Category Archives: from my hoard to yours

moving right along

After months of looking at all kinds of houses and being very picky and demanding about the area but open to fixer-uppers, we are about to close on a house in our neighbourhood. Once that decision was finally determined, we immediately put our townhouse on the market and have since been playing the game of “hide every shred of human existence and make your house look like a hotel and do it quick.”

The market in Australia usually runs by open houses rather than private showings, though D and I never hesitate to ask for private showings of listings when it suits us. The result of the open house is a frenzy of people winding their way through the house in a thirty-minute span, dripping with sweat, and by the end of the day they are totally dizzy with what they have seen. My one neighbour went to six open houses today in her search for the perfect investment property, and another neighbour was doing the same in search of the ideal home for her growing family. Our house was opened up around the same time as two others on our street today, so people filter down the street like a parade.

While keeping our home as pristine as one can with a school-aged child and three pets, not to mention two full-grown adults who like to live and eat and work at home, I have slowly begun the boxing books.jpgbusiness of packing up. I am ever amazed at the quantity of things we moved to Australia on airplane trips. We have all of our photo albums from birth to now, little treasures like our Christmas ornaments, my grandmother’s silver, and then all the clothes (considering we dumped what felt like the majority of the wardrobes before we moved here and have constantly donated since we moved here, this, too, is impressive). I have fifty-three boxes that can be filled (the suggested quantity from our removalists). I wonder how many will be full on moving day.

As I pack, however, I see D and S really struggling with this move. This one is somehow different and harder and scarier even though we are moving only three streets over and about 5 houses up the hill. This townhouse has been an anchor for us. Our daughter has lived here for the majority of her little life. We have loved it and hated it and we are about to move from a new modern sleek place to an old funky one that needs a lot of love and attention.

In all of this, I have realised, for reasons I cannot explain, I just keep pushing forward. I push even when it is not the most sensible thing to do. And as I push myself, those who love me and want to live with me get pushed and pulled along my path. I was speaking with S’s therapist a couple of weeks ago about this and she pointed out that sometimes when we are pushing forward, we just drag more and more and more stuff behind us. I’m clomping on through the snow that’s up to my knees and I’m on the verge of collapsing. At some point, I’m going to need to stop and sit still and work on what’s here in front of me without the distraction of moving again.


revenge of the hoard

Nothing will cure a hoard better than selling your home, though natural disasters might have a similar effect. We put our home in Kansas on the market in March and it went under contract within three days. A week later we were at our house to clean out what remained after five years of absence. Our tenant and good friend A. called me a tornado, because I whipped through the piles of stuff without mercy sending the bulk towards the trash heap. It is easy to sort unaffected when you have absolutely forgotten the things in the hall closet even existed. We took two car-fulls of useful things to the emergency shelter to donate (some of it belonged to A.) and were grateful for the tax receipts. In spite of this culling, there was still some furniture and exercise equipment lingering. The tenants posted items on craigslist, had a yard sale, sold a few more items of theirs and ours, took a commission, and donated the rest. Today the real estate agent told me that he removed 12 bags of trash from the house (what??!!) after the tenants moved out, and the house is now cleaned and empty. I wish I could see the empty house today, but that would be a long way to fly just to have the satisfaction of knowing our former home is ready for a new owner to love it.

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.

pickers down under

American Pickers may be all the rage back home, but it isn’t any different on this side of the world. Last weekend we rode our bikes up the street we used to live on, and we noticed piles of discarded furniture and other bulky items lining the sidewalks. As we chugged up the great hill to a near halt, a small pickup truck (or ute as they’re called here) passed us, pulled over, and a man and his young son popped out. In the back they already had assorted fans and pieces of wood furniture. They grabbed a few more items, hopped back in the ute, and drove on.

I see no evidence that the city has arranged to pick up the remains during a “Fall Clean up,” and now it’s all been thoroughly rain soaked as it continues to meld into the curb.


We move in one week and we’ve begun to sort and pack up things that we don’t immediately need. Having only been in this house for 5 months, the task is not monumental. Still, I find myself both invigorated by the ability to discard and compelled to keep trash. This little ball went to the “bin” as S. calls it.



hoarding others’ memories

Last week I discovered that D.’s ex-wife has been blogging her memories. D., quite respectfully, has said that they divorced a long time ago and he is not interested in reading it. I, however, cannot help myself. It’s like watching an autopsy in which the pathologist is mutilating the corpse, and I simply cannot look away. I can list a hundred excuses why I’m reading the perspective of this woman I’ve never really met (it’s even related to my field of research!), but it feels more like a sickness in me than anything else.

What’s fascinating me most, though, is her willingness or desire to rehash the past. She goes at it with a hoarder’s eye for detail, recounting textures and senses, shadow and light, with precision that doesn’t seem possible for memories that are as many as 40 years old. She has overtly taken a stab at scientific observation and objectivity, trying not to speculate on stories that are not her own, but the complex images she draws only lead me to believe that these are well-rehearsed memories. I don’t believe scenes from our childhood or even five years ago can remain vivid if they are not continually conjured. This leads me to an even more sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach as she has just begun to blog about meeting, dating, and living with D. Her project, which is reading as a journey into finding and heeding an inner voice, is setting up their entire relationship as a big misstep. I cannot read it without thinking about my own first marriage which I would certainly recount as something I should not have done but that taught me a number of important lessons. But would I take the time to go down the paths of memory and recount excessive details of meeting him and so on? The very thought makes me shudder with nausea. It just simply isn’t a consideration – I have a beautiful life right now, even when it’s difficult. D. turned out to be the love of my life. We have a beautiful daughter, successful careers, and a love between us that I had given up believing in when I was still a teenager. One person’s trash, another’s treasure? From your hoard to mine?

It’s excruciating to watch someone else dissect the person you love so deeply and to have no control over how they put those words out into the world. I’m only thankful that he turned out not to be the perfect person for her, because he really is the perfect man for me.

more pieces of me

Yesterday the people staying in our house found a new home for our kitties. I’m not sure why that would or should make me sad, but it really still does. I lived with those cats for nearly six years, even though they came from Canada with D. It took a long time for us to grow close, but I have fond memories of Kiwi climbing on my belly while I was pregnant and perching there while I wrote emails. And in the last year after the dogs had found new homes, Crystal and I became very attached to each other. I’d go out at 11 every night looking for her and then she’d sleep by my hip until morning. Both good cats, gone to a very good farm where they will be very happy hunters (at least that’s the story I’m telling myself – please don’t alter it for me).

On the positive side of finding new homes for pets, and this goes for my cat that went with my ex during our divorce as well, you never have to think about that pet dying from whatever natural or unnatural causes. I had a cat that I adopted in 2001 from a colleague who had to move. After a long unexplicable illness and over $1000 in vet bills, I had to put Balu to sleep in 2004 because he just struggled too much to breathe. I still get choked up thinking about that horrible decision.

And so I’m grateful to you new pet owners who are willing to care for our animals. May our beloved animals bring you much joy, and may they reciprocate for many healthy years to come.

postcards from the edge, of reason


I’ve been considering selling my postcard collection on Craigslist for some time now, but the thought that some personal information might get misused has always interrupted my plan. I then offered the collection to a friend who has an affinity for postcards (and probably hoarding) and she smartly declined.

I finally tackled the box a few days ago, sorting the cards into four categories: received from someone, free cards, art cards, and cards from places I’ve been. I started collecting when I was about 15 years old and stopped not too long ago. I still have a habit of visiting art exhibits and picking one or two cards of the pieces that most affected me. As I was sorting, I fairly easily tossed the “free-card” pile with the exception of two or three cards I have often displayed in my office over the past 15 years. What surprised me most about the “places I’ve been pile,” though, was the careful chronicling of my travels. Places I have long since forgotten were documented there in pictures. Some of the most generic images (i.e. “Arizona Coyote”), I tossed willingly into the recycle bin, but I ended up keeping the majority. I stumbled across a few duplicates from Paris, and yet I couldn’t let go of the second copies. I feel compelled to find them a home.

Finally, I went through some of the “received” cards and was a bit dumbfounded. Some were cards that I had written home, but many were from people I no longer remember. I had a card, for example, from someone named Anastassia, and I have no recollection of ever meeting this person. Nonetheless, the card looked vaguely familiar. It somehow remains in the “keep” pile.


In the end, because I took the time to confront the memories in the card pile, I wasn’t able to let go of the bulk. I took too much pleasure in seeing my travels plainly documented in such a compact space. I do not have all the other souvenirs, because those did go onto Craigslist. Instead, I keep a condensed box of postcards without knowing if I’ll ever look inside it again.

clarity, optimism, or just unloading stuff

Yesterday a dear friend/former student and her husband came to say goodbye to us for the n’th time. I gladly took the opportunity to unload more books, but especially the TV that has been sitting to the right of my desk for the past several years. Now that it is gone, I moved the printer to that spot and the sunshine is suddenly flowing unobstructed through the window. It just feels good to give items away to a good home. In fact, it’s my biggest problem with holding on to stuff. I’m generous by nature and I hold on to things people have given me and things I think someone else can use. Throwing something out, just into the trash, is painful for me. Recycling is OK … trash is painful.

So thank you, M., for taking a bunch of our stuff off our hands again yesterday. She also offered to take my family portrait from when I was four years old. I first said yes and then retracted the offer. I’ve never known what to do with that relic of my family before it was entirely fractured (or before I was cognizant of the fissures), but maybe my daughter will want to look at our goofy clothes and my toothy smile someday.

Stuff out the door and I’m feeling lighter already, even if there’s a lot more to sift through here in our home.

i love my stuff

Our two-year-old has been prancing around the house with her arms full of toys lately. Yesterday she looked at me and said, “I love my stuff.” She paused and then said, “I love your stuff, too, Mommy.” Endearing.

This morning while pretending her shoe was an airplane carrying her pig and his multiple drinks, she said to me, “Look at all my stuff!”

Just what am I creating here?