Back on November 07, 2005, at 2:50 PM, I posted here about my little hoarding problem. I’d just learned that it was called that—hoarding. I hadn’t known. (I called the post “That Boy Jumpy Sure Can Dance” for reasons too complicated to explain.) I was mulling over a lot of things then, thinking about all my friends who all had way too much stuff, and how weird it is when someone dies and all their stuff is left behind, like a hermit crab’s shell, the carapace they constructed, the junk they lived in. I was determined to dig my way out of my own problem with stuff. [I have to add that the photo above is NOT my stuff, it's from the Fairfax County, Virginia website on hoarding.]
The first step, as always for me, was to get a book. “Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding” by David F. Tolin, Randy O. Frost, and Gail Steketee is excellent. It explains what hoarding really is, and why it happens, and has little quizzes so you can figure out why it’s happening to YOU. (It turns out that Sluggo has a problem with acquiring—like bringing home dented tins he’s picked out of the trash—and I have a problem with never getting rid of anything—like all those dented tins in the basement.) I was happy to discover that my problem wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought, because only one of the doors leading outside is completely blocked with my junk. The authors lay out a plan of little steps to take to resolve some of the problems that underlie the bigger, more obvious hoarding problem. And, you know, I started to do them.
So now it’s, like, three years later and all that junk is still there. I haven’t actually unpacked most of the stuff that I jammed into boxes when we moved into our house 14 years ago. (Although there’s another reason for that, but I’m not allowed to say.) But I am kind of working on it more, lately. A little. And then I saw two new books today, and they made me consider the Stuff Problem again.
The first book is “Important Artifacts and Personal Property From the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry: Saturday, 14 February 2009, New York: Strachan & Quinn Auctioneers, New York, London, Toronto,” by Leanne Shapton. This is the kind of super-brilliant, original book I always am thrilled to see actually get produced and sold in normal bookstores. It’s a faux auction catalogue of the stuff-junk-crap owned by a fictional couple whose relationship has come to an end. There are photos and hilariously pretentious descriptions of all of it (“LOT 1279 Three spice jars full of quarters. Jars in cylindrical form. Labels read ‘Spanish Saffron,’ ‘Cinnamon Sticks,’ ‘Poppy Seed.’ Kept for tolls and parking meters in the glove compartment of Morris’s Honda. Dimensions vary. $35–75”) and as you look through everything you construct a narrative of their life together in your mind. It’s kind of icky—I mean, it’s really junk, and it looks so personal, even though it’s not real. Ack!
The other book is “Flanagan’s Smart Home,” by Barbara Flanagan, a woman who believes you need only 98 objects to furnish your entire life. She lists them, and tells you which are “best”—Environmentally best? Aesthetically best? Most practical? I don’t agree with her on everything—I will never understand why anyone would want an electric blanket, for instance—but it’s a lovely idea, living in a house with a minimum of stuff. She doesn’t include art, though. Or clothes. Or musical instruments. Or books. Or a dog. Or a big box of dented tins in the basement.
Thanks for reading my blogpost this time, and may God bless.