Hoarders, collectors, decluttering and other people’s trash

Hoarders, collectors, decluttering and other people's trash

I come from a family of hoarders and collectors.  I struggle often with the compulsive need to collect something and it my lifetime I’ve collected many things, polished stones, phonecards, Cabbage Patch Kids, Disney mugs, socks…

When my grandmother passed away, my father and his sister had the inenviable job of clearing out a lifetimes worth of junk from a 3 bedroom home stacked high with precious treasures… to my grandparents.  I remember my father coming home day after day of “sorting” complaining of the unbelieveable shit they had collected.

He told stories of when opening the side board full of china, having to decide which piece to smash in order to get any of the pieces out.

Car load after car load of stuff was taken not only to the Salvation Army but also to the landfill.  A life time of collected treasures discarded within a few days.

My grandparents never threw away anything.  Ever.  My father found items he had thrown out when he lived at home some 40 years earlier which had been carefully retrieved from the bin by his parents.

Even more sadly were the wonderful toys, obviously purchased for my brother, myself or my cousins – that we never received.  Presumably they were too precious to give or got lost amongst the endless sea of items.

What was more ironic, through this process of clearing out after my grandparents, and complaining bitterly about it, my father failed to see that he too has done exactly the same thing.  We refer to the garage at my father’s place as “The Magic Garage”.  All you have to do is ask for a tool or object and sooner or later, it seems to find its way out of this tardis of junk.  How he ever finds anything in there, I’ll never know but I can only guess its organised clutter.

We tried repeatedly to point out that he was putting us in the exact same situation that his parents had put him in upon their passing.  He’d brush us off and say “it was different” because his “was the good stuff“.   But I fail to see how broken Laz-e-boy chairs that have been in there at least 20 years can be good.  Or the 6 lawn mowers, all the exact same model for spare parts when his “good one” is perfectly fine.

A year ago, Dad had a stroke, it wasn’t thought he would survive.  In the critical few days immediately following, our thoughts weren’t on his welfare or recovery, it was on what was going to be an enormous job for the entire family, for weeks on end to clear the house, shed, sleepout, garage and garden.  Not to mention an enormous expense.

Luckily he survived and it appears in the last 3 months or so he had suddenly realised his own mortality and actually perhaps seen for the first time his stuff as we see it – junk!  He’s slowly but surely clearing out small areas of the house and garden.  Small steps but it all counts.  If nothing else, perhaps he has acknowledged his addiction to collecting.

I too am aware that I have this obsessive need to collect, and for the most part, I can control my impulse though I do tend to get a obsessive about things on a regular basis.  But I’m also aware that the obsession is usually fleeting before I move onto the next thing.  I also don’t want to leave a huge mess for someone else to clear up after I am gone.

Our society is all about excess consumption and for some, this is just yet another addiction to be overcome.


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