I can’t watch the show, Hoarders, on A&E. It’s not that I don’t feel bad for those poor people because I do. And it’s not because it grosses me out, although it does.
It’s because I suspect I’m one of them.
Even though I don’t watch the show, I do sometimes run across an Oprah hoarding segment or a commercial for the program. When that happens, my eyes start ricocheting around my living room like ping pong balls in an after-school program, checking out the piles of books on my coffee table, the Christmas ornament on my book shelf (in May), my son Billy’s cowboy boots from when he was three, and the afghan I gave up on two years ago with the knitting needles still sticking out of it.
Right now, I’m looking at mardi gras beads I got from church (don't ask) which are suspended from iron candle stands I found in the trash, dried roses hanging up-side-down in my window (no clue what the occasion was), my mother’s souvenir necklaces adorning my walls, and a basket of CD cases on my floor. Where the CDs themselves are I don’t know, but I suspect they are somewhere in the back seat of my car.
However, from doing my Google research on the topic of hoarding, I find that I have only a couple of the traits of a true hoarder. For one thing, real hoarding, according to Google, is a sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I can say for pretty sure, that type of behavior would require a lot more work than I'm interested in doing.
Wait a minute. Maybe I have a few more than a couple of symptoms. I do have a cluttered living space and an inability to get rid of things. I also have an excessive attachment to Billy’s little boots and my mama’s necklaces. In addition, I don’t like people all that much and I do harbor the belief that I’ll be able to create next year’s Christmas gifts (for the few people I do like) out of those CD cases.
A friend just sent me a link to an NPR story on hoarding, hopefully because she knew I was writing about it and not because I'm a lost cause trapped under a pile of old Ladies' Home Journals. However, while reading it, I was horrified to find yet another personality trait that could indicate I have a problem, and that trait is my inability to categorize. I am one of those right-brained thinkers for whom most everything is gray. In other words, I'm not a black vs.white, good vs bad, take-a-stand kind of person, which causes me to be a Democrat, keeps me from being a Baptist, hinders my ability to tell the good from the bad and/or the ugly, and makes it difficult to decide what needs to stay and what needs to go.
Some of my few friends have similar problems with holding on to things for too long and sometimes not being able to locate them. My friend, Debbie, looked and looked for her Christmas tree stand one year, only to find it on her front porch where it had been since the previous Christmas. I also remember the Thanksgiving when Debbie had to purchase a new stove in order to cook her holiday turkey. Her old stove had been out of commission for, well, a long time. However, if Debbie were a true hoarder, she would have installed her new oven on top of her old one, which I don’t believe she did.
And here is an excerpt from a recent email from my friend, YeVette:
Yesterday I bought a sofa at the Junior Service League Attic sale. My neighbor, who is in the League, watched it and when it went to half price, twenty dollars, she put my name on it and then proceeded to pay for it and haul it home for me in her husband's pickup truck. She parked it under my carport until today when my other neighbors helped us haul it in. I was so excited to find an "antique" sofa. Okay, I admit it is a strange fabric and color, and no, I really do not have a place to put it, but I love it. I envision the day I can get it recovered for my living room. Until then, I will clean it and rearrange the living room to make a home for it. I thought about putting it in the dining room, but that just might be too much work for now.
Although YeVette has some of the attributes of a hoarder, her reference to rearranging her living room is a testament to the fact that she still has enough space to rearrange. Again, a true hoarder would have placed her new sofa on top of her old sofa or under her dining table. I do, however, need to comment on the worrisome enabling behavior of her neighbors. I can't help but wonder if there are Hoard-Anon meetings in some church basement in Americus, Georgia.
I need to say here that the two particular friends I've mentioned above aren’t lacking in smarts, education, or the ability to navigate the real world, as Debbie is a judge and YeVette, a college professor. They, like me, might be hurting a little in the womanly-arts department, and we’ll never have our homes featured in House Beautiful, but what do we care? We are people who find ourselves to be incredibly interesting (not to mention funny) and we don't really want people visiting us anyway.
Just this morning, I felt much better as I went to find my shoes for work. The bottom of my closet is currently a choreographed beauty of organized shoes, situated, two by two, like All God's Creatures hanging out in the Ark awaiting the Flood. This is so because I arranged them a few weeks ago, cleaning out my closet and putting things aside for charity, activities hoarders just don't do. I currently have my discarded shoes in a bag next to my closet and I have plans to drop them off soon. That's unless I can figure out a way to create some kind of op-art 3-D sculpture by nailing my shoes to my bedroom wall. I kind of like that idea.
Finally, I must admit some good can come from watching Hoarders. The last time I saw an episode, I ended up throwing out a bag of ice I’d purchased five years ago when I first moved to Atlanta, an act that made me feel good about myself, as I was taking control of my life. What I need to remember is that it's all about balance and taste and organization. I definitely think throwing away my five-year-old ice serves to make room in my life for other things, things like my shoe wall art. Ultimately, I'm just happy to know I don't have a problem.