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"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." ~Aristotle

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Have You Hoard?

I started 2010 with one goal: to give away one thing, each day.

I figured I would run out of things by the fall, and then I would start giving away meals, time, gifts... that sort of thing.

Nope.  By October, I'd barely made a dent in things I wanted to clear out.  And when I put things into the giveaway bag, I wasn't conservative.  A stack of 5 books = 1.  A few items of clothing = 1.  I didn't hold onto things so I'd have something to part with the following day; I allowed myself to "work ahead" so that my purges were rewarded.  I marked my progress on Don't Break The Chain.

My initial reason for doing this was to simply declutter.  De-crapify, I call it.  Aside from benefiting me in clearing out the house, it has provided quite a learning experience.
  1. I don't know how much space I (don't) have.  I figure if it's good, if I like it, if I will someday use it, I have space for it.  Not so.  I have a large house, but small closets.  I have a coat tree for my purses, but it only has 8 hooks.  
  2. Variety is NOT the spice of (my) life.  I have approximately 60 necklaces (please, don't make me count!!).  Yet on any given day, you'll see me sporting one in, say, 5.  Maybe on Sundays I'll pull out another 5, but ... you can see where I'm going here.  Just because they're lovely doesn't mean I'll actually don them!
  3. Less really IS more.  The fewer pairs of pants in my daughter's drawer, the more likely she is to put them away.  No tugging, cramming, wrinkling.  The more bowls I have, the higher the stack, the more difficult it is to retrieve one.  The more post-its I have.... well, I can't really see a limit to those, can you? ;)
--------------------------------and on a related note----------------------------------

I'll admit it: I am a Hoarders junkie*.

I know it's voyeurism.  I know the show is probably exploitive.  It's Fear Factor for homemakers.  (At least they offer after care.)  Still, I have my reasons.  One episode and I'm leaping off the couch, purging like a mad person.

Irony:  I have 10 books on decluttering on my shelf, as well as a few on my Kindle.  I even have one in BOTH places.  Sigh.

But in the above 365 process, I have come to see the things I have in common with (some of) the people on Hoarders.  When the psychiatrist asks the woman if she can part with one of the pretty pens she just bought, I can feel the knot in my own stomach.  When I hear them talk about things "getting out of hand" or something being "perfectly useful," I nod in understanding.

Here's what I (realized after doing the 365 Thing Challenge) hoard:
  • purses and bags: it seems I've never met a tote I didn't "need".  Having just invested in some Miche, I might have soothed the Purse Beast ... at least temporarily.  
  • office supplies: an inherited disease (thanks, Dad!), I cannot pass up a pretty pen.  A virgin tablet cries out "lists! organization! new thoughts! things to remember!" from the shelves.  Post-its make my heart go pitter-pat.  Three-ring binders mean I can finally get some of those stacks of papers into usable format.  But will I?  Last week a man came into the local office supply store, looked over at me and said, "Another junkie!  We can always spot each other."  Guilty as charged.
  • candles:  For some reason, I tend to burn them more in the summer.  Why is that?  Anyway, candles are one of the things that cause me nervousness when I'm running low, and they can always provide a retail high because they are expendable (thus theoretically not adding to clutter) and generally inexpensive.  Most people are quite influenced by scents (smell having the strongest associative quality I believe?), so I know I'm not alone in craving a yum-smelling house.  Still, at the rate I'm burning them ... I should be set for a decade.  I'm not exaggerating.
  • paper bags with handles:  *cringe*  Ok, go ahead and pick on me for this one.  The truth is, I can't IMAGINE throwing one of these out until it was torn so much it was completely unusable.  And I've been known to tape them up.  They are the handiest thing for transport and gifts and ... well, just about anything, really.  I have a stockpile of them, and if I were to frequent stores which sell them en masse I would probably snatch them up.  As it stands, I simply reuse the ones I get -- mostly from the Local Toy Store.
  • magazines: as part of my "come to Jesus meeting" with myself and my cluttering habits, I gathered ALL the magazines in the house and put them all in one spot.  No catalogs, no books, just magazines. This is the result:  

That's not all of them ... since making that stack (which includes the 3 black totes full of magazines leaning on it) I have a growing pile along the wall, which, if I put them atop the basket would surely fall off.  Thus, they are over there, along the wall.
The thing about the magazines... they are the most telling of my hoarding tendencies.  I canNOT seem to let them go.  It's only because I haven't read them. That's right ... not a single one of those magazines has even had a page flipped.  When I DO read a magazine, I have no problem tearing it to pieces and recycling the rest.  But to let it go, un-devoured, into the Paper Retriever recycling bin?  Impossible.  Even though the majority of articles in those magazines amount to regurgitation; I need to turn each page before saying adieu.

  • books: do I even need to elaborate on this one?  Only this: owning Far From the Madding Crowd no more makes you a reader than standing in the garage makes you a car.  Books do not impart knowledge or well-read-ness via osmosis.
  • non-perishables: my sister-in-law said that after Armageddon, when she has her period, she'll know who to call.  My father-in-law gave me crap for my stockpile of Dawn detergent (it was on sale! I had coupons!)  I just don't feel comfortable not having certain items on hand.   Must. Have. Cream of Chicken Soup (I have 14 cans at the moment, yikes!).  Feel nervous without shampoo, body wash, deodorant and razors in abeyance (even though Giant Eagle AND Kmart AND Walgreens are exactly ONE MINUTE AWAY).
  • scrapbooking and crafting and decoupaging and beading supplies (ohmy): this one's complicated.  Realistically, I probably have enough scrapbook supplies to scrap every single photo I own and will ever own.  I am stingy with my patterned paper (read: hoard) and judicious with my paper scraps.  I stockpile the tabby things to stick everything down ... and yet every month Mr. Ed the Mailman brings me a kit of scrapbooking supplies.  And stamps, and extra paper, and embellishments.  *swoon*  Something I am learning about myself, however;  I am super-creative, and yet the creative process is about solving a problem.  Once I've imagined the finished product in my head, the actual DOING of the thing pales.  I lose interest in accomplishing the goal.  The design lives in my head, the papers sit on the shelf, the story goes unwritten.  It takes a great deal of discipline for me to PRODUCE.  
Am I going to appear on an episode of Hoarders 20 years from now?  No.  No rotting pumpkins and cat poo will be found on my floor.  Still, I can't help but ruminate on my attachment to things, stuff, and my inability to let things go.  Why am I sharing all this with you?  I don't know; I've already given myself a stern talking-to.  Maybe you're laughing at me ... maybe you're nodding in solidarity.  In any case, there it is.  The first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

*note: 1. I am not addicted to the show.  I could stop, if I wanted to. :)