Category Archives: beauty in hoarding

digitizing memories

1993 for hoarding memory

A couple of months ago, I thought it would be smart to buy a very cheap printer/scanner to be able to print out a few pictures here and there for S. who is having an increasing number of school projects. The machine is total crap, but it is allowing me at least start on one project I’ve put off for many years.

I began journalling at the age of 10 with very insightful entries like “Dear Diary, Today I went to school.” I still have that journal. In the back of my mind, I always thought one day it might help my child to have my journals so they could know whatever they are going through is not so unknown. That was pretty presumptive on my part. S. would probably read my journals and say, “OMG TMI!”

In any case, I moved all of these notebooks here to Australia and I’ve decided that I might be able to digitize them. I’m glancing at pages here and there and sort of cracking up at my 1993 version of myself: very religious, very dramatic, very in love with my first serious boyfriend at university. I should dump the journals completely, but for some reason I can’t let go. Those notebooks were sometimes a lifeline to me. Writing has always helped me untangle very complicated and painful knots and has offered solace when there was none from the humans in my life. Sometimes I think I should publish them as a journey, but no one would want to read the thousands of pages of crap about my daily life – not even me, really. So here the pages go, into the computer, one by one, to maybe never come out again. At least another shelf will be clear.


2012 in review

Thanks, readers. I apparently don’t blog much but still get visitors. If I believed in resolutions, I might promise more. Let’s see where 2013 takes us: may your New Year be clutter free.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

thank you, Sidney

It is with much sadness that I write this thank you note to Sidney Patrick (of who passed away unexpectedly last week. She was an amazing supporter of this blog (with many snarky and hilarious comments), and as far as I can tell, of so many people in the COH community who need support. She was amazing on the HuffPo Live show on hoarding, bringing the emphasis to the victims while the show itself seemed to have been programmed to haul the hoarder back into the light. I posted then on her blog that I was proud: I’m proud to have even minimally interacted with such a bright, strong person. Sidney, you’re inspiring. And I thank you.

hoarding is a mental activity

My head is stuffed up, or maybe just stuffed. It’s full of gunk, if not information. And because it’s completely clogged, I decided it wise to take the bus instead of my bicycle to work on Wednesday.

Suspected bus-sprawling hoarding woman was sitting in her same spot, this time with only her purse on the seat next to her. I realized I’m too quick to judge. But more to the point, I realized I create stories in my mind attached to all kinds of random people I see throughout the day. Somehow when I process information, it never rests simply in my mind. I attach all sorts of meta-data (or in this case a meta-fiction) to it. How I’m able to draw out any meaningful conclusions or produce much from the accumulated mental mess, is quite miraculous. Yes, I did just say I impress myself given my “cognitive difficulties” (said to me by my PhD committee during my preliminary exams a decade ago).

Akiko Ikeuchi Knotted Thread - Red 2009

Akiko Ikeuchi Knotted Thread - Red 2009

The point is (this is some fine writing), hoarding has been defined as an activity that detrimentally impacts your ability to live in a space. In that view, hoarding is only defined by its physical manifestation. However, Frost and Steketee have also looked at “information processing deficits (e.g., attention, organization, memory, decision-making).” I believe hoarding is a mental activity and one that plagues me even though I have mostly slain the over-accumulated-object aspect of it. At the root of it, our brains are overwhelmed with a knot of information that we can’t always properly untangle because we get distracted by the various threads within it. Sometimes those knots can be quite beautiful and productive; sometimes the knot is just a messy obstacle to what lies beneath.

disorganized or too much stuff?

Mason Jar Monday - organization projectI’ve fallen off the planet for the past week or so due to my new addiction to Pinterest. Seeing all my fields of interest converge visually on pinboards has given me a better perception of my work and life. The downside to it all is the accumulated information on how to better organize and clean up my life. One more thing to feel guilty about as I look at my cluttered desk space even though I know I’m being tremendously productive.

Part of me really loathes these DIY organizational tip sites. It’s the same part of me that grew up with a hoarding parent. There seems to be a real misperception among hoarders, at least my HP, that the problem is not, “I have too much stuff.” The problem for them is, “I am too disorganized.”

I love organization. I love filing, I love sorting, I love to know where everything is. But my organizational systems become so complex that it gets difficult to put anything away. And when I do put things away in the most logical place ever, I often can’t find them again. If it’s out on my desk, I know exactly where it is.

Sound familiar? It’s the same excuse used by hoarders everywhere: “I need to go through my stuff and put it away.” “I don’t have time to go through my stuff…” and so on, while the piles just grow bigger. More moves in, nothing moves out.

All of this advice about better organizing your closet, small bathroom, or tiny kitchen cabinets, require additional purchases and new projects that the hoarder in us already can’t find time to pursue. So tempting though to think, “If I just put new shelves up in the garage, then I could put x, y, and z away where they belong.”

No, the real chore is not organization. It is simply getting rid of things we don’t use. Even better, stop buying those things in the first place. It takes time and dedication to constantly purge, but it’s infinitely better than finding a new space in an already crammed home.

(You can follow me on Pinterest at


All while we’re pressured to keep and reuse what we can, my neighborhood continues to slough off any unwanted items. Plenty of pickers have been roaming the streets taking what they wish from the piles. There’s a nice symmetry to some of it.

cramped for space

Next time you think you’re too cramped in the tiny place where you live, think of this clever guy. He’s been living in our outdoor lamp for at least a month now. Usually he can’t manage to get his tail tucked in all the way. Then he disappeared for a few days. Today I saw him, looking bigger than before. I wonder if he’s stuck in that little cove.

my valentine

Yesterday morning I checked into my office to find the most wonderful and coincidental Valentine’s gift from D.. Eight boxes of books arrived in my office from the U.S.     Love.

There are another seven that are MIA and probably fifteen more that need to be sent from home. Unpacking the boxes felt like Christmas, my birthday, the fourth of July… you get the idea. Among the loot were a few much needed texts, some French fiction I haven’t touched in ages but love to have on my shelves, and then the random: a pattern for a crocheted afghan that I’ve started three times and never finished.

D. has said if we move again, the books are not coming with me. I feel like whining, “But I neeeeeeed them for work!” Of course, there is that big building on campus called a …. library.

the goodness of stuff

D. just got back from the States with five suitcases: a veritable treasure trove of stuff. I am amazed at the things he picked up and brought back – everything from a bike repair kit to some wooden hangers, full tool sets and so on. Most of it is linens and cooking supplies; all of it is wonderful. This stack of worthless looking tins almost made me well up (granted I’m hormonal at the moment and got misty eyed at Madonna’s Super Bowl performance). The bottom cake pan has been in my life as long as I remember. It may have come from a grandparent, but I specifically remember my mother baking with it when I was little. It made my heart happy to see it here in Australia even though it had completely slipped my memory until today.


When I was little girl and my family moved to Montana, my brother and I started spending hours collecting rocks on the  foothill behind our house. We had an old coffee can and our main ambition was to find quartz and smokey quartz crystals to put in it. This entailed scanning the ground while we walked with sharp attention to detail. Any glimmer required some dirt scratching to see what treasure we’d unearthed. My brother also got into panning for gold and tumbling rocks. He was much more committed than I.

Years later, I still find myself staring at the ground for treasures as I walk along. S., now three years old, has inherited the passion distraction. Yesterday we walked D. to the train station so he could catch a flight home to the U.S.. It was raining quite heavily, but S. and I plodded along, hand in hand, scanning the ground for treasures. She picked up little leaves and said, “It’s for my collection.” Or, “I’m collectin’ this for you, Mommy.” So far this week, in addition to numerous interesting leaves and flowers we would never see in Kansas, we’ve seen some possum poo, interesting skinks, and very speedy caterpillars scooting down the hill in the rain.

S. and I glued our collected leaves (but not the poo, bugs or skinks) to a piece of scrap cardboard. We showed it to D. and it went into the recycling bin a few days later. I love seeing beauty in the little things, but need I worry about S’s new fascination with collecting every pretty little flower or seed she finds on the ground? Each one she drops, she shrieks, “Oh! My flower!” and I try to brush it off so she won’t keep thinking about what was lost. In the meantime, yesterday, I told D. I really still wanted to find my umbrella that I last saw in Florida in 2010.

Collecting is a fun activity. I just need to keep working on the letting go part of it.