I don’t know how it happened; I just know what it feels like to come out in the open with my secret. I don’t think I am a hoarder, and I suppose that is just what a hoarder may say, it’s just that I may be sentimental… maybe too sentimental. I have mementos from our first year of dating that are 34 years old. I still have a tennis sweater that I won in a backgammon game (fair and square) from our honeymoon in Kennebunkport, Maine. I’m not sure if I am keeping it to remind me of our honeymoon or my victory, either way, I will probably be buried in it, since I haven’t worn the sweater in thirty years. I have my old GI Joe, books from my childhood, and the pictures that decorated my dorm wall from 1983. Ok, maybe I am a hoarder.
As we prepare to move from the house that we designed, built, and occupied for the last seventeen years, I am coming face to face with my problem. Truth be told, it is not just me, but I am not about to throw my wife under the bus, so I will accept full responsibility. Our home features a full basement with a sizable concrete crawl space with a three-foot clearance under the entire footprint of the house. As we attempt to purge ourselves of the various collections we have amassed, we have had the opportunity to open boxes that have remained unopened since before we moved in. Each box contains treasured memories and an awareness of how much stuff we have accumulated.
While the rest of the world was celebrating our nation’s independence last weekend, I was scooting around seated on a skateboard in the crawl space making big decisions about the junk we have collected over the years. In a way, it was our own Independence Day. The weekend featured multiple trips to the dump, filling our garage with the multitude of things we will be donating, and mulitple showers each day (it was very hot, and basements are dusty).
Our goal in the basement was to make it appear as if “normal people” live here. As I left for work on Monday, I literally stood in the basement and marveled at how well we accomplished our goal. I felt like our house went on a crash diet, shed tons of weight, and is ready for summer and hopefully a new homeowner.
Purging like we did is quite liberating. We contacted friends and neighbors to claim what they wanted from our excess. It is exciting to know that someone else (who we know) will be enjoying the items that have meant so much to us at one point in our lives. One particular item was an antique, oak double bed that Joan found before we were even married. It was in downtown Leland and she needed a place to store it until she moved back downstate. I was working at the Leland Lodge for the summer and offered to store it in their basement. It made sense, but we had no way to get it up the hill and four more blocks. Being the good boyfriend, and still wanting to impress her, I offered to carry it to the Lodge. My back hurts now just thinking about it (I did carry it in two trips).
When we were first married, and living in a flat downstate, this was our first bed. It has since progressed through the family with several of the children having used it. It brings me great joy to know that a neighbor will now enjoy the benefit of our efforts.
This feeling of freedom and liberation is one I can now enjoy, having confronted the (hoarding) problem up close and personal. I am making this vow to all of you right here and now, that I will be much more selective in the stuff we acquire going forward. I never want to feel bloated and flabby from stuff again.
It is a start and will take time to create new habits, but in the meantime if you see me wearing a navy cable knit tennis sweater with kelly green trim, make sure you congratulate me on my victory.