed them to take my bed, my dressing cabinet, even my clothing. As if in a trance, I tipped the movers and practically shoved them out the door, walking from room to empty room, smiling and whistling her favorite tune. This is not what worries me. This is not what I am afraid of. I know that I am not insane, or possessed - this was just the shock portion. It was as if something had taken a strong hold over my heart, forcing me to do whatever I could to keep her memory alive. Seized with a moment of pure ecstasy, I began laughing and crying all at once. She was here with me! I had saved her things, and, in that, saved her! I was invincible! I AM invincible!
6: Up until now I have been relaying the past. Now it is time to speak about the true monster - my present, and my future. I live in a cheap, one bedroom, one bathroom apartment with a small kitchen and a modest living room. I sleep in a tent on the edge of my porch. Why not use the bedroom? you wonder. It is because I cannot. Floor-to-ceiling piles of newspapers, old bottles, flattened cans, bills, leaves, old clothing - even my own feces - litter every room. My bathroom is covered in cigarette ash and old food so deep I cannot open the door. The kitchen is a mess - if I were to turn on the stove, my whole house would most definitely go up in flames - and the fridge never has any food in it. Instead, it is filled with books, bags, and every manner of "trash". And I love it. My house is my castle, my safe place. It is filled with everything I could ever need, and more. I love it. And that's what scares me.
7: June 15th, 2000, 11:33am: Angela Simmons, Hoarder's Sister I suppose I must introduce myself (I have always been very proper, completely unlike my younger brother, Edwin). My name is Angela Simmons and I'm 31 years old. I'm married to a doctor (hence the change in surnames from me to my brother) and live in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just a short drive away from Miner, where Edwin and my parents live. Mom and Dad (Heather and Alexander Kemp) are getting old - nearing their mid-60s - and the shock of seeing Edwin living like that practically did them in! He's living in FILTH, knee-high piles of dirt and trash everywhere! You can't even walk through the house, but does he care? No! He seems happy to be living like that, in that pigsty with that horrid little tent on the porch and those revolting mounds of debris littering the halls. He is not right in the head, that much I can tell you. And to think - he is MARRIED! Married, to some skank who none of us have ever even met and who is expecting his first child! I suppose she must be out of the house most of the time, but no wonder. If John (my husband) ever made our home look like that, I'd divorce him in an instant. I must do something about Edwin, before his life goes totally out of control. His child will be born into that mess; I suppose THAT is whom I'm really doing this for. Poor child. I've decided the task I must undertake. I am sending a doctor to visit Edwin.
8: November 28th, 2000, 9:52pm: Haley Moore, Psychiatrist In all my years as a professional organizer, I have never seen a case so extreme. Occasionally, we find someone who saves their cigarette ashes or their pill bottles or their tissue boxes. Once, we found someone with a room full of their own excrement. But this man saves fingernail clippings in glass jars! He has boxes of old cookies in his sink, huge cases of potato mashers and paper towels under his bed, thousands upon thousands of pushpins stuck in his walls. Dead rats and flies cover the ground, undoubtedly crushed by falling piles of debris and trampled over by restless feet. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder, that much is certain. But when I began to clean out his house, he showed no reluctance to part with his belongings. In fact, he practically begged me to skip my lunch break and keep working. I left one room uncleaned for him to personally work on, which he swore to do. I plan on going back tomorrow to check on progress - many times, hoarders (for he is most definitely a hoarder) have trouble working on their house by themselves, and I am worried that he will make no effort to keep his house clean in the future. There will be ramifications if his condition does not improve. I am worried about his family, his wife, and his child. But it is not my business to care. It is my business to clean, collect and never look back. I have no room for caring. My pain will devour me if I do not remain emotionless. He will be better. His child will live a happy life. His wife will reconnect with him. I hope. That's all I can do. I can't fix anything besides a messy house. I cannot fix a messy life.
9: January 1st, 2005, 12:03pm: Tony Kemp, Hoarder's Son Today is the first day of the New Year. I am seven years old, in the third grade, and very, very bored. I have had my third glass of milk today - Mother makes me drink my weight in milk, it sometimes seems - and have absolutely nothing to do. I look around our apartment, hoping for some source of amusement. Nothing, except trash and dirt. A rat scurries across a pile of newspapers. I run to it, laughing - maybe he will be my pet! Daddy doesn't let me keep any pets. He says they would get into Auntie Hannah's things and make a mess. I never knew Auntie Hannah (she died long before I was born) but I don't think she was my aunt. Maybe she was Daddy's long-lost love who died in his arms. Maybe she was his best friend who he owed a debt to, but she moved away before he could pay her back. At least wondering about who Auntie Hannah was keeps me busy for a while. Daddy and Mother's apartment is a mess. There's stuff EVERYWHERE, even in my room. But I shove all of their trash under my bed. I like my room to be clean. I go into the kitchen now and stare into the Glass Closet. Rows of dirty glass jars line the shelves, most filled with cigarette ashes or hair and fingernail clippings from when we groom ourselves on Sundays. I don't remember a time when the Glass Closet wasn't full. I walk through the house, smiling at all of our old possessions. But something feels off. Every morning I leave the house for school, and
10: every night I come back home to more trash, more clutter. Something inside of me says that our home shouldn't look like this, that Daddy should go out during the day and work with Mother, and that it isn't right for him to leave at night to look through our neighbors' trash. But this is probably just a whim. Mother and Daddy know more than I do, and they'd never let any harm come to me. I know this is true, but I also know that something is wrong. Mother is never home, and when she is, she walks right by Daddy like he isn't even there. She orders take-out every night instead of cooking and sleeps in my room, with me, instead of out on the porch with Daddy. It's like she doesn't love him, but she has to, doesn't she? She has to stay with us. She has to love us, just like I love her and Dad, and she has to protect us. I'm afraid, but whatever happens, I will love them. Even if Daddy never changes, and even if Mother pretends like he's not there, I will love them, because they love me.
11: October 31st, 2010, 1:29pm: Heather Kemp, Hoarder's Mother The shock of seeing Edwin was too great for Alexander today, I am afraid. A few minutes after leaving our son's ridiculously filthy apartment, my poor husband collapsed - whether from the heat or from a broken heart, no one is sure. And the beautiful young child! He has lived all of his ten years in that foul building, so infested with rats and ticks it's a wonder the whole family isn't dead from parasites. Edwin's wife, Alicia, seemed to be stuck between divorcing him and murdering him, but to save herself the trouble, she did neither, working all day and leaving our darling grandchild alone with the obviously sick Edwin. I am too appalled at the adults in that household to speak, but speak I must, for the child's sake. I am worried for the health of everyone living in that apartment building - mountains of papers in the kitchen are obvious fire hazards, never mind the vermin. When we visited Edwin ten years ago, Angela called a shrink to go and talk to him and clean out his place. Our darling daughter visited him later, as a sort of check-up, and verified his place was spot-free and beautiful. Apparently, whatever spell the doctor cast on him was temporary and lasted under a year - Alicia told us he started "collecting" again soon after little Tony was born. It is such a shame that a person of such innocence should have to see such horror. That is why I have decided to take action. A psychiatrist was not enough last time, and I refuse to risk this situation again. Along with Dr. Moore, the county police will pay a visit to Edwin.
12: November 3rd, 2010, 10:00am: Haley Moore, Psychiatrist It has been almost 10 years since I last saw Mr. Edwin Kemp. The sight of his apartment in absolute ruins made my heart ache with sadness, but seeing his wife and son living in this filth brought tears to my eyes. I would never be able to make this right. I had not helped him enough in the beginning, I had cleared out his place for him, I had harmed instead of helped, and now his beautiful family had to suffer. I would do what I could - I am surprised the family even wanted me back on the case - but what I can do is not enough. His situation has gotten too out of hand. His apartment is a fire hazard, a health hazard; it puts other people's lives at risk. It is my job to do my best to help him before the police and health department are required to intervene, but it is not my job to care. I have said it before, I know, but caring will kill you. If this is true, then I must already be dead, for I care too much for this group of three to think about the ramifications of my foolish emotions. I know I must do something - bring in a more accomplished doctor? Force him out of his apartment while it is being destroyed? Have his wife and child come stay with me while he faces trial under court? For in the end, that is what will happen. He will face trial, whether under the federal courts for his condition, or with a divorce lawyer and his fed-up wife. I feel so guilty I didn't sleep last night, for I know I could have done something. I could have made more house visits, talked to his parents and his wife - something. But instead, I did nothing. And now they will all have to pay the price.
13: December 25th, 2010, 5:06pm: William Harris, County Police If we had not caught this man in the timely manner that we did, many lives would be lost - that much I am sure of. I feel no pity for the man, or his wife - she should have long since divorced him or left with the child. 12-year-old Tony is the one I am sorry for, for he is stuck with the burden of his stupid parents until the time comes when he may leave and never speak with them again. But he will not do that. He understands. We visited their house today, around 1:00, expecting to see a moderately messy house with a messy husband and wife and a screaming, messy kid. How surprised we were to see a house unsuitable for the roaches that inhabited it, with pictures of a scraggly-but-clean man and a beautiful woman, and their twelve-year-old child. The kid did not seem surprised to see me at the door, in my gray suit and prominent pistol and nightstick. Instead, he grinned at me and led me in, casting a sad glance around the pigsty of a home. It was obvious he knew that something was wrong with the house and the lifestyle they were living, but he showed no signs of regret or shame as he led me into his bedroom, the one room not filled with ceiling-high piles of paper and trash. When I asked him about it, he gave me an adult answer, though he was only in the eighth grade. "This house has made me who I am. It has taught me to appreciate cleanliness and despise roaches. It has marked me, and has affected what the rest of my life will surely look like. It would have done different things to different children, but then again, I'm a rather special kid." He said this
14: last part with a grin, showing that his sense of humor had not been affected by this dark house. Yes, he was a special child indeed. He seemed to understand everything that was going on, did not condemn his parents for their actions, but did not condone their behaviors, either, and spent his time attempting to clean or doing school work. He was marvelous, and was the one living being in the house that I felt the least bit of pity for. I hope that he will have a new environment soon, with different, stronger, healthier parents, who would teach him to express himself and let him grow and become his own person. I cannot promise anything, but I know that I will do all things in my power to make his parents regret everything they've done to hurt him. They will pay. That is the only way for him to live.
15: December 25th, 2010, 1:30pm: Tony Kemp, Hoarder's Son It is Christmas afternoon, and we have visitors. Not the fun kind, mind you - a police officer and his gun and nightstick. I wanted so very badly to hold that long, thick piece of metal, but I snapped myself out of it and invited the man into my room. I am ashamed of our house, sometimes, but not usually. I know that without it, I would not be Tony Kemp, thinker, dreamer. I would be instead, Tony Kemp, average boy, normal boy, regular boy. I would not have a horrible house or a filthy father who sleeps on the porch, or rats and cockroaches for pets. I would live in a condominium, with a businessman who wears ties as my father and a golden Labrador as my best friend. I would not be me. I would be Me, popular, loved and a complete waste of time. I would be Me, just the same as all of the Yous and Wes and Theys out there, who play on computers and eat Mentos and drink Coke and invite their friends over for all-night ice cream buffets and videogames. It would be fun. It would be interesting. But it would be average. I have only one question - is average better? Is it better to do all these things and lead a "normal" childhood, or is my life better, more interesting, more character-developing? I suppose our lifestyle is better for some than for others. Some children growing up with hoarders would become hoarders themselves, keeping everything because "That's what Daddy did." Some children would become hyper-neat and despise everything germy and dirty. I guess who you are as an adult depends on who you are as a child. And that's why I like being special, even if 'special' means 'hard'.
16: I walk the policeman into Auntie Hannah's room, the only place in the house that Daddy doesn't let anyone put things into. It is painted pale pink, undoubtedly a nursery for some long-ago child in some long-ago "normal" family. Hannah's dresser-drawers are my favorite items in the old room; they are shiny and new-looking instead of covered with dust like her other things. I slide them open and reach into the very top drawer, my fingers sliding along the top, feeling for the secret panel. I pull the familiar latch and a little compartment opens up, the door-like piece of wood slanted down into the drawer. Reaching up into the dresser I remove my journal, my book of thoughts and ideas and magic. No one else knows of this secret place, I whisper to the policeman. Please don't tell anyone. After he nods his agreement, I shut the panel. It locks with a click. We take a tour around the rest of the apartment. Mother and Daddy are out, I tell him, and won't be back for another hour. He says he doesn't mind waiting, so I take him to the kitchen and show him our Glass Closet, which has turned into more like Glass Closet/Oven/Fridge/Cabinets, as it now stretches across the whole half of the kitchen not covered with dirt and debris. I show him my burial ground on the porch, in Mother's flower pots - every dead rat I find receives a full ceremony - and Daddy's sleeping tent. After a few more minutes of my tour, he says he must go and that he'll catch my parents later. I recognize the disgust and pity on his face, and I am sorry for him. He does not understand that this is my life. He does not understand that this will never change.
17: April 27th, 2010, 8:00am: Tamanda Dennison, Judge Just another case. I am tired of millionaires suing millionaires for cheating them out of a few thousand dollars. Just another case. Or so it seems. This one includes a handsome father and his beautiful wife and their darling twelve-year-old son. But of course, there has to be a problem. There always is. This family is being torn apart by a disease, or by a lifestyle choice, or by an emotional problem, or whatever hoarding is caused by. This family needs help right away - they're living in piles of trash up to their noses. This father sleeps out on the porch in a tent. This mother spends her days maxing out her credit card instead of working, leaving the family with no source of income whatsoever. This child spends all day cleaning his room and being hit by his father for doing so. This family is in trouble. And they need my help.
18: Notice: Effective immediately, all members of this household have three days to remove their possessions and leave the premises. This building is unfit for human occupation and will be destroyed as soon as all occupants have left. By order of the Miner, PA court, Anthony (Tony) Michael Kemp will be taken from the custody of Edwin and Alicia Kemp and moved into a foster home. His new guardians will contact you four times a year to let you know how he is doing, and to allow you a chance to speak with him. By order of the Miner, PA court, all occupants have three days to leave the building before they are taken to jail under federal custody. All possessions not removed from the building at the end of three days will be destroyed.
19: January 1st, 2018, 12:00am: Edwin Kemp, Hoarder It is the beginning of 2018, a New Year, as Tony would say. He is with the Leons now, a fine group of people. They are better guardians than I ever could be. Alicia left me last January - in fact, next Wednesday will be the one-year-anniversary of our separation. I still have the same ... problems, or as people now call it - "hoarding". I still sleep in a tent, only now it's in an alleyway off of Highway 14. I still go through people's trash, only now it's out of the cans lining driveways all over town. My tent is filled with boxes and bags of my glorious loot, but the tent is small, and I own much. I have started finding niches to put the overflow of goodies - in a hollowed-out tree, behind the convenience store, buried in my "neighbors'" lawns. I cannot stop, but I no longer want to. I hate the psychiatrist for making me throw out my things back in the year 2000. I hate the judge for evicting me. I hate the Leons for taking my son. I hate Alicia for leaving me. I do not want to change. I have messed with other people's lives, but I have it worse than they do. They all have jobs, they all have houses and cars and families and storage for their trinkets. I do not. And they say that I need help - isn't that obvious? But not the help they mean. The only thing I want or need from anyone is a new life. And if you can't give that to me, I don't need your "help". I am done with other people. I have my life to live. And I have my things. I will always have my things. I am a 48-year-old bum collecting in an alley. And I am happy. But that doesn't scare me. Not anymore.