A Kinder, Gentler Hoarder

We are not hoarders. We are just lazy. And busy. And ignore certain contained areas of our house for decades at a time.

Junk drawers are for amateurs. Junk cabinets: that’s where we live.

I’m using the plural “we” instead of the singular “I” because I’m totally not to blame for any of this and I’m being nice to my spouse and children by referring to this as a joint problem. (That’s there to see if said spouse and children are reading my blog. Truth is I probably deserve some of the blame. A very tiny amount. Definitely no more than 1%.)

This is what I found in the two cabinets on the far side of our family room, which are rarely opened:

1. Two large cases of cassette tapes, full of mix tapes and music copied from friends and tapes bought at the record store (remember those places?), primarily music from the 70s & 80s. Strewn throughout the cabinets also were several random cassettes, some unmarked, some blank tapes still wrapped in plastic, some audio books, some cassettes with the tape pulled out of the bottom, reminding me of the possible usefulness of these tapes in our current lives.

Favorite Find: a cassette with Side A: the Police; Side B: Prince (organizing principle was musicians with band names beginning with the letter “P”, I guess?)

2. Poker paraphernalia: a folded piece of green felt, a half empty chip carousel, yellow, white, red, and blue chips splattered throughout, and the book POKER FOR DUMMIES. The last time I played poker was . . . never. I’ve been married 20+ years and do not recall a single poker game played at our house. Did my husband stage poker games at our house when I was out of town? And if he did, why would he keep this from me?

Sad Fact: the chips that were in the carousel were all mixed up color-wise. Since I am neurotic and somehow felt it was necessary that I do it, I poured out all of the chips and placed them, along with the ones scattered in the cabinet, according to color, in each of the separate compartments.

3. Hideously ugly pale yellow, flowered video tape storage boxes filled with a variety of movies and taped family events, including at least eight VHS tapes of the 1987 America’s Cup Sailing Races. Have you ever watched sailing races on TV? Two out of four of us in this house are or have been competitive sailors and I still find it to be less exciting television than golf matches or bowling competitions. Except the 2013 America’s Cup. I’ll give you that. When the sailors have to wear helmets as they fly from one side of the boat to the other, it makes for better TV.

Revelation: We’re f-ing old. The tapes didn’t look that ancient to me. They weren’t 8-tracks or anything. And I admit that when we’re planning to stay in for the night and watch a movie, I say “why don’t we rent a video?”

4. Random coffee table and how-to books. Mostly gifts because who buys titles like these? THE 10-MINUTE RETRIEVER. A REALLY SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING. A RACE FOR REAL SAILORS. FOREVER PARIS. SYMPHONY HALL: THE FIRST 100 YEARS. THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO GEOCACHING. Yes. We own a book on geocaching. On the cover, it is called “the official guide to the hot new sport that combines high tech with treasure hunting.”

I can’t believe I’m telling you this: We have photographs of my daughters, their father and their grandfather using one of the early handheld GPS devices, off somewhere hunting for treasure. (Sorry girls. There’s photographic evidence that will be used to torment you in front of your friends one day. Maybe Meg’s graduation? Hmmm.)

5. CDs and DVDs. Too many to count. Mostly empty cases and stacks of probably now scratched CDs and DVDs. You don’t have to ask. I will tell you. I systematically found the proper case for each of the case-less CDs and DVDs and placed it inside. This took me almost two hours.

Ear Worm: While I was cooking dinner last night, I realized that I was singing the Raffi song, “Willoughby Wallaby Woo” (lyrics: Willoughby wallaby wee, an elephant sat on me. Willoughby wallaby woo, an elephant sat on you. Willoughby Wallaby Wusten, an elephant sat on Justin. Willoughby wallaby Wangya, an elephant sat on Tanya. . . and so on. Here’s a link if you’d like to hear it being sung: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciUDpTtCnUU.) I have no pride. This is clear now.

6. Random stuff. Ripped plastic bags. Two empty cellphone cases (one might actually be for a Palm Pilot.) Anti-static, lintless Mini Foam Swabs. A record brush. Cords with uses that are unknown to me. A plastic case and charge cord for an original IPod. VHS head cleaner. An unopened Deluxe Camera Cleaning Kit from circa 1980. A candy cane (scares me to think how old it might be.)

Irony: There is a book in my office, which I bought last year when I was feeling like I needed to add something else I wasn’t going to read to my bookshelf, called THE STORY OF STUFF: HOW OUR OBSESSION WITH STUFF IS TRASHING THE PLANET, OUR COMMUNITIES, AND OUR HEALTH — AND A VISION FOR CHANGE. I pulled out the book and started reading it last night, while I was sneezing from all the dust that I stirred up earlier in the day.

This morning, just before my 6am yoga class, my instructor, out of the blue, told me that he thought he might be a hoarder. He’d watched the TV show “Hoarders” the night before and realized how much stuff he has that he can’t throw away. When he started listing the items, which included everything his neighbor left from her house (and she took nothing with her) several years ago when she moved, I stopped stressing about my junk. I’m still going to get rid of what I can before the three pack-rats I live with start hoarding things, but at least most of our junk fits inside dark cabinets or in the basement storage room. Or in the attic above our bedroom. Or the closet off the guest room.

Help! What does one do with old cassettes, videos, and CDs that doesn’t involve contributing to the trash heap? I’m actually looking for some suggestions, so if you have them, please share.

Sara

Sara

I write about daily life, arts & culture, food, books, nature, animals, parenting, relationships, self-discovery, & more.

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16 thoughts on “A Kinder, Gentler Hoarder

  1. Sorry I couldn’t resist. What about the garage and the car? Not that I’m perfect and Bonnie would probably call me a hoarder but i’m only 1% to blame too.

    1. I think you and Bonnie are closer to 50/50 than we are. The garage and car are all on Mr. Car Guy who has never thrown out anything in his life.

  2. I loved this post so much! I was a professional organizer for 10 years (and still do it occasionally) and I can tell you that you are not alone. Not by a long shot . . . we have a place here in Oakland that takes all of the kind of stuff that you have and sells it to artists and teachers for next to nothing. I did a quick web search for you and found this place: http://www.extrasforcreativereuse.org. I don’t really get Massachusetts geography so I don’t know if it’s close or not, but they might know of other organizations near you. The trick is not to come home with any “good ideas” that were “bargains” when you go drop off your loot!

    1. I know we’re not alone but it can be overwhelming when you find that much unnecessary stuff in just two small cabinets, knowing there is an entire house full of it. The place you recommend is only one town over from me. Thank you! 🙂

  3. FYI, Sara and Bill: When Gary went to Florida to help empty his mom’s home there, he and Fran spent hours and hours cleaning out “stuff”. He came home and volunteered that he had “seen my gene pool and it scares me.” That lasted about a month…but, hw ole one can argue nature vs. nurture, I’m not sure he and his siblings had a chance.

    1. I’ve seen my gene pool and it scares me too. But I’ve also seen Sam’s gene pool (in terms of stuff accumulation), which scares me a little more.

  4. There’s a website called FlyLady and she says “You can’t ORGANIZE junk, you can only get rid of it.” That sounds like a good idea, but the getting rid of it, hmmm…

    For me, I suppose it will be one piece of paper at a time. And I guess it’s not all bad. It created a very entertaining blog post!

    1. One piece of paper at a time for me too. Can’t just toss it all; have to at least put my eyes on each item before getting rid of it. It seems the most entertaining posts come out of my inadequacies. I guess I’d rather laugh than cry.

  5. I think it’s still perfectly fine to say, “Why don’t we rent a video?” It’s just that nowadays we rent then online and stream them over the internet, rather than driving to a commercial establishment. Which is a good thing, as I was kinda bad about remembering to return video tapes.

  6. Love this, love this! Just read it again. My husband just purged (so rare for him!) old, bulky arts and crafts projects I – no my kids – did when they were little. Wouldn’t let him toss them until I took a pic of each. Now what do we do with the pics??

    1. The way I see it, the photographs are in digital form so storage isn’t a clutter problem. If you decide to print them out, though, well, that’s a different story.

So what do you think?