How Cleaning Out My Hoarder Mother-in-Law’s Junk Caused My Own Marriage to Crumble
As we plowed through decades of her extreme clutter, I began to notice similar tendencies in my husband. And once I saw the hoarder in him, there was no turning back.
Illustrations by Michael Driver
There’s a snapshot Aiden took of me a few days after our wedding on Christmas Eve, 2009. I’m standing outside his mother’s house wearing disposable coveralls, gloves, and a particulate mask. In the background is a dumpster. The ground is thick with dead, brown palm fronds. I am beaming at the camera.
I wished so much that I could have met Ruth, my mother in law. I knew she was a bright, adventurous woman who never found work to suit her lively intelligence. She was a 1960’s housewife fascinated by history and art and ideas. She loved dogs. She suffered from untreated depression and agoraphobia.
The day Ruth died, her family just locked up the house and walked away. Now, five years later, it’s still standing empty. Aiden worries about it. I worry about him. No one, I think, should have to clear out a parent’s house alone. His brothers are no help at all.
“You and I can do it together,” I say. “It’ll be our honeymoon. We’ll take a month and just get it done.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Narratively to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.