Going into this move, I knew it would be a lot of work. After you’ve been on the planet for a few decades (and aren’t forced to move around a lot) you tend to accumulate a healthy pile of what can only be described as “crap.” This healthy pile of crap is made up of many different kinds of objects. Some are small, like that floppy disk from 1983 containing all your critically important VisiCalc files. Some are large, like that life-sized model of Chewbacca you made out of a wad of macaroni, Elmer’s glue, and finger-paint. But all have somehow become inexplicably precious.
I’ve seen a few episodes here and there of the television show Hoarders. If you haven’t seen it yourself, the typical episode goes like this. One or more family members concerned about another family member’s inability to throw anything away calls Lifetime TV. Lifetime TV sends out one film crew and one psychologist and one expert closet organizer. They then pounce on the unsuspecting victim, rip away their treasured possessions, and then leave triumphantly. But not before getting the ubiquitous “after” shots so that we can see how much good they’ve done for the Compulsive Hoarding Disorder sufferer.
Sure, the place looks great afterwards. And no one’s saying that it would have been perfectly fine to continue letting this person live in a house where the sole form of navigation is through a tiny channel carved through eight-foot high piles of dead rats. But something about the methods they use have bothered me. For one, I don’t believe that simply clearing up the junk has instantly cured anyone’s psychological disorders. For another, the Cleanup Crew tries to use logic to convince the hoarder to let go of stuff. Look around, people! Does it look like logic has played any part in this before now?
Lifetime TV: “We see you’ve saved this banana peel from 1997. Do you really need it?”
Hoarder: “Well . . .”
Lifetime TV: “It’s a stupid banana peel for chrisssakes! Why do you need this?”
Hoarder: [clearly struggling] “Well . . . I guess . . . I . . . I don’t.”
Lifetime TV: “So it’s going in the garbage, right? RIGHT!?”
At which point the hoarder secretly vows to retrieve it from the trash that night when no one’s looking so the collection remains intact.
While, clinically speaking, I’m not a hoarder, I am what’s more affectionately known as a pack rat. While on a much, much smaller scale than full-blown hoarding, I still “get it.” I still know that feeling of being unable to part with a completely unnecessary object.
Of course I don’t need that old floppy disk from 1983. But here’s the thing. That old floppy disk is part of my own personal history. The disk itself is as useless as that old banana peel. But what it represents is still very much a part of me. I throw it away and it’s like that entire year of my life never happened. Illogical? Totally. Does that mean that feeling isn’t real? It is.
So sure, I’ve admittedly held on to far too many things for far too long. And while overall my house isn’t stacked to the ceiling with rats or trash or macaroni art, my garage comes pretty close. And as we prepare for The Move, going through that has become Job One.
We’ll just pick it up from here next week.