“Where does this go?” asks my mum, waving some trinket at me.
I shrug: “I dunno.” Then I frown. “I just find it really hard to get rid of stuff, even if I know I don’t need it now.”
My mother sighs deeply, acknowledging our similarities. “It’s that poverty mindset.”
And I remember being impressed, because my mum is not someone prone to any sort of deep or constant reflection. And she absolutely hit the nail on the head concerning the reason for my inability to let go of certain things.
It’s definitely something that runs in the family – my mum is a notorious stasher. One of my favourite memories was when my sister and I got sick of not being able to see her vanity table and started clearing it.
“Don’t throw away that cream! It cost me £25!”
I squinted at the bottle. “Mum, the cream has separated into its oil and cream base parts. Plus, I’m pretty sure you bought this before [my sister] was born.”
She doesn’t deny this; she simply emphasizes, “TWENTY-FIVE POUNDS!”
The money she spent nearly three decades ago was a lot for her then and I understand her horror of ‘throwing that money in the bin’.
But that cream was not worth anything, and thus, dear reader, I chucked it. And then I was promptly chucked out of her room before I did any more damage.
I totally get where my mum is coming from.
The term ‘hoarder’, especially in the wake of the eponymous TV show and also How Clean Is Your House is associated with uncleanliness and mess. It often prompts pictures of years old newspapers piled up, feral dust bunnies, pigeons making a nest somewhere in the house, people having to carefully climb over tenuously created towers of stuff, holding their breath lest they inadvertently create an bone-crushing avalanche of things. Walking into a room like
Reality TV loves to highlight the most extreme cases. I don’t think I hoard like the people in the show per se. I just think I have a lot of stuff. And yeah, I do tend to keep knickknacks and bits and bobs and whatchamacallits. My ‘hoarding,’ however, is mainly based on the keeping of ideas.
I used to tear pages out of magazines but now, in the age of the internet, I bookmark and have tabs open instead.
Before tabs, I used to have various windows open at the bottom of my screen. Every time I’m writing a post for my blog, there’s at least 45 tabs open in my internet browser with different references and resources and…well, ideas.
And if I’m shopping for a specific item or item(s)? Fuggedaboutit. 60+ tabs and my bookmarks section start to look even more insane than usual (I almost never clean it out).
When it comes to actually letting things go or decluttering, I’m either really good because it has reached or bypassed its date of usage…or I panic. The idea of releasing this item, whatever it is, fills me not with a cleansing sense of calm but rather an heart fluttering panic – what if I need this? How does this impact the environment? Will this be used properly?
At times, I feel like an Accidental Anti-Marie Kondo – she tells you to keep things that spark joy and are useful to you, whilst I amass random things out of fear and the misplaced hope that they can be saved or proven useful. I genuinely feel myself being gripped by panic at the thought of getting rid of some of the things I am no longer using just in case it might MIGHT prove to be handy at some random, oblique point in the future. Maybe. Hopefully?
I sat down and tried to trace the roots of this poked-at-panic that my flickering hopes might be unfulfilled, unfounded or – even worse, – previously misplaced. I asked myself, over and over, what are you keeping this for?
- This might be useful to me in the future: I may have seen something cool in passing on Pinterest or have come up with my own idea that I want to put into place but haven’t quite worked out how to do it. Thus, I keep it waiting on an instruction tutorial from the heavens to fall into my lap. Or I’ve somehow found something that isn’t something I need immediately but maybe I will in the future…? See also: The teaching resource I spent two weekends making for one lesson.
- This might be useful to someone, somewhere: I don’t want you any more but someone, somewhere must want 24 mini empty bottles of vanilla essence? Or this idea would be great for my family member…whenever they’re finally ready to hear it. Or having used a product once, hated it and wondering how to find the person that would actually love this to death (or at least use it up, because it’s not going to be me…).
- I might never see this sort of thing again!: Often things I love but maybe they are broken, or torn and I don’t know how to mend them but the thought of having to shop around to look for something that’s kind of the same or similar enough to suit my tastes has left me exhausted. In you go, crotchless jeans that fit perfectly around the waist and bottom. I’ll not dispose of you yet. See also: My collection of interesting £1 coins that, as of 15th October 2018 , are no longer legal tender but I couldn’t and can’t bear to part with and almost every free supermarket magazine I’ve ever picked up in store.
(Husband: ” You don’t need this year’s July issue – they do the same recipes every year! “
Me: “Nuh uh! Last year’s summer issue featured ice lollies! This one is barbecue themed!”)
- This thing will help me be more organised/stylish/eco-friendly/creative – This is especially bad if I’ve seen someone else do it or it’s a hobby I want(ed) to take up.
“Why do you have 25 ball of variegated yarn?” Whydja think?! So that when I magically find time, I can be the superstar knitting fiend who finally creates an heirloom blanket that is treasured by all her descendants until the end of time! DUH!
And that scarf is for when my super stylish life incorporating the chicness of Tanesha with the cool fabulousness of Dina Asher Smith starts…riiiight after I clean up this baby’s poop 😬 ).
- If I throw this, it’ll go into the bin and that’s bad for the environment! Oh, hello eco-anxiety, we meet again. This category in particular is an overspill of 1) where something has been useful to me and possibly could again but I think it’s unlikely to reach that level of usefulness so I just spent ages (AGES) researching different methods of recycling it. Adios, crisp packets! I hope you live a long and fruitful life as…er, more crisp packets.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just me…?
Children of hoarders apparently tend to go to extremes – from following in their parents’ footsteps, to becoming Pinterest-worthy minimalists and getting rid of everything for fear of becoming like their parents.
In the hope of not becoming like their parents.
I go through cycles. I try to go through regular mass decluttering sessions but I truly, really don’t understand how I end up with so much stuff.
Well, apart from my buying it. Or being given it by friends leaving the country. Or it being handmade for me. Or wanting to try something. Or someone throwing it out and me being the first (and last!) person to shout ‘NoooOOOoooo!’ Oh, and eBay.
Okay, I totally understand how I end up with so much stuff.
Whereas my mum’s hoarding is based on the hope that the money she spent will prove good and just somehow, change her live in some minor or fundamental way, mine is the hope that things I loved can be replicated, useful or just not an environmental nuisance. It’s a legacy issue.
With the arrival of the Hatchling, I have become more realistic about the purpose of some of the things and ideas I had (Emotional crutches! Sunken cost fallacy! Never gonna happen this side of the year 3000!) but now have to cope with both the things and ideas that come with baby stuff:
Do I keep this maternity dress in case we want another baby? It’d definitely be useful then…
Maybe someone, somewhere will want that hat set? People are always having babies…
Oh, that top is so cute! I might never see something that cute again…!
Keeping these will mean I won’t have to shop for the next baby and will be more organised!
This is so stained but if I bin it, it’ll be terrible for the environment…
But hey, the first step is admitting you have a problem…right?
I’m coming to accept that some things will be hoarded for a season… until that season is definitely over and I’m ready to let them go.
And I think…that’s okay.