My husband and I sometimes watch the television show called “Hoarders.” Perhaps you’ve seen this? People fill their homes with bags of clothes, old newspapers and magazines, gifts that are never given, toys that are never used, and of course, trash. It’s a familiar illness. My dad is a hoarder, filling up an entire two-car garage with car parts, tools, and other mechanical miscellany.
But why hoard? It’s done out of nostalgia–not being able to part with Mamma’s things–or out of illness–struggling with OCD or mental illness. In my dad’s case, it’s done because of a dream deferred. “Someday, I’ll use these parts and rebuild my car from the ground up,” he’d argue. Or he’d imagine a certain worth attached to the items, a monetary value that only he could see.
Like father, like daughter. If you’re like me, you hoard because you’re afraid of what will end up in the landfill. A sort of eco-hoarding, an illness born alongside the neo-environmental movement.
I’ve heard this same sentiment on “Hoarders” once or twice. A woman, long brown hair, house stuffed with bags of useless stuff, looked at the interventionist and said, of a bag of wire hangers, “I figured that some day I could make something out of these–or someone could. I hate to think they’d just end up in a landfill.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’m selective about my hoarding. As you may know from previous posts, I’m obsessed with eliminating plastic from my life, especially clear plastic bags and other wrapping that covers just about everything we buy. I’ve kept a few bags of bags for years: bread bags, pizza bags, produce bags, bags that hold just about anything and can be reused again. I’ve been forced to whittle down my stash because I ran out of room in the one cupboard I limited this collection to–it was so difficult to throw away the 3-4 mounds of bags that for a few minutes, I felt real anxiety over my decision.
And I do reuse them for lunches, storage, shopping. So for the most part, I’m okay with what I have decided to keep (so long as I don’t continue to bring new bags into the house).
But there are other items that accumulate because I can’t imagine them sitting in the dirt for thousands of years, unwilling to decompose, littering the ground and, in some cases, contributing to the deaths of birds or fish who mistake my junk for food. I’ve also collected plastic bottle caps because they’re huge offenders in the avian food chain; plastic-like wine corks; twist ties, which is numbering near one hundred now; and in my basement, chemicals, paints, and the detritus of life that I feel will certainly cause harm if it’s disposed of. I find my obsession incredibly frustrating (so does my husband) since my decor style and my lifestyle preference are both minimal. My friends joke that my house is sterile, organized, even spare. “It’s clear you don’t have kids,” they’ll joke. As though kids would affect my need to streamline my living space.
I’m wondering if anyone else out there feels this same way. A certain sense of shame, frustration, even paralysis about getting rid of stuff: furniture, construction materials, clothes, but especially the trash that can’t be recycled or donated.
What strategies do you all use?