One of our most of basic instincts is to acquire things in life.
We get a job.
We get clothes.
We get money.
We get material things.
Then we get a place to put them into.
We get more money.
Rinse and repeat.
We store the things we had already acquired.
We fill up our existence.
We run out of space.
Someone else has to deal with all of the things we acquired.
Some get tossed.
Some get passed down.
Some get put into a box in some other space.
The cycle continues.
I am as guilty as anyone else in this life.
I have an attic with stuff from years ago that I will never use again. I have a foot locker containing things from my grade school years. I have cases containing cassette tapes from my youth, and even from the days when I still had a car that could play a cassette tape. I haven’t thrown them out. I can’t play them on anything, but I can’t part with them. I have stuff in my garage. Broken bits and bobs that don’t belong to anything that works, but I haven’t thrown them away because, eventually I will fix them or find a use for them.
No, I won’t.
I’m just as bad on a digital scale. I have disks, drives, and files dating back to the Apple IIc era of technology. I “try” to keep all the footage of gameplay I record for my YouTube channel as if I can reuse that footage for something else. Multiple three or four terabyte drives sitting on a shelf. I put quotes around the word try because, on occasion, the drives fail and I basically have a paperweight that lights up but does nothing else.
Look at video games, today. You start out with nothing and then you have to acquire resources. You get rewarded for getting things. If you're like me, you hold onto things because even though you have no idea what they do, at some point, you may need them. By the middle of the game, you are frantically looking to store things in your inventory or find uses for them because you have no more room. Video games have mirrored my hoarding life or enhanced. I'm not sure which.
Is it genetic? Is it an illness? Is it just laziness?
Well, the first thing you have to understand is that I am the child of a baby boomer, that ever aging generation that lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had to scrimp and save everything because there just wasn’t any money or materials during those times. Everything was precious either from a KTLO (Keep The Lights On) perspective or because of the war effort. My parents have a house full of things from the 60s through today and I do not relish the day I, along with my siblings, will have to go through it all.
The second thing you have to understand may also explain something about yourself if you find you have the same issue. I tend to resonate from mnemonic devices. I associate a time and place to listening to a song or a visual reference. I can remember a memory from a smell or listening to a sound. For me, the tactile response to seeing something from my past brings me back to that place better than just having to remember it. Maybe it’s fear of aging. Maybe it’s fear of mental deficiency in my later years.
Maybe I am just lazy.
But I am getting better. In fact, I have done a lot of junk dumping. When I first moved into my house, I could actually park a car in the garage. Then, slowly, over the next 12 years, things got shoved into every space in that garage until you could only walk a small path from the door to the back, after moving a garbage can or two. Along one wall were cardboard boxes, just tossed on top of each other. I planned to use those for building fires in my wood burner or fire pit outside. Well, I quit using the basement because the cats basically took over the downstairs (i.e. destroyed) and the place needs redone, so no more fires and no renovating until they are gone. The other side of the garage was basically things that just got shoved there. After a horrible set of rainstorms this summer, the garage flooded and the place reeked of wetness and mildew. So, shit got tossed. All of the cardboard boxes were broken down and consolidated into one giant box. Three weeks’ worth of garbage collection took care of all the bags that were filled. Now, while I still can’t get a car in there, I can move freely about and it’s more organized and I should have no problems in the event of another flood as there is ample space for water to reach the drains if need be. Not, that I want that to happen, but nature sometimes dictates these things, not you.
My daughter’s room was another sore point. Now, I am totally ashamed in how this played out but it happened and I can’t change that.
When she was born, we had her nursery all done up and just adorable. As far as renovations go, I was quite pleased with myself for being able to do what I had done. I hate painting and I suck at these kinds of room things, but it really worked out, well. But, she didn’t stay a baby or toddler very long. That tends to happen with humans, they grow up. Yet, we still kept all the things; toys, clothes, furniture. It all stayed in that room and soon, you couldn’t find anything. You couldn’t walk. You couldn’t sleep. At the age of six and even seven, my daughter still slept on the mattress that came from her crib. The crib itself became a day bed, but the mattress and frame remained in the same shape, basically, as the day she came home from the hospital, minus the front railing. And you could not walk in her room without stepping on something. You could not open the door all the way. It was horrible and I didn’t have to sleep in there, so it didn’t get fixed for a long time.
But, it got fixed.
The crib was dismantled and stored in the attic. A new bed was bought and all of her childhood things, like toys or clothes were thrown out, packed away, donated, or repurposed. It was now the bedroom of a bright young girl who has room to move and grow and it’s not done, but it’s headed in the right direction.
The attic is another sore point but it’s on the list. My room is just the same but it’s somewhat better than it was three years ago. The rest of the house is slowly making a comeback and it’s hard and it takes time. It also took something else. It took someone else.
You see, my whole world crashed and burned in 2012. I haven’t talked much about it or about anything else, really, because like this blog, my life became neglected.
My marriage ended.
But that’s not what caused everything to go to hell in that house. That’s what changed it all.
Now, it’s not what happened during my divorce that’s important. My ex-wife and I are still friends. We live five minutes from each other. We are still parents. For the sake of our daughter, we swallowed any feelings of animosity or anything we had for each other and made it easier on her. But, the things that didn’t get easy were undoing all the damage that had been done to our lives, by ourselves. I still live in the house and it still has so many things from our life together in it. So, it’s hard for us to un-hoard our lives because of all the moving parts. Ashamedly, for a year, my daughter had to share a bed with me every weekend because her room was unlivable and maybe it was depression that was keeping me from getting my ass in gear to fix it, but it got fixed because someone, other than me, stepped in and helped.
That’s the key to un-hoarding. You need someone who isn’t going to be a ‘yes’ man or woman. You need someone to make you make a decision and then question that decision. It also helps because you don’t get caught up in the trips down memory lane when half of the work is being done by someone who can keep things out of your hands. There were times I stopped to reminisce over a onesie or a toy. But, the fact that someone else is there helping you makes you feel more productive and… somewhat guilty that they have to help with all this work.
You need a support system that isn’t going to say, “Aww, I know how you feel. We’ll just keep a few things.”
No. Kick it in the ass. You’ll feel better.
Remember, your kid isn’t going to be a baby again. Someone else can use it or it can be discarded, properly. Get rid of it.
You’re never going to suddenly reconstruct that teapot that shattered into 15 pieces. I don’t care how much Super Glue you use. Get rid of it.
And then buy that person dinner or drinks or help them back. It’s easier to throw something out when it’s not your stuff. Just like it’s easier to move someone when it’s not your stuff.
Take back your life so someone else doesn’t have to when you’re gone.
If you live to be a grand old age, you should probably pare down to just the essentials.
Acquire memories. Acquire friends. Get rid of all those things you cannot use.
Un-hoard your life.