True Confession#1 – I am addicted to those stupid hoarding reality shows about people who have spent their lives “collecting” so much trash and treasure that they can barely move from room to room and their living spaces are no longer actually livable. (The one exception being the new sub-category of animal hoarding shows which I refuse to watch. If you choose to live in filth and feel a compulsion to climb over a mountain of 16 years worth of empty cardboard egg cartons to get to the bathtub where you now sleep because your bed is piled high with dented tin lunchboxes of the 60s that you swear you’ll make millions on from Ebay someday, that is your business. However, I won’t watch that world be inflicted on 27 innocent cats, dogs and ferrets.)
True Confessions #2 – I think I love the hoarding shows because I fight daily against my hoard-like tendencies and watching them makes me think: there but for the grace of God, go I.
As background, let me explain that I’m in the midst of trying to sell my house which means sorting through what I own and trying to make large amounts of stuff into smaller amounts of stuff so that I can move my stuff more easily and cheaply when the time comes.
The problem? I love stuff and hate to throw stuff away. I form sentimental attachments to everything from my first present from a boyfriend (7th grade – a 45 of the song “Heartlight” by Neil Diamond) to wedding invitations (every one I’ve ever received in a box in a bookcase upstairs) to my grandmother’s recipes handwritten on old Maine Savings Bank deposit slips (another box; another bookcase.)
Don’t even ask how many boxes of photos I have in my possession. Let’s just say that the invention of digital cameras and shutterfly.com may have saved the structural integrity of my home. At one point I was thinking of installing cement landing pads like you see in truck stops to put under the crates where my photographs live.
You may wonder why I haven’t turned the corner from orderly – if obsessive – owner of way too much stuff to become like the crazy guy who has a gym membership so he can shower there because he stores life-size movie cut-outs of all the Star Wars characters in his current shower. Okay, truthfully there are probably a few steps between me and people who need Bruce Jenner’s 1976 pole-vault to go from the living room to the dining room… but only because of the following factors:
1. I’m kind of cheap. I can’t see myself spending money on clothes I not only won’t wear, but actually prefer to have pile up in a heap in the corner with the tags still on. That isn’t the only barrier to hoardiness, of course. Lots of hoarders are either frugal or simply don’t have a lot of money and they don’t let that stop them. They find their collectibles/treasures/crap in thrift stores, consignment shops or on the side of the road on big-item-trash-pickup-day. Which brings me to:
2. I don’t like used stuff from people I don’t know. Now please don’t mistake this for me being a snob. I’ll happily accept cast-offs from friends and I would love to be able to go into Goodwill and pick up clothes – they often have lovely things at rock-bottom prices. The issue is that I’m a little bit of a weirdo when it comes to not knowing who had/used/touched things before me. I can’t even use the library because finding a mysterious food stain in a book I’m reading will creep me out for days. There. Now you know my hidden shame. Judge away.
3. I’m only a little crazy. This is probably the biggest difference between me and the hoarders on TV. The way I look at it, life is a series of continuums. I’m a little crazier than people who don’t keep the programs from every play they’ve ever attended (three different boxes; their own bookcase…), but not quite as crazy as people who still have every copy of the Portland Press Herald since 1923. Of course, now that I think of it, maybe I’m even crazier because I actually see a distinction.