« Grandpop's Eye | Main | The Literary Genius »

Monday, 30 April 2012

Collector or Hoarder

By Barbara Sloan

I’ve always considered myself a collector. I let only a few people see my crawl space, my extra bedroom, my closets, the attic and basement. One afternoon, my daughter called and asked, “Did you know that your friends are calling you a hoarder?”

“Who told you that?”

She gave me a name that I will not put in print. I gasped. “I thought she was a friend. I showed her all my collections. If she told you I am a hoarder, she isn’t a friend of mine!”

“You are not a hoarder.

I told her to watch the show about hoarders tonight so she knows the difference. I’ll be over so you and I can watch it together.”

I was a little nervous as the show began. The rooms were packed with “things.” A psychologist on the show explained that it was an obsessive-compulsive disorder that took over a person’s life just like addictions.

The lady, who had agreed to be filmed, denied that this was a compulsion that helped her deal with some emotional factors or events in her life or that she needed help.

There was not one room that was free of debris, just things she brought home to fill the space. There was no living space left for her or her children.

After the show, my daughter and I reviewed my house. No problems in the kitchen. I collect antique kitchen tools but they are displayed neatly covering all the space available on all four walls.

The living room shelves, tables and floor had my wood collection scattered throughout. The dining room glass cabinets displayed my teapot collection.

We poked our heads in the bathroom. A narrow shelf near the ceiling surrounding the room contained soap dishes propped against the wall gathering dust.

“Okay, these rooms look all right. Now let’s go to the basement,” my daughter suggested.

“Are you sure we need to?’ I cringed as I said it. “It’s kind of hard to get around down there.”

“Why is that? I haven’t been down there since you moved here three years ago. It looked all right then.”

I decided not to say more and led the way down the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs, boxes piled in the way stopped us. We moved a couple of boxes, then a few more until we reached the wall full of shelves that were packed with books from floor to ceiling.

“Are all those boxes full of books too?” my daughter asked.

“Ye-e-s-s.” I replied, “I keep meaning to come down here and sort some out to give away but I can’t seem to part with them. Does that make me a hoarder?”

My daughter laughed. “No, Mother. It means you are a collector. Most serious collectors can’t part with items that meant enough to them to bring home. Some people call it a hobby. How do you decide which ones to buy? Classics? Westerns? Fiction? Nonfiction?”

“No. I collect by authors that I like. It all began with Pearl Buck because I wanted to learn more about China. Howard Fast has written many good novels in which people act upon or question their values and morals during the world wars and beyond.

I try to find autobiographies or biographies to better understand the author’s motivations and writings.

“Right now I am working on books by Ferrol Sams. He began his writing career in his ‘60’s. He is in his late 80s and still writing. My favorite is called Epiphany published in 1994. It is a series of three short stories written when he was 68.

“His most recent book was published in 2007 entitled, Down Town, The Journal of James Aloysius Holcombe, Jr. for Ephraim Holcombe Mookinfoos. I am still trying to locate that one. You would love his books.”

“Mom, this is great! I‘ve been a little worried that you didn’t have enough to do. I had no idea that you were a serious collector. Haunting used bookstores, reading a variety of authors and collecting books in an organized fashion is great. What are you going to collect next?”

As we walked back up the stairs, I thought, “Maybe it’s a good thing we stopped at the basement and didn’t tackle the collections in the crawl space and attic.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. PLEASE read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


You sound like an interesting woman with a fascinating hobby. I do know some hoarders and I think you are only over the line when it interferes with your ability to live your life: to have visitors or family in your home. I live in a senior housing building, and there are a few whose homes look like they had just gone to Sears and picked out their furnishings: no evidence of having lived a life, no hobbies, no souvenirs, no memorabilia. THEM I worry about,l not you!

Typo: should read just "not you."

At a recent high school mini-reunion a classmate looked over some of the memorabilia collections that several of us had brought - mainly photographs, newspaper clippings, and year books.

He picked up the sad-looking, faded, somewhat musty, slightly crumpled mid-1960s gym uniform that I had brought, held it up, looked at me and said, "Are we going to see you on one of those hoarding shows?"

Barbara - Sorry you deprived us of a visit to your attic!

But, based on the evidence presented, you are a 'collector'!

This was fun. - Sandy

I am not a hoarder. But just as in my prior life, I feel I am just living in storage with all my stuff.

The last time I moved, I threw out as much of that stuff as I possibly could: all the rest would have to fit in the tiny trailer I hauled behind my little pickup on my relocation from from San Diego to the Oregon coast.

I was surprised when I realized almost all that was left was my collections. And a bed.

This is the perfect topic for old folks.

I had piles of books in the attic, basement, spare room, even the garage,(sound familiar?) When I retired I sold, gave away, or dumped them all. Now every week I lament the loss of a Coveted Emerson,Thoreau, or Faulkner and have to run to the library. Throw nothing away! Hoard on!


I am just the opposite... I throw everything away the first chance I get and then I regret it for days and months.

I don't know which one of us is unusual.

Maybe I should keep more and you should keep less. Who knows? Wait! Who Cares?

As long as we are both happy what difference does it make?

Sometimes I think about fire--and all the "stuff" as kindling....Brenda

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment