TV shows about hoarding have recently replaced my previous addiction to TV shows following the police around (before that I was a bit obsessed with shows about completely anal Australian Customs officials). Although I was once briefly involved in a police car-chase (I hadn’t noticed the flashing lights behind me, as I was very engrossed in belting out a Blondie song while driving – which may have also contributed to the fact that I was doing double the speed limit), I have much more in common with hoarders than I do with cops and robbers. I feel very attached to my stuff. I have a lot of stuff. I also have a very small house which I would like to sell.
The hoarding shows on TV seem to work on the premise that people keep stuff to fill a void in their lives – usually caused by the death of a loved one, divorce, or abuse – but I can’t really say that that applies to me. I do think that being a student for many years may have contributed to the stash – firstly because I lived like, well, a student and it was perfectly acceptable to have kitschy nick-nacks adorning every spare surface because that’s really the only way one can personalise a rented space. Secondly, I lived for years on no bloody money and every treat from family and every 3 for 2 book deal was valued and special. When I finally entered the workforce and had spare cash I started treating myself to books; I’ve never been one for flashy holidays and things like that, but being able to read a book review and then go out and buy it (in paperback, of course, I’m not blummin’ Rockerfeller) seems to me to be the ultimate luxury.
There is also the clothing issue. The older I become the harder it gets to throw clothes out – partly because I now know the fickleness of fashion and am pretty sure that everything I own will at some point be ‘in’ again. Ah if only I had kept my puffball skirt and my collection of batwing jumpers in zany prints. Now there’s a bit of 90s grunge revival going on and I’m bringing a few of my old favourites back out from the back of my wardrobe. Only a few though, since I was a lot thinner before I went to university and lived on pizza for the best part of a decade (and it was the best part of a decade – Lucky’s pizza was delicious!). But perhaps I’ll lose a lot of weight when I successfully manage to stop eating crisps/complete a 500cal fast day without cracking/discover a form of exercise that doesn’t make me want to fucking kill myself. Then those size 12 corduroy trousers bought in a variety of colours from Top Shop will fit me again. So I really shouldn’t throw them away.
I also blame ‘the parents’. I’m not saying that I grew up in a dirty home, but I did learn that stacking shit up in cluttered piles was a valid form of tidying up. Evidence for the Prosecution – returning home from school one day, I pottered around the house for almost an hour before my mum got home and pointed out that we had been burgled. Evidence for the Defence – I probably wouldn’t have noticed if the house was on fire or had been transported to a strange land, inadvertently killing a witch, as I was that kind of kid. My bf grew up in a very tidy home, his parents even had a special folder in which they kept receipts and warranties for all major purchases. Everything had its place. Unfortunately my bf will put a carrier bag filled with receipts and bills and old tissues and out-of-date throat lozenges and reams of paper on which he has practised writing Japanese characters up in the loft, rather than sort it out. So maybe I can’t blame the parents.
And now I’m trying to sort it all out, but when I watch shows like The Hoarder Next Door I can hear myself in their justifications for keeping an old dog-eared copy of The Daily Express – “But I may want to look at it one day”, “No, I must keep this broken ornament because it belonged to X”, “I’m SURE that this will come in useful”. Even though I see myself in them, I also find myself shouting at the telly “THROW THE SHIT AWAY, YOU MENTALIST! YOU HAVEN’T USED IT FOR FIFTEEN YEARS YOU WILL NOT MISS IT”. I really need to take my own
abuse advice. So now there are books and clothes going to the local PDSA shop (I am hoping that this will lead to the gentrification of my neighbourhood, with the people of Bramley suddenly embracing literary fiction and shunning tracksuits for my donated corduroy wonders) and the really crappy stuff is going in the bin.
I’ll never be a minimalist, but if I can get rid of enough stuff to make my house look normal, then I can sell it and buy a bigger house that I can
fill with even more shite tastefully decorate and display the things that are actually important to me.