Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recipe for a Hoarder

I found a spoon today on my living room floor. It was under a pair of Annika's pants, which was camouflaged with paper and laundry bins. If I hadn't been trying to pick up so I could vacuum, I'd never have found the spoon.

You see, I'm a hoarder. I hold on to stuff I don't need and/or don't use because, well, I might need it. I throw away garbage, of course! But what you and I might term to be garbage... Let's take a book for example. This book has the binding broken and the middle 4 pages are ripped out. But that is not garbage, HA! No. That just needs a little fixing. So it gets tucked away with the torn out pages jutting out from the middle, to collect dust. I will never get around to fixing it. Never. But what if I do? It would be a terrible waste to just chuck it, right?

Or the glove that hangs out near my couch. It's a perfectly good red glove...mitten, actually. It's too small for all the big kids and too big for all the small kids, but if I could just find it's mate...well, then the little kids will get to use it soon. I'm sure the gloves' partner is around Somewhere, since I'd never throw it away. So I hold on to the mitten indefinitely.

I have a very Depression Era need for holding on to stuff. Yet I was born in the mid 70's. So why do I hoard?

When I was little my folks were poor. Very poor. We patched our clothes, wore tennis shoes to church and didn't get to sign up for stuff like soccer. Once, my parents didn't go to the grocery store for a whole year. We ate deer meat (venison?) that my grandpa and uncles got on a deer hunt. We grew our own veggies in our garden and preserved them for the winter. We had a peach, pear, apple and cherry trees that provided our fruit.

By the time I was 6 I was writing thank you notes to my great-grandma for my Santa Claus present because I didn't really have any other ones. My Grammy had sent my parents money for gifts, but my parents had to use it for the main present, because otherwise we wouldn't have had a Christmas at all.

Then we struck it rich. Kind of. It's what it felt like, anyway.

Over the course of about 3 years our income more than tripled. We were suddenly upper middle class. We got a new house, more than double the size. We went from driving a '68 Chevy (in '86) to a couple year old Ford Crown Victoria. We traded the Chevy's hot, black, sticky vinyl seats for lush velvety brown ones. Enter the years of glut.

Our Christmas' went berserk. When I'd come back to school from the holiday break and my friends would ask me what I got for Christmas, I'd have trouble remembering. It took me about 2 Christmas' to realize that NO ONE got 15 + presents for Christmas JUST from their mom and dad. It literally became embarrassing when I'd come to school the week after Christmas in a new outfit everyday, but that wasn't my main present.

So we'd get all these things. Clothes, books, jackets, shoes, jewelry, knickknacks, etc. And we HAD to keep them all, because they'd cost money. Good money. And we knew what money was worth.


Wendell and I had our own stint with poverty. After I quit work to stay home with Emma, money got tight. By the time we bought our first house, our savings was gone and we were barely squeaking by. Then Wendell lost his job. In 2001 he had 4 different full-time jobs.

We slowly got on our feet again. Bit by bit over the next 6 years we climbed out of the poverty hole. We got our debts paid down and got money in the bank. We could afford nicer Christmas and birthday gifts for our kids.

Despite the fact that we are now financially solvent, I still function from a place of scarcity. What if it was all taken away? I'd need that book and that mitten, right?

Plus, I have to admit I didn't know that you could throw stuff like that away. Or donate stuff that you didn't use. If there was a chance that you might use it, hang on.

I have taken garbage sack after sack full of donations out to D. I. I have taken stuff to the dump. I have filled and over filled our garbage cans. And I've barely made a dent.

I must keep trying, however, or the stuff wins.


Nancy said...

Don't take this the wrong way... but you remind me of my dad. Although, now that I think about it, he doesn't keep stuff... but he also doesn't buy stuff. He figures he can save more money if he just never buys anything. (Plus, that's my mom's job.) The only thing he's really spent on is the airplane he's building. Don't get me started on the unfairness of that.

Jen said...

I have been trying to learn that when I let things go, I'm opening up space in my life for new blessings to come in. Not that some things shouldn't be kept forever, of course.

I'm teaching my children to care for things as if they were scarce so that the things that should last will, and that we only need to bring the things in that will truly bless our lives.

Nice post.

Days like These! said...

I WANT to throw away every single thing I have and live with my toothbrush and underwear. I really WANT to. It's so hard to do. I feel you so much on this post.