Sunday, October 13, 2019

Thinning the Hoard

I've believed for many years that there is a fine line between being a collector and being a hoarder.  As the decades go by, my various collections seem to grow.  At the same time, the space in my home is limited since I now live in a small-ish 2BR/2BA condo.  I have kept too many of my antique furniture storage pieces, which overpower the small rooms.  And my stamina for dusting treasured knick-knacks and dark wood surfaces is declining. 

I recently had my condo re-piped, which necessitated emptying the contents of lower cabinets in my  kitchen and bathrooms - toiletries, cleaning supplies, pots and pans etc.  I lived with the contents piled up along the edges of my living room for weeks.  This mess reminded me of a past client who hoarded paperwork in boxes and bags lined up along the perimeter of her rooms, as well as random piles all over her home and garage. 

Because of my experience with my organizing clients, I have done some research on the subject of hoarding.  Hoarding can be mild or severe in its impact on a person's life.  Hoarding is sometimes considered an aspect of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and associated with anxiety disorders.  These tendencies are more common as we age.

I also boxed up a lot of decorative items in my master bedroom and bathrooms which were in the way of the re-pipe project and put them hastily in unmarked cartons in my small one car garage.  This was in the early stages of my water leak detection and remediation in early July.  I was so aggravated and felt so overwhelmed with all this "stuff" I started cleaning out my tiny garage which was somewhat cathartic (and physically exhausting!) at the time.  I pulled out some boxes of similar decorative bedroom and bathroom items from a prior water leak and restoration project in my other bathroom in 2015.  I moved all these cartons to my carport area to force myself to go through them and start to reduce my inventory.

We all have relationships with our stuff.  Even if it's dollar store or thrift shop "junque", it represents a part of our life story.  Our stuff reminds us of a party we attended, a gift from a loved one, a remembrance from our family of origin, hobbies we may no longer actively pursue, well-loved pets, books, clothing, and photos of or greeting cards from people who may be long gone.

The Minimalists and Marie Kondo's KonMari "sparking joy" methods are current trends on social media, blogs, best selling books and on Netflix live stream. In our materialistic society where we typically use our garages to store our "stuff" while parking our cars in the driveway, one can easily make a case to downsize.  I follow these posts with interest as grist for the mill.  As with many of life's ongoing dilemmas, I seek balance in my views - not minimalist and not hoarding.

Years ago I attended a Unity church in San Diego.  I remember the minister made a comment to the effect that " has become our god and acquisition has become our practice."  This resonates with me in my own life and rings true in my observations of friends' and clients' struggles to manage their collections.  Our cultural preoccupation with shopping and our identifying with our material possessions has in my humble opinion, gone off the rails.  Yet I too, feel conflicted emotios as I downsize my treasures.

My sorting-the-cartons project was delayed by the recent exterior paint project in my condo community.  For that I had to haul these cartons back into the garage.  Once the painting was finished, I began to seriously go through these boxes in preparation for the condo community's annual garage sale which was yesterday.  I spent an exhausting week staging and pricing my goodies.  I admit that I set aside the better and less generic stuff for "later".  I have been to and held many garage sales and I know what sells and what doesn't.  Yesterday's sale was just the top layer.  It was fairly successful - I'd say I sold maybe 75% of what I had displayed.  I pulled back a few items into the house and filled the back seat of my car with thrift shop donations.  I am committed to NOT going into the thrift shop when I drop off the donations!  That is my Waterloo.  I always find a treasure or two to bring home in my "retail therapy" thrift shopping sessions.  True, it's cheaper than real therapy, but I am learning my limits late in life and don't wish to go south from collecting into hoarding.

Next I will to go through the better and more specialized "stuff" and try to sell some of my collections - my family pieces, furniture, Hawaiiana and cat collections.  I'm thinking NextDoor and perhaps a new site called Mercari.  I'm not a huge fan of packing and shipping items, so there may be some challenges in this chapter of my downsizing.  Just another way my "stuff" is a mixed blessing in my life.

Image by andreas N from Pixabay

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