Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Hoarder

I recently saw a tv show where a compulsive hoarder was interviewed, and gave a tour of her apartment. Thin trails through mountains of stuff could barely accommodate the cameras. The woman who procured treasures was graciously honest about her disorder, and truly wanted her life to be different. Yet, she struggled to release the things that were worth something to her for some reason or another. Restrictions of her landlord and the local fire department were a constant. She was always defending her position on the stuff that had a hold on her. I felt for her in a big way, as I feel I am on the brink of being in her shoes.

My upbringing facilitates hoarding. We were definitely rewarded for being resourceful, finding and using everything to it's maximum capacity. Theoretically, I will always agree to minimize waste and reuse. It scares me that I am finding myself clinging on to belongings as if I am going to lose the memory or intention that made it valuable to me to begin with. I am eager to find a happy medium before it takes over my life, like the lady on tv.

My grandfather, who was coincidentally (or not) my favorite person on the planet, was a major hoarder. All which could be attributed later to his surviving the Great Depression. A carpenter, he saved everything he could find in garbage dumps and abandoned houses that could possibly be used to build just one more house in his retirement. A master builder, he would just construct another complex shed to accommodate the goods he was collecting when the previous one filled up. When his mind was officially gone, we moved him to the Alzheimer's home. Among a trillion other things, there were 3 large truckloads solely consisting of screened glass windows, found in the 20 plus sheds in his back yard. Every prior year, for Christmas, we would exchange a "Gutt-box", a large box stacked to the brim with amusing junk that we had collected throughout the year, appropriately named after his last name, Guttinger. The stellar years were when we found classic hubcaps, license plates, or car parts on the side of the road. My first car, a 1967 Buick Skylark, was totally pimping with a Jaguar hood ornament, thanks to his keen junk eye.

While going through Mom's estate last year, we howled with laughter at the stuff she saved. She never once in her lifetime threw out a bank statement or a piece of aluminum foil. We teased that she could only use a 1 square inch piece of aluminum foil for a crack deal. But, as we divided out her belongings, I realized that I was the one with the inherited affliction of not releasing the items that are connected to the heart. My brother and sister wanted nothing to do with the family heirlooms that I hold dear. Although their houses have more than double the square footage than mine, they did not want find room for the family portraits, the diaries, the travel journals, the stuff behind the history. Please know that I am not criticizing them at all for this, as their connections and boundaries are probably far more healthy than mine. I just could not let go. I actually mentally tried to find ways of moving Mom's walls, lined with memories of her and us, from Ohio to Colorado. I know in my mind that I will never lose the memories that those walls surrounded them. I just have a hard time letting go and trusting that nothing will be lost in my translation. I don't want my children to bear the burden of tossing out everything that I can't.

Granted, the only "trails" that I have are in my basement, which is also my garage, my tool shed, my closet for out of season clothes and art supplies. Regardless, I have the desire to be much lighter, in every way that I know. I have come to the realization that my house, my vehicle, my stuff, even my body, has far outgrown me. Things will only be right when I live within my means, which is much less than I have now. I want much more substance, which involves having much less stuff to clutter the way.

Please join me in my journey, this is the beginning of a new and lighter day. I am downsizing in a big way. I plan to document that journey here, hoping that maybe in analyzing why I keep certain things, it might be easier to part with them.

"We all got things that hang on our back
Things that make us cool, things that make us whack,
Things that make us mad, things we wish we never had
But they’re just the things that make us real
Not the maps that guide where we go from here
The road twists in braids like hair, until we all get there ."

from "Braided Hair", One Giant Leap

1 comment:

  1. I totally know what you mean. My mother is still alive but my dads journals sit decaying.
    Her memories are faded as to where all the heirlooms were obtained. They are such grand memories, hidden now in the decay of her mind.
    The four of us children looking for answers in what to keep and who is keeping what and she is right here. I console myself to think that it is not the item but the DNA which is important.
    I cannot lose my parents, I am them.