Friday, September 10, 2010

Hoarding and Stuff

I have been thinking a lot lately about stuff.  My stuff, your stuff and all the stuff we have together.  I think we can all agree that we humans have created a lot of stuff.  There has been a lot of press lately about this guy named Dave and his 100 thing challenge.  Dave writes about paring the things of his life down to 100 and even lists them on his website.  (I love lists, so it was kind of fun to see what he deemed necessary.)  He set up his challenge, so of course he gets to set the rules which included all his books counting as 1 thing (library=300 plus books) and all his underwear counting as 1 thing ( for sanitary reasons).

I am not sure what it was about his challenge or about the many articles generated because of the challenge, but I immediately began to defend my ownership of things.  It is not bad to have long as they don't get in the way of life or loving your family or take precedence over the important stuff.  But hey, I like my books and the art on my walls and the cool old card catalog I bought at the surplus store.  My closet is not as full as some, but I clean it out about once a year and send stuff to charity.  I like saving mementoes for posterity: report cards and child's handprints made into turkeys, birthday cards and little scribbles on napkins that remind you of a fun time you had bowling.  It all seems to be part of a time capsule and someday someone will piece together the story of you by what you leave behind.

Whenever I hear about someone getting rid of their things and living a simpler life, I feel a little sad inside.  Who will speak up for the stuff?  Surely you can be simple and still have some teapots and linen napkins and a junk drawer filled with treasures.  I have an antique desk that I no longer use and I opened it this afternoon to see what was there.  It was a perfect collection of who I was 16 years ago when I used the desk last: a party favor from a wedding, a picture of my dear Aunt, directions for how to write a manuscript for Harlequin romance novels, some stationary and pens, a little doll and a book mark.  This desk is a preserved piece of me.  I cherish it and I close the desk...happy to know it will always be there.

Anyway, as I am thinking about stuff and this seeming war on my stuff and how I might pare down even a little, I picked up this fascinating book on people who are exactly the opposite of the 100 things man.  The book is aptly titled Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.  It turns out, according to this book, there are legions of people who have so much stuff it has become a pathology.  It seems I am the last to know that there is an entire A & E series devoted to people who hoard stuff and the vermin who live in their homes because there is so much stuff that it becomes a natural haven for critters.  Wow.  I had no idea.

The unsettling part is that although I don't think anyone could classify me as a hoarder -- my house is neat there are no pathways through the stuff.  I have only one pile and it is on my desk--I do relate to a lot of the characteristics of stuff.  I assign meaning to things that couldn't possibly have meaning.  I hang onto things for longer than most people would.  When I catch my husband throwing things away without my permission, I often retrieve it from the trash and wait to give it my own blessing.  Although on the hoarding scale of 1-10, I am barely a 1, it still feels a little awkward, my attatchement to things.  I guess I'll need to watch out for hoarding tendancies as I age.  I do want my kids to come and visit me.

Anyway,  this book is written by a pair of scientists, writing about this odd psychological disorder.  It is fascinating for all the reasons you might suspect.  I did try to watch an episode of Hoarders last week and it turned my stomach.  I couldn't watch. 

How about you?  Do you tend toward the hoarding behavior or the 100 things lifestyle?


Katie Cimino Zeliasz said...

I read this and it sounds like it came out of my mouth - I am a list maker and keeper, too. I have to watch what Erik throws out to make sure I don't want to "save it." And while I try to clean out closets often, and occasionally the basement, I can justify keeping pretty much anything that has or ever had meaning to me... meanwhile my father-in-law can justify keeping ANYTHING - 5 non-working lawmowers, a canoe that sits in his hallway, among other things...

Speaking of the show, Hoarders, I just watched it on Netflix last night and there is a huge difference between a Hoarder and a "Saver/Memory Keeper." My mouth was open then entire 45 minute episode... both in shock and disgust. Check it out if you can!


K.T. said...

I am not a hoarder, but I also have a lot of stuff. They are mainly things that I have kept from my past as a student personnel professional. A handwritten note from some of my staff, a painted t-shirt that looks hideous on me, but I still wear it. An auction notice from my Grandma's estate auction that I've always wanted to get framed.

I do give to charity often, and have no problem getting rid of clothes, household items, electronic devices, etc. It is paper with handwriting, old cards, ticket stubs, and books that I keep.

Last year at some point, I "found" my ID holder from when I was a sophomore or junior in college. It had my old college ID, an old meal ticket (the kind that they used to write on when you came in the cafeteria), and ticket stubs to basketball games and concerts (John Cougar Mellencamp and the Go-Gos). There is no way that I could throw that away. I just put it back and wait for the day when I find it again. I'm sure I will think it is just as cool the next time I come across it.