The hoarder, the hoarder!
Having crazy roommates in New York is a mythological rite of passage that broke, single people tell themselves is necessary in order to gain that “New York Experience.”
"The New York Experience"
After four years of living with roommates upon my arrival to New York, I decided that I was sick of punishing myself and living this way. I had it with the pot-smoking roommate who walked around naked with a glass of wine, my half-eaten groceries (by her friends) that I could barely afford, and then the dreaded awkward trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night as her lover du jour walked out in his boxers and a boner. Having crazy roommates in New York is a mythological rite of passage that broke, single people tell themselves is necessary in order to gain that “New York Experience.” Lies! If you can afford to live on your own, you’re better off! After all, what could go wrong? With that mindset, I decided to finally take the leap and move into my own apartment. I settled on renting the second floor to an empty house owned by a widow who owned three consecutive homes in a safe and charming family neighborhood in Brooklyn.
The New Apartment
It was a quiet and pleasant morning when I woke up in my new apartment. From my huge front window facing the street on the second floor, I could see the entire tree-lined block and the blue skies on top of the houses. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the leaves on the trees were swaying back and forth dancing to the rhythm of the wind. As I sat in front of my laptop with a cup of coffee, I thought to myself, “Now THIS is the best place to live. What more could a girl ask for?” One day, about mid-morning just three months after settling in, I was startled to hear the front door downstairs as I thought someone was breaking in. I looked out the window and saw [we’ll call him “super”], the man that recommended me to the landlady. I was a bit surprised and puzzled as to why he was going in an out so freely since he did not own or live on the property. I asked him, “Super, how’s everything? What’s happening downstairs?” He told to me that the landlady gave him permission to store his belongings because the landlord of the building he works for, was annoyed that he was using their basement as personal storage, and had to move his stuff out. Little did I know this would be the discovery of a serious compulsion that no one knew he had.
"He even hoarded three walkers from the man who died downstairs and found the remains of a dog he believed had ran away two years prior, as he made space for more trash."
As it turns out, Super is a hoarder. He had been collecting discarded items from previous tenants that moved out of his building, and stashing it downstairs, right below me on the first floor. As the months passed by, I saw a whirlwind of trash and chachkas being rolled in—from dirty mattress beds, to table lamps with missing shades. Every time I saw him he would proudly show me new junk that tenants left outside for bulk trash pickup day. He even hoarded three walkers from the man who died downstairs and found the remains of a dog he believed had ran away two years prior, as he made space for more trash!! Things got so bad that now he can’t even walk through the door and has to enter sideways to get in. To do what? I have no clue.
When I tried to confront him politely, he became so upset and told me I was insulting him about his belongings! His belongings?? It was tenants’ junk he hoarded and inundated the basement and first floor! Then, a fowl smell had started to permeate upwards to my apartment—seeping through the walls like a black fog suffocating me.
Classic Hoarding (icarevillage.com)
According to the International OCD Foundation, “recent research suggests that nearly 1 in 5 compulsive hoarders have non-hoarding OCD symptoms. Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) and may develop along with other mental illnesses, such as dementia and schizophrenia.”
As I prepare to leave this place for the upcoming year, I decided that once I leave, I would attempt to help Super and confront him in a non-judgmental and compassionate way one last time. When this attempt fails, I will take a more severe step, and contact Adult Protective Services in NYC, as I fear for his well-being and mental state. If you, or anyone you know has a hoarder neighbor that has so much junk it creates a fire hazard, please report it to the authorities and get help.
International OCD Foundation Hoarding Fact Sheet: http://www.ocfoundation.org/uploadedFiles/Hoarding%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?n=3557
Adult Protective Services in NYC: http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/faq/455/how-do-i-report-hoarding-that-creates-a-fire-hazard