Tag Archives: objects

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

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when it’s ok to purge

While unpacking and repacking yesterday, I realized that when I travel I really do enjoy leaving behind little objects. When we were in Australia last year, I left an expensive blouse in the hotel room on accident. I knew I couldn’t go back to get it, but part of me was thinking, “Oh well. I’ve left a piece of me behind.” It felt kind of good.

Last night I was going through my tubes of shampoo and deodorant and whatnot trying to guess which things would not be coming back with me in a few days. I’m trying to finish up the little pouches and pastes to make my bags lighter, and it makes me happy to think about leaving it here on the road. Is it purging, or am I just marking my territory… expanding my clutter to the far reaches of the world while it lives on in my memory?

memory for stuff

For the past month my daughter and I have been searching for her Fisher Price pig that goes with her farm set. It nagged at me that I couldn’t place it, although I could identify the last time I’d seen it and the possible last places it could be lingering. Then, over the weekend, I was sorting through her pajama drawer when suddenly the pig emerged. I almost screamed out of joy, “Look who I found!” There was much celebrating with the pig that night as he drank and drank from his favorite bottle.

Lost objects weigh on me. They plague me. I cannot let them go. I lost my iPad stylus overnight on Saturday and on Sunday I emptied out my backpack and diaper bag looking everywhere for it. D. said jokingly, “It’s probably on your desk.” I took him seriously and checked. There it was. I probably spent an hour looking for something that was in the most obvious place.

And so it goes in this house as I seek to match PollyPocket shoes and accessories, identifying what’s gone missing. The moment this began in my life is as clear as the many objects I geographically map in my mind. I was about seven years old, standing in the hallway in my childhood home, asking my dad where a certain toy was. “Ask your mother,” he said. “She knows where everything is.”

I asked her and she knew the exact spot where the random item had been abandoned. I was amazed and took note, “This is behavior to emulate.” And since that time it’s always been important to me to know exactly where all of my stuff is. Now that there is a child in my life (and to be clear, she’s fairly tidy for a two year old), there’s only that much more stuff to catalog in my brain. I’m sure I’ve wasted more salary hours by tracking than the objects would cost to replace, but I still have not lost little items from my own childhood, at least until now as I choose to part with them.

libraries of the past

Yesterday we took several boxes and bags full of books, CDs, and DVDs to Hastings and came away with about $140 in cash for objects we no longer intend to keep in front of us. While walking through the store, D. and I had the same sort of impression. “Look at all of these books.” This type of place used to be a haven for me and books were and are precious objects of love. But all of this seemed like an unnecessary remnant of the past. I couldn’t help but imagine all of those books annihilated in the coming years, as everything becomes digitalized.

Of all my hoarding tendencies, collecting books is the worst. I accidentally purchased two copies of the same book from amazon.fr recently – a book no one but me will ever want to read in this part of the United States. I buy books almost compulsively because I need them for my research, I forget to read them, and I refuse to let go of them because I may really need them for my research. No Kindle or iPad can save me, yet. Small French publishing companies are fighting the “good fight” to stay alive and pressing the government to disallow e-books that might put them out of business. Larger companies like FNAC, however, are slowly coming to my rescue, and many Harmattan editions are available digitally.

Still, my books, the physical objects, remain. I am strongly attached to their presence and I refuse to let go. They will comprise the largest part of my moving expenses as I happily accept to sleep on the floor or use a cardboard box as a temporary table. I refuse to live without my personal library.