Saturday, August 2, 2014

All the wrong stuff

"I should spend more time playing with my dog and much less money on this needless junk I buy."

The truth will out.

I'm a hoarder.

Oh, A&E won't be coming out any time soon to shoot a documentary about me. I'm fastidious about taking out the trash, and you can easily walk through my house. You might think it a little messy or cluttered, but nothing extraordinary.

Because I'm a clandestine hoarder.

Almost everything is put away, out of sight, even organized in a somewhat tidy way.

There's just too freaking much of it. I have an ungodly amount of stuff.

I've already confessed to the socks, underwear and shoes. Shirts and sweaters. Nightgowns. Hand soap. Toiletries. Purses. Watches.

This goes deeper.

It's the boxes the watches came in. The never-worn jewelry. The little boxes that once held jewelry, and might come in handy for something. Someday.

The flip side of this, one might say the commendable side, is that I hate waste. Throwing away perfectly good little boxes, even tossing them in the recycling bin, goes against the grain.

But as a redeeming value, it barely scratches the surface of redemption. No one should have this much stuff. No one needs this much stuff.

So, the answer is simple, right? Get rid of it, right? Make a large donation to charity. Hold a garage sale. Sell it on eBay.

Aye, there's the rub. It would be a lot of work to sell it. A lot of work even if I donate it, because I'd have to make a record for tax deduction purposes. Writing it all down is just ... scary.

But that's not the main reason. The main reason is that I'm attached to it. I bought it because I liked it, at least at the time. And I still like it, when it surfaces, although when it's out of sight, it's assuredly out of mind. I've forgotten half the stuff I have squirreled away.

I have two daughters and a stepdaughter. At one time I thought my girls would like some of the jewelry at least. And then I thought I might have grandkids. Well I do, I have one so far, and he already has everything. Between gifts, hand-me-downs from friends, resale shops, and the fact that my daughter is savvy and thrifty, he has every toy, gadget and gismo, and he outgrows clothing before he wears some of his cute little duds more than once.

My children won't thank me when the day comes that they have to clean out my stuff, unless I take drastic measures toward un-hoarding.

A simple step in the right direction would be to stop buying. Just stop. Buy nothing unnecessary again. Just stop collecting coffee mugs from every vacation spot we visit. Just stop going to Bath & Body Works because I have a coupon. Or because they are having a sale.

No more soap. No more lotion. No more collectibles. No more jewelry. You don't need it Liz! Start winnowing it down. Baby steps. Fill a bag for Purple Heart once a month. Use what you have, don't stockpile, don't squirrel it away, don't save it for a rainy day.

The time is now.

I love the idea of simplifying my life. Traveling light, leaving a small footprint. But open a random desk drawer and find several dozen magic markers. I can't just throw them away. I have to at least save the ones that still write. Close that drawer. I'll think about it later.

It's funny, one of the things I've collected is storage containers for my stuff. Plastic bins. Carts. Boxes. Baskets. Racks. Displays. Chests. Bowls for little things. Pencil cups. Cigar boxes. Crates. It's endless.

And you know those plastic tubs that baby wipes come it? I have one in every bathroom and when they are empty, I keep them. Some have contents, some are just stacked up waiting. So why don't I just buy the jumbo refills? Well, because the price is about the same and when I find uses for the tubs, they're really quite, um, useful.

That's what Neil calls magical thinking. I call it screwy logic.

Oh yes, shipping boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts. I do use them sometimes and the right size box is well worth adding to the collection in my closet. And return address label stickers that the Nature Conservancy keeps sending me because I once made a $15 contribution. I use maybe one return label a year, shipping labels get printed online, checks are sent directly from my bank, everything is deposited and debited electronically. But I have to keep those labels, it would be wasteful to pitch them.

I'm not even going to talk about the beads. OK, I'm going to talk about the beads. I've been selling lots of my beads, which is good, but I've been buying lots of beads from other artists, which has to stop or slow down. I'm quickly filling the mini file cabinet that I got when three jewelry boxes couldn't hold my spoils. At least I do enjoy owning them, and look at them often, usually when I add the latest one to come in the mail.

And the "bead store" beads. The Czech glass, Austrian crystals, gemstone beads. I'm not a jewelry designer, I don't make jewelry but every once in a while I string a necklace using some of my lampwork beads, usually to wear myself, and to use as examples when people ask "what do you do with them?" at bead shows. (Come on, it's a bead show. Seriously.) That doesn't stop me from loving them (the bead store beads, not the customers, although there are a few customers I'm truly fond of). So I buy glass and gemstone beads, crystals. You might say I collect them. I'll never use most of them but owning them does make me happy.

Happy. Except on days when I think about the bigger picture and feel guilty and overwhelmed with the excess. I wonder why I have any money at all when I've spent so much on stuff. I wonder if it would have made a material financial difference if I'd bought none of it, if it's just a drop in the proverbial bucket. Maybe I'm just normal. Maybe other people have secret stashes of something or other. Maybe most people. Maybe there are support groups for hoarders.

Maybe I need to find one and sign up.

Or maybe I'll summon up some steely resolve and start making a dent in it. I've taken the first step.

I've admitted that I'm powerless over stuff — that my hoarding has become unmanageable.

It should be downhill from here.


"I'm unworthy, and no matter what I'm doing
I should certainly be doing something else
And it's selfish to be thinking I'm unworthy
All this me, me, me, me, self, self, self, self, self
If I'm talking on the phone I should be working on the lawn
Which looks disgraceful from the things I haven't done
If I'm working on the lawn I should be concentrating on
Those magazines inside, since I have not read one

I should learn how to meditate and sew and bake
And dance and paint and sail and make gazpacho
I should turn my attention to repairing
All those forty year old socks there in that bureau
I should let someone teach me to run Windows
And learn French that I can read and write and speak
I should get life in prison for how I treated my parents
From third grade until last week

I should spend more time playing with my dog
And much less money on this needless junk I buy
I should send correspondence back to everyone
Who's written, phoned or faxed since junior high
I should sit with a therapist until I understand
the way I felt back in my mind
I should quit smoking, drinking, eating, thinking
sleeping, watching TV, writing stupid songs

I should be less impatient when the line just takes forever
'Cause the two cashiers are talking
I should see what it's like to get up really early rain or shine
And spend three hours walking
I should know CPR and deep massage and Braille
And sign language and how to change my oil
I should go where the situation's desperate
And build and paint and trudge and tote and toil

I should chant in impossible positions
"Til my legs appear to not have any bones
I should rant at the cops and politicians
And the corporations-in indignant tones
I should save lots of money to leave Audubon
Plus all the rocks and animals and plants
I should brave possibilities for plotting plums of problems
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah I'm unworthy."

(Cheryl Wheeler)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz