Tag Archives: weigh

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.


Yesterday I had a mini-breakdown induced by … stuff, of course. The mountains of stuff surrounding me in my workspace right now are getting to me, but it was more than that. Yesterday, D. starting asking me about throwing out this or that piece, sell, keep or toss? I felt irrationally anxious and later isolated and sad. I know this is part hormone, part cabin-fever, and then part pure anxiety at the letting go of items that weigh on me. Each time another person from craigslist walks away with our things, I feel a little elated. But I only have to swivel my chair around for a panoramic view of accumulated crap. As each of the cupboards and closets empty, the sorted remnants collect here next to me.

Yesterday I declared, I’ve had enough. I’m tired of selling $3 items on craigslist. I’ve earned enough money for my efforts, in my opinion, and I’m ready to go back to giving away what’s left. That’s what we’ve done for years, but even giving away to needy graduate students was sometimes a difficult task. Had I sold that Pier 1 armchair on craigslist rather than holding it in my garage for two people who said they wanted it but never took it, the third one wouldn’t have gotten it in spider-infested condition (I’m still sorry, M.).

So the collected things around me, listed or not, are being prepared for donation to a charity thrift shop in town. I’m eager to remove this clutter to see what emotion that will induce.

hoarding dreams

I woke up in the midst of a long complicated dream this morning. Someone, a relative, had died. I was supposed to help a young woman (perhaps a cousin?) go through the house and prepare it for sale. After the real estate agent had been through the house, we set to work removing damaged Christmas decorations from the garage. Apparently the mother of the family had committed suicide, but we couldn’t work out why she had been preparing for Christmas if she was not planning to be around.

The garage was not filled to the brim (unlike the photo here), and we could walk around in it unencumbered, but there were various fishing rods and tackle, about 15 bicycles lined up, bags of Christmas decorations, and so on. Everything was very neatly organized in rows or tacked up on the walls. The sadness weighing on the house was clear as I tried to strip away the things that made it ugly. While I felt separated from the stuff, each object had specific memory engrained in it. But the hoarders had abandoned the collected things, and no one was home to guard it.

unbearable lightness

I’ve been wading through The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and one thought has come to rest upon me. Some people are heavy. Others need stuff to weigh them down. Especially when they’ve become untethered.

Can hoarding be a symptom of that weightlessness that causes discomfort? The uneasy feeling once our favorite anchor has given way?