Tag Archives: just in case

forgotten coffee


I’m a spoiled girl. My husband packs a lunch for me in the morning. I just have to put it in my bag and go. Yesterday I realized I forgot to bring a fork: but never fear, the hoarder is here to save the day! I opened a desk drawer I haven’t looked in for months, and of course I had a plastic fork. I also found a mystery baggy with frightening grey turd-like crystals. Who knew freeze-dried coffee could become desiccated and moldy?

Inspired by Joanna’s blog, I Won’t be a hoarder too, I snapped a picture and threw it in the trash. This is not so much something I held on to, but a perfect example of me keeping things “just in case” and then forgetting about them until they are ruined. Classic COH.

comforting things

Although I cannot classify my neighbors as hoarders, they accumulate things in the backyard. The former political refugees, who came to Australia some 30 years ago, own both their house and the one we are renting. They have smartly rearranged the back of the two houses so that they get full access to both “yards” while we and our downstairs neighbors have patio space only. This extra free space has allowed them to move in a train car and various other storage units, dog houses, water tanks, sheds and planting areas in the back.

Last weekend a new bird cage suddenly appeared in the back. I felt vaguely happy for their caged cockatoos — who make me sad, amused, and annoyed — even though they’re apparently well-adapted to their environment. The new cage sat in the back and I wondered if it had been a deal too good to pass up and how long it would sit there before being put to use.

Not long at all, it turns out. By Sunday there was a Galah parrot living in the cage. More sad feelings – Galah’s are my current favorite wild parrot in the area. Now my neighbors’ menagerie includes 2 rotweilers, 3 bichon frisés, 2 sulphur-crested cockatoos and 1 galah (not to mention the son, daughter-in-law, and three grand-daughters who live with them).

This whole experience of watching things accumulate in the backyard is all too familiar. There are about 12 ladders of only three different sizes piled up in the back yard, and this makes sense to me. But I’m probably projecting from my own experience of watching my father find deal after deal too good to pass up  because the neighbors do use the various things for projects. Everything is relatively neatly stacked and stored, even if it looks a bit like a trash heap. Nonetheless, there’s a strange kind of comfort in watching someone store away quality pieces they’ve accumulated just in case they might need them later.


We finally have regular internet set up at home after about two weeks and trying 3 different companies before this one. And yes, I said “we,” because D. is here and we’re also finally all together again. Comforting on “sick days” like today.

As I was putting S. to sleep tonight I was catching up on some 20 posts by Sid on My Mother-In-Law is Still Sitting Between Us… and she shared a video of the condensed stuff in the garage of their inherited hoarding house. I could only think of my poor step-brother facing the garage at my Dad and step-mom’s house. And then with dread, equally remembered mention of storage units that they rented for their “antiques” they intended to sell some day. Someday… For the first time, and now that I’m at a very safe physical distance, I thought maybe I should say something while they are both alive. It’s not an easy conversation to think about.

Strangely, this plunged me into a memory from 2.5 weeks ago when I was signing the lease for this place. The house is fully furnished, complete with dishes, and I looked up from the papers at the real estate agent and asked very seriously, “Michael, is there storage with the unit?”

M: “Do you have a lot of stuff, A.?”

Me: “No, just our suitcases.”

M: “Are you going to use the third bedroom?”

Me: “No, just for guests.”

M: “Might I suggest you use that closet for storage?”

And while I’m laughing about it now, and then, too, it is still so telling that I was worried about having storage. It’s the deep-rooted hoarder mentality in me, the “just in case” we need the space.

moving as a COH

Moving can’t be good for hoarders. This is my firm conclusion after being in Australia for a week now, having arrived with my daughter, her nanny, four suitcases and a car seat. I spent the first five days in our temporary apartment just “churning.” Pick up a paper, put it in a different pile or a different folder, find another one, forget what I’m doing, start looking again, start something else. It was complete disorganized chaos. I don’t think I was even looking for anything specific. Nothing was in the right place and I was so afraid of losing an important receipt or my passport or proof of my work visa, that I couldn’t figure out where to place anything. I arrived in a new pristine office on campus with tons of empty shelves and it looked beautiful. Then I quickly set about keeping used padded envelopes and twist ties in a neat pile in case I need them for later. At the house we’re in (fully furnished, very fortunately), I’ve started saving yogurt containers, cardboard scraps, and empty bottles for future craft projects or simple storage until we get more permanent items around us. I’m mindful of this odd activity, but I can’t stop myself from wanting to accumulate odd scraps “just in case” I need them later. An unused napkin suddenly becomes a useful treasure since we haven’t yet bought a box of Kleenex.

Yesterday afternoon I met with my mentor who is a self-professed “major hoarder.” I entered his office which he called “unusually tidy” and it was filled with mountains of paper, walls covered with odd pictures and posters, piles of books on the desk. It was rather attractive all together although some of the images disturbed me. It was a well-cushioned nest, lived in, loved, worked in, accumulated over the years, full of meaningful treasure that I could easily relate to and understand. These were objects collected over the years – art postcards, newspaper clippings, a grading scale tacked up on the wall near his computer screen. I could see the compulsion there, which was in stark contrast to what I’ve seen of his home which has very carefully selected objets with a clear esthetic and very tidy lines woven warmly through the living area.

Our rental home is attractive to me – white, stainless steel, granite, and gorgeous “timber” floors and a sprawling deck with seating for six. It’s a much smaller space, much less comfortable and less me than our “real” home that we reconstructed and decorated ourselves, but this is a livable space, clean and sparse as it is. I long to fill it with comfort that isn’t needed … pillows and blankets, for example… rugs, splashes of color.

All of this need to have things, longing for objects, reminds me of the first time I was objectively confronted with the horror of my father’s hoarding. I have seen the image in my mind only very occasionally throughout the years, but today it keeps popping back in front of me. We were living in a very similar (but much less modern) rental home for a little more than a year after the bank foreclosed on my parents’ dream home in the country. I used the dungeon like cement cellar/basement of the home for my own “things” and my father filled the garage. By filled, I mean filled. When we moved to Missouri, I don’t think we were able to empty the whole thing. I have a vague memory of actually walking on top of stuff about 3 feet deep to get to some of my things. When my father and step-mother went back to Montana to get the rest of our “stuff” they asked me specifically if there was anything I wanted. For some reason I wanted this really dumb silk stuffed hot air balloon with a porcelain clown hanging below it on a swing. I suspect now that they went out and bought a new one for me, because somehow I ended up with two of them. I can’t imagine the horror that my step-mom felt when she saw that garage full of crap.

When my father and I made the move from Montana to Missouri, he had an old pickup truck and he built a wooden frame around the back, probably about 5 feet high. He piled in some furniture and other items, roped it all in, tied a tarp over it, and we wobbled slowly to our new home, getting lost in downtown Kansas City along the way. All that crap either made it into the house or into the garage. I believe there was a garage sale once, and then the rest just remained. It’s there still, somewhere, in their hoarding house. My two porcelain clowns and their stupid silk balloons are probably still hanging out somewhere in my teen-years bedroom. Garbage, all of it. And yet, here I am, an adult and mother, clinging to scrap paper and empty yogurt containers. Just in case.

*COH = child of hoarder

hoarding saves the day

Having flown to Europe and traveled numerous hours on trains to get to my final destination, I thought I was engaged in a crazy hoarding activity by keeping all the plastic silverware and extra towels I came across. I was even reading Stuff by Frost and Steketee who specifically characterize hoarders as carrying a lot of stuff wherever they go “just in case.” I picked out the plasticwear to throw out, put it back in my bag … and at least resolved I did not need to keep the ones I had used.

Then I got to my hotel/apartment with a meal I purchased at a supermarket and … there was a corkscrew and spatula, but no silverware… So now I am justified, as D. might say. See? Hoarding pays off sometimes.