What do hoarders have in common? Why, too many things to list!

I have a close friend that has been dealing with a very ill parent for almost 3 months. As she has been talking with doctors, learning about her parent’s illness, etc., she has also been cleaning her parents’ house. She told me the other day that as she and her aunt and uncle were sorting through the laundry room and kitchen that her uncle said, “We should call American Pickers!” She said that she replied, “As long as you don’t say, “We should call “Hoarders.””

I grew up surrounded by hoarders, or at least by people who were on some part of the hoarding continuum. Usually, they resided toward the “keep everything” end of that continuum. I have noticed a commonality between the people who I know that tend or tended to hoard — they lived during the Great Depression.

Matt said that his mom was a hoarder, but she tended to hoard food more than anything. She used to describe to him how she often went hungry during the Great Depression. And she (like Scarlett O’Hara) vowed not be hungry again. My mamaw and papaw tended to hoard, but I don’t remember it being food as much as just “stuff”. My mama has said that she doesn’t ever remember going hungry growing up, though a meal may have consisted of potatoes cooked two different ways and three different kinds of beans. So, maybe what each person hoarded was based on individual experience.

I also grew up hearing certain phrases over and over from my hoarding friends and family. (Ok, I don’t know that any of them were ever officially diagnosed as hoarders, but if looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.) As things were put onto shelves, or into drawers, or into sheds, they would say, “We could probably fix this.” Or “Someone might be able to use this.” That last statement was a much used one. Because one thing that I did learn about Depression-created hoarding — it was a community-based practice. You kept a lot of stuff because your neighbors and family might need something that you had — it would have been selfish to throw something away.

Matt's Uncle's Doorbell -- This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt’s Uncle’s Doorbell — This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt and I were talking about hoarding this morning over breakfast and about whether the Great Recession that we have been in (is it over?) the last several years will jump-start another round of hoarding in people. I think that a certain generation of people born in the 80s and later have definitely grown up in a disposable mentality — everything can be thrown away and replaced, much different from the mentality of my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Will the recent years of job loss and unemployment and falling consumer confidence and global recession create a compulsive need to keep stuff?

Matt and I don’t hoard — instead we just don’t buy. When we married and merged two fully formed households, it took months to donate, sell, recycle and throw away the excess to create just one household. So, now we think about everything that we bring into the house. And we don’t hang on to stuff that doesn’t work, or that we don’t use, or that doesn’t fit, etc. We try to find another home for it.

And maybe that is the new mentality. Limit what comes in to begin with, but don’t hang on to what you don’t need.

Not my monkeys

I’ve been taking my new puppy to a friend’s house (thanks tons, Wendy!) each day, a house that is within easy driving distance from work, so that I can easily pop over at lunch and let him out during the middle of the day.

The house to the right of Wendy is a rental house and the last renters trashed the house.  The landlord has hired a company to renovate the house for the next set of renters.

The guy in charge of the project is almost always outside in the yard when I am in Wendy’s yard, walking Louie the puppy.  He’s a friendly guy and very chatty.  I’ve learned more than I ever wanted about the condition of the house post-renters, what a bad job the previous property managers did, how upset the landlord is, how much money property managers make, how much money he makes on projects, where his parents live, how many times he’s been to court, how crazy his cat is, etc.  Not even the sight of me bagging Louie’s poop discourages the pseudo-monologue.

Today, our conversation/monologue went to this place:

Guy:  I’ve been married 32 years and in all those years I have never cussed my wife nor have I ever raised a hand to my wife.

me:  *long pause* That’s the way it should be.

I don’t know whose background this reveals the most about (probably his) that he thought that this was an achievement worthy of mentioning to a complete stranger and that I think that this is an ante into marriage and totally not worthy of mention.  For me, it would be like advertising that a car has a steering wheel — duh, it better.  My husband promises not to hit me — well, no shit, that is given in this marriage.  I promise not to poison any meals that I cook and hand to you.  Do we have to put that in the vows?

I realize that for many, many people the reality of violence in their relationships means that my mindset is not their mindset.  A spouse or boyfriend (or a wife/girlfriend) that doesn’t physically abuse them would be very different from current status.  I don’t understand the dynamics between those partners, the demons that drive the abusers and the abusees, etc.  I guess I should count myself lucky, but it makes it hard for me to relate to Mr. Chatty.


I found this on the internets today and I am totally going to introduce it to my daily conversation:

Source: flickr.com via Amy on Pinterest

According to the internets, this is a Polish idiom that means “Not my problem”.  Now, I’ve seen a few occasions where the internets have been wrong, so if you know anything about Polish (and I’m specifically putting a call out there to my friend, “Princess” Jenn, whose grandmother provided us a picture of Jenn’s ancestor King John Sobieski of Poland to hang in our freshman dorm room), I would appreciate validation.  I would hate to be going around saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” when I really should be saying, “Not my circus, not my clowns”.  I want to be right.  Especially when you’re talking about monkeys.  Or circuses.  Or (especially) clowns.