I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder. I am not a hoarder.
Your Honor, I am not a hoarder.
For some years now my family and friends have been implying I might be a hoarder. Well okay, a few have come right out and said so. My position has been that I'm a collector. I collect lots of things. Books. Depression glass. Crystal candlesticks. Lamps. Picture frames. Antiques. Glass perfume bottles. Shoes. Christmas ornaments. China. Salt and pepper shakers. Rugs. Photos. Mexican artwork. Masks. Vases. I like stuff, I would tell frowning faces. Stuff makes me happy!
When I lived on Long Island, garbage day was the best day, not because I could get rid of my things, but because my neighbors usually got rid of great things. I have found remarkable items on the curb. In fact, many of these items now reside in my home: a reproduction Victorian sofa and matching chair, bookshelves, tables, fireplace screens, dozens (no kidding) of straight-backed wooden chairs, porch furniture, chests, bed frames, and one of the best finds, a large wooden curio with 30 drawers. There is not a room in my house that doesn't have at least one piece that came from the street. My finds have been a proud accomplishment, primarily because I was lucky enough to have two houses...and two garages...to cram it all into.
I think the first glimmer of worry surfaced one day when I found myself stuffing a curbside bureau into my SUV. I recall wondering if there might be a problem here. Somehow, though, I always managed to fit it all in. If I can fit all my stuff in the house and not have to walk through aisles of falling collectibles then I'm okay! (said my little mind).
Then came October, 2010. Moving day. Two friends came to help me pack and were...I believe the only appropriate word to describe their reaction to how much stuff I had is...aghast. I assigned Jackie the tasks of books and closets. A polite soul, she managed to say nothing after packing 35 boxes of books. More silence during the first two closets, and low grumbling at the third. When she came to the fifth closet, which contained clothing that wouldn't fit me again short of my becoming a year-long contestant on The Biggest Loser, she cracked. "Kathy!" she screamed. "You ARE a hoarder!!" Meanwhile, Mark was outside sweating, tossing 12 years worth of my belongings into a 4-ton dumpster. He filled it to heaping and lost six pounds.
This, you might suspect, got me to thinking. Thoughts like, why do I keep so many cardboard boxes? (because I might need them someday). Why do I keep every single scrap of used wrapping paper? (because I might need it someday). And why do I have 200 pairs of curtains, 50 sheet sets, a beach towel from high school, and 18 remotes to televisions I don't even own anymore? (because...well you get the idea).
They say that true realization comes at unexpected times. One night I was watching the show, Hoarders: Buried Alive. Of course my house(s) never looked like the houses on that program, but as I sipped my wine I listened with dawning horror to the hoarders talking about their problem. "I'm a collector. I love garbage day. Stuff makes me happy. I keep it because I might need it someday." My eyes grew to the size of tin can bottoms. Most of these people (other than those who couldn't throw out real garbage or had sixty cats) weren't creepy or nuts. They were thrifty, not liking the idea of perfectly good merchandise going to waste. They appreciated the concept of one man's trash is another man's treasure. They were...oh dear god...like me.
My conclusion, your Honor, is this: I was not, and am not, a hoarder. But I'll tell you what: I was on the brink.
This discovery has been quite freeing. I now fling stuff into the garbage with great abandon. Cardboard boxes...OUT. Wrapping paper...OUT. Old broken furniture that I planned to fix and never did...OUT. It's been fabulous! While I still have far to go, which anyone who has ventured into my basement or carriage house would tell you, I'm making great progress. I'm going Zen. I shall no longer be a slave to meaningless crappie. Let somebody else come along and pick up the fine though useless items I have collected in my life's journey.
A final note: there is an object on my desk that's hard to describe. A little...thing. Six inches tall, a Lucite bottom, a chrome stick with a curly swirl on top that's supposed to hold notes. I've had it for maybe 20 years. It's been on every desk I've ever had in every office I've ever been in. Never, not once, have I put a note in it because when you do, it tips over. In my new free state, I picked it up today and chucked it into the trash bin. Bliss! Then I noticed a roll of stamps unfurling nearby and realized that if I slid the roll over the top of that thing it wouldn't tip over and I'd have a great stamp holder! So I pulled it out of the garbage, put the stamps on it, and admired my work. The minute I reached for the phone I knocked it over. But...I...can't...throw...it...out.
Your Honor, I swear I am not a hoarder.
It's possible the jury is still out on this topic.