I've been thinking a lot about hoarding since this week's Oprah shows. If you aren't a hoarder trying to make you understand would be the equivalent of trying to explain why an alchoholic wants a drink to a teatottler. Part of it I am convinced is wiring. The other part is learned behavior. And a very strong part of it is emotional. I started hoarding as a child.
"Things" have always had immense meaning to me. Some people are compulsive picture takers or movie takers... you know one of these people I'm sure... they have to capture every moment. It can get to the point that they never "see" any part of their child's birthday party they only "view" it through their viewfinder. Those people need to capture the moment.... I need to save it. I cannot throw out a picture. Not even a bad one or a duplicate. I can't throw out a birthday card or a datebook.... or even a freaking business card. Everything is tied to a memory for me.
When I was a little girl my parents divorced. I spent my entire life not being able to be with people that I loved and missing them immensely. When you are a child with separated parents the truth is you must become your own archiver. Your mother isn't saving the cards from your father and vice versa. For me every Valentine or movie stub was a powerful reminder of a good time I had with my Dad and since I didn't get to have that many I held onto them. Well where do you draw the line? I had a good time at the movies with my friend too... so I'll save that stub as well.... hey now I'm collecting movie stubs!... you get the picture. I have one box of mementos (not big) since my compulsion is to save small things I think as far as hoarding goes I lucked out. That is the majority of the stuff I am compelled to save and always picture my grandkids going through the box and saying "a movie for $5!?" and that kind of thing. But that has spiraled into my needing to save all the cards my kids receive (well who am I to decide which will be meaningful to them?!)... and they are well loved so that is a LOT of cards!
Some of you might confuse hoarding with compulsive shopping. That is not the case for me. I can't get rid of stuff that I am given. I don't have bulging closets or bins off old clothes and purses. I have NO problem cleaning out my clothes every year and now that I am done having kids I have no problem getting rid off their outsized clothes and shoes. But don't expect me to get rid of old gift bags, or ribbons! I could use those again! My hoarding is more based on a twisted frugality. I have a very hard time getting rid of potentially useful stuff.... it just seems wasteful. And although I do drop off huge bags of stuff at The Salvation Army every year (I mean seriously people we purge stuff all the time) we still get stuff as gifts and cast offs ALL the time!
When my grandmother was moving from her last house to her retirement village she had to get rid of a lot of stuff. My grandmother is a hoarder. She has always had large well appointed homes but her closets are stuffed to the tops with little special bundles wrapped in old plastic bags and secured with rubber bands. She didn't throw anything out. When she had to part with a lot of stuff I came down and dutifully loaded up my trunk. Why? Because I knew she needed me too. I knew she didn't want to give this stuff to Goodwill. It was valuable stuff that she had carefully saved to hand down... and I knew she believed I would honor it's importance. Not just it's retail value but it's importance to her. And I do. I really honestly do. So I have a hutch and sideboard FILLED with antique silver and china and crystal. I have a storage room stuffed with boxes of her collections of teak saucers (why?), marble eggs (classy Easter decorations?), decorative plates, heirloom linens, etc. Some of these things are immensely valuable and some of these things were just valuable to her. It is very hard for me to purge these things. I really feel like I am just the curator of her collection and it isn't my place to let it go (although I'm getting ready to purge the teak saucers.... shhh)
I wouldn't say any one "collection" is the problem. In fact when we moved here my box of mementos and my grandmothers tableware didn't seem unreasonable. The problem comes from the fact that Mr F is a hoarder too (although he is loath to admit it). And add to my collections, Mr F's cluttered desk and magazine hoarding, outgrown clothes & toys in holding for Baby, seasonal decorations, bags of hand-me-downs from acquaintances, our massive photo collection... you get the picture. The basement is what happens when hoarding meets ADD. I don't want to get rid of my stuff. Mr F doesn't want to get rid of his. My mother-in-law keeps sending us boxes and boxes of kids clothes and decorations. We don't have a big enough house to store the stuff... and the real kicker is that we don't have a place to sort things (hence the basement issues) and we don't have the time to do it.
Now please don't give us advice on how to organize. We know how to organize. We know how to purge. We know how to buy bins and labels. We have two storage rooms that are organized and sorted and labeled (well good enough). Just because I'm open about our problem area does not mean that I am asking for help and guidance. This is me processing my feelings and my issues. We can tackle this, and we will, when we are ready. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses. Letting go of an old shipping box that might be the perfect size to send Christmas presents in is ours.