Tag Archives: research

sometimes it pays

Sometimes it pays off to be a COH, grand-daughter of self-affirmed packrats, and from a family of collectors. Today I was advising a student about types of assessment he can expect will studying in Switzerland, and as I pulled out a file from a history course I took in 2001, I caught sight of printouts from my research that year in France. Low and behold, I had kept all of the hard-copies from programs I attended and that happen to be relevant to a paper I’m writing right now. I was convinced that I would never be able to verify the historical point I was trying to make in the paper, and suddenly references are in front of me dated 15 October 2001. Thank you to whichever ancestor who also taught me how to file things.

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social hoarding?

The last few weeks while I’ve been buried in writing places other than here, I’ve been mentally teasing out the difference between collecting and hoarding. At the root of it, collecting seems to be a social activity – one that both takes the collector out into the world and one that brings others in to appreciate the collection. But what of hoarding?

Hoarders are known for the isolation that accompanies their stuff. They cannot bring people into their homes and their own family members are generally pushed out. Home becomes inhabitable. Stuff rules. But many of these people also lead active social lives outside of their homes, and they often seem outwardly gregarious. Is it just the home-space that is overrun with things? And then, in some ways, both the crazy couponing people and the collectors are making their homes unhomely by allowing their collections to take over, as organized and catalogued as they may be. The gathering/gleaning aspect of hoarding forces the hoarder into the world and in some instances does create social connections.

Of course, I could read one of the twenty research articles I’ve downloaded on this very topic rather than letting the digital files gather dust as I write into the vacant blogosphere from which answers rarely come.

thank you iPad

Thank you iPad for making my hoarding less visible, more organized, lightweight and convenient. I just cleared off a big chunk of real estate by recycling the articles I now have in my iTunes library.

desktop update

The room around me is emptying out, but how does my desk look this week? Well….

not pictured - a pair of gloves and a coupon I'll forget to use

In my defense, I’ve started two new research papers and need a few things within arm’s reach. The other part of the issue is the growing stack of tax documents.

It surprises me a bit that I feel defensive about my desk which is still relatively in under control, but perhaps even more that those piles of books make me (not-so) secretly happy. My brain is working and that means a lot.

not so secret life

Although I started this blog anonymously, not sure where it would take me, it has quickly become a public conversation piece when we go out. I am currently on a research sabbatical and when I see colleagues out in the open, so to speak, they want to know what I’ve been working on. Telling them about the painful editing and staring at notes and computer screen does not make compelling conversation. Telling them I’m battling my hoarding tendencies does.

We accepted a rare invitation to a cocktail party on Saturday. When I made my way into the kitchen to refill my glass and talk with a different group of people, one of my colleagues said, “So I heard about your blog…”

“So you know about my hoarding?” I asked.

“Sure, I heard all about your bags of bay leaves and sumac that sat in the cupboard for years.”

It is both an entertaining and startling conversation starter. Last week at lunch two people went into a long dialogue about the worst hoarders they had ever seen. I believe they were talking about television programs, but I was drifting in and out of their words. Perhaps they were talking about their own homes? Unlikely.

The ability to share what I’m confronting elicits a strong reaction and sometimes a grotesque fascination with what’s in the hoard. It’s also a bit of coming out and making myself accountable for what I bring into the house. The fact remains, though, as much as I have collected, stored, and forgotten, I am not living in a pile of clutter in 80% of my living space. For as much as I struggle, I know I have largely succeeded. If I’m able to talk about my tendencies, it’s largely because I’ve already won.