This past weekend I watched Hoarders for the first time. It was uncomfortable, disturbing, painful at times, watching these people lose their lives in, often, to their stuff. Their junk. Whether you call it collections or memorabilia or memories or garbage, it's stuff. Out-of-control stuff. I had a moment or two of satisfaction knowing I'm the opposite. I love to purge. There are constantly give away bags in my bedroom, full of clothes to drop off at Housing Works, a local thrift chain that benefits the homeless and AIDS patients. After living in my not-very-big apartment for 10 years there are still a couple of empty cabinets in my living room. Draws aren't cram packed. Surfaces are stark white and empty.
Or so I thought.
We've got a community storage room in the basement of our building that's being redone and tenants have until the end of the month to clear stuff out.
Turns out I've got stuff.
Both the show and the need to go through trunks spurred a huge reorganization project yesterday.
I'm now climbing over suitcases to get to my front door. We filled 4 giant tubs with hundreds of books, stuffed animals, snow boots, CDs, too small jeans, outdated video equipment, countless tote bags, hockey pads, rock climbing gear (I literally could go on and on), mined from the backs of closets to let go of. Stuff I didn't know we had.
I found my grandmother's china that I never have and never will use. Boxes from 5 phones we no longer own. Cases of unidentified plugs and wires. Cans of paint that are most likely now a different color than when last used. A glue gun. Binoculars I got in college. My high school baseball glove.
The back of my car is crammed with boogie boards, barbeque accessories, golf clubs, skis, and more winter coats than I can imagine that have to find a permanent home in my apartment.
Does this make me a hoarder? I have no trouble letting go—it's just that I didn't even know it was there.
I think I'm something far less daunting but far more commonplace:
I'm a consumer.
We live in a society where shopping is an activity. A hobby. And as soon as we buy, our purchases become outdated, old hat, obsolete.
My nine year old has a constant list of things he can't live without. My daughter's new thing is lip gloss. I can't think of how many vintage coats I own, how much yarn is still unknit in a cabinet, how many pairs of flip flops are stacked in my bedroom.
We're taught that more is better. That keeping up with ads and with neighbors is the way life goes. That consuming is necessary.
I'm seeing it's not that large a leap from consuming to hoarding.
Perhaps I can live without that tapestry coat I've been watching on ebay.