True Confessions of a Hoarder (part 2)
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The kind of hoarding going on in my house is actually pretty acceptable. Many people would not even call it so. In my neighborhood, most people use their garage for storage and not for their cars. Many people buy, build or rent storage units (it’s a plus in real estate). We live in a time of plenty and that’s what makes my level of hoarding actually acceptable and even somewhat normal.
Several days ago, I spent literally hours watching the extreme hoarder shows. On the surface it is so hard to image how someone's house can get to the point where you walk on trash, allow your plumbing to go out and simply refuse to throw anything out. Even though I have trouble throwing things away, I insist on cleaning up. So, at first I had a hard time associating my issues with theirs.
Then I began to think of where I am now and how I got here. When I go through old papers, I find things that should have been thrown out years ago. Flyers, advertisements, receipts, even long-expired coupons. How did I overlook that? Why didn't I just throw the flyers or coupons away. Why would I spend so much time, energy, resources and money storing and moving such insignificant things?
Well first of all, life is overwhelming. We try to cram so much in our day to day life that we often lose track of things. So many times I have put something down and almost as quickly forgotten about it as I quickly moved to the next issue. The other day I bought something at the store, brought it home, still in the bag, and set it down. Then I went on to my next mission in life. Several days later, I remembered my purchase and went on a hunt for it. I found it, in its original bag, sitting on a chair in the living room, where I had set it down and where nobody in the house even noticed it. Inside the bag were a few other things I'd bought, also not missed. Even though I don't have mountains of stuff, it was still pretty easy for me to misplace the bag. And as I look around I realize that I easily look over things daily as I have for years.
Another reason is that I have become adept at putting things into storage without even knowing what they are. The great thing about moving in the Army is that people come in and pack your things for you. The bad thing about moving in the Army is that people come in and pack your things for you. I remember one of my moves from a three story house in Germany. Three packers, one on each floor, and me. When my belongings arrived at the next duty station in another part of Germany, I had no idea what was packed where, but it had to be delivered to my FOUR story home. Yes, four stories (basement, 1st floor, 2nd floor and loft). Again with just me! I was given a day or so to unpack and then I was back at work, boxes still lining the walls of each room. After work, I would come home to try to clear away some of the clutter, but it didn’t take long for me to locate the essentials (uniforms, kitchenware, linens, toiletries, electronics.) The rest slowly became either furniture or storage. And the next time I moved, I still had no idea what was in many of the boxes. But this time I was a single parent moving with a child, Since then many of those boxes have been cracked open, but sadly never unpacked. So many times I have opened a box and just decided that I didn't feel like going through it and I pushed it to the back - again. This is why years later, when I finally go through it, I wonder why I ever packed, stored and transported a box full of insignificant "stuff". Boxes that include bits and pieces of my life that should have long been thrown away. Flyers, ads, coupons, old invitations, cards, bits of ribbon, socks with no mates, hats that are now discolored and misshapened, and clothes that don’t fit.
So I don't have globs of dog hair in every corner. And I don't walk on a layer of fast food styrofoam containers. I don't have piles and piles of brand new, never-worn clothes and shoes lining my hallway or filling every spare room. But I do have boxes of papers, I no longer need. I have things that I have bought and forgotten and bought again. Never used and never opened. And I have bills and receipts and magazines and books and instructions and notes and other papers that should have long been thrown out. And that makes me no less of a hoarder than people who reach out in desperation on reality shows.
My accomplishment this week has been to cut down on some of the paper clutter in my bedroom. Thankfully, it has not taken over any other room of the house. What is amazing is how many places, IN THE OPEN, you can hide things. And I am also amazed at how quickly incoming mail becomes historic. My goal by the weekend is to clear off the surfaces: night table, dresser and desk. A place for everything. Everything in its place