Last week I drove by an estate sale sign, and had to stop and check for bargains. My god, that lady collected a lot of stuff. I asked the people at the sale, was this one estate or multiple. They assured me it all belonged to one widow who may have lived in that house for 45 years. Stuff was packed into banana boxes, piled up and packed solid into rooms in the basement, then the garage, then the spare bedroom.

I bought a couple of glass pie plates. The one thing I can cook is a pie. That's an exaggeration, but I figure I can never have too many pie plates. After all, one day there might be a shortage, then what would I do?

My parents' stuff was all sold at auction earlier this year. A few years ago I had made an attempt at clearing out some stuff, worried that adult protective services might declare the place a fire hazard and unsafe for my parents to live there. Did my mom really need 25 unopened packages of flannel pajamas? Did they need a basement full of dishes and sheets and towels and underwear? My dad was annoyed with me, didn't think I should interfere, so I gave up.

Has anyone had an elderly relative who didn't hoard? At what point in life do we become our parents? Is this "stuff" part of our identity?

Not having had nearly as long as my parents, or that poor lady, to accumulate rooms and rooms packed solid with "stuff", I've discovered that it's taking me longer to find things, and there are fewer places to put "stuff". AM I becoming my parents already?

The past few weeks, I decided to do something about it. I've always near-worshiped books. After all, they contain knowledge, history, information. Books are precious. But my thought is, if I haven't opened the book in a few years, and especially if I've forgotten that I own it, it's time to let someone else benefit from the knowledge. So I packed about a dozen boxes full of books, all sorts of good stuff. Then clothes. OK, I'm going to lose the weight and get into those clothes again. But a suit that I haven't worn in 10 years? Shirts that I haven't been able to wear in even longer? Maybe someone would benefit from those too. If I ever get my weight that low again, I can just buy a couple of items. I really don't wear more than 4 or 5 shirts and 4 or 5 trousers, anyway. A few for the office, a couple of torn, paint splotched workpants and shirts that I pride in how much evidence of my home remodeling they contain, and that's about all I need. Some blankets I've never used - gifts that I was too guilty to want to give away, after all, they were gifts. Kitchen stuff that hasn't been used in 5 years more more.

I did keep my old Army uniform. Not sure why, but no one else would want it either. I like having that.

Still not sure what to do with my great grandmother's china. I really don't want it. Or a few other "heirlooms" that just collect dust. I don't think they are really "mine", and I don't want to be their caretaker any more. I don't want to belong to that "stuff" that someone else collected. Neither does anyone else in my family, but they are my "hot potato" for the moment.

Three carloads off to goodwill so far. I'm not that old lady, a couple more carloads should do it. Now I can walk into my "Junk room" and actually see everything in a glance. The closets actually have room. The kitchen cabinets actually have space, and I can find stuff now.

I've bought many items at Goodwill. Clothes, kitchen tools. It's one of my favorite forms of recycling. It's not that I can't afford a new workshirt - but why buy it new when someone has broken one in for me?

There is still no shortage of "stuff". But I do feel a bit lighter. A bit more "free."

And I vow not to become my parents.

And I made a fantastic cauliflower & mushroom pie in that new pie plate. Olive oil crust with just a bit of lemon juice to make it fluffy. Lots of garlic. Loved it.

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Comment by Idaho Spud on August 26, 2013 at 11:29am

I was looking for your post about your marriage when I came across this and just had to comment.  

I'm a hoarder.  With my low income, I can't bear to get rid of something I can use someday, and have to buy a new one.  However, that's not sound logic, because saving a few dollars is not worth the negative consequences, like:

1.  It causes me to waste time searching for things I can't find.

2.  It depresses me to have such a crowded place with no place to work, and no place to put anything If I want to go through it.

3.  Like you said, it causes me to continue buying items when I already have them hiding under other stuff.  The last few days I've been wiring 7 AC outlets to the outside of my house so I don't have to run extension cords out the door all the time.  In so doing, I looked for a Ground Fault Current Interrupter outlet to put in one box and wire the rest to it.  I immediately found the one I remembered I had on a shelf in the bathroom, waiting for me to replace the bathroom outlets with it.  Then, while looking for more regular outlets & etc, I found another GFCI, then another, then another.  So far, I've found 8 of them, and I only thought I had two!

4. As you said, it's a fire hazard.  I want to get a reverse mortgage on the house, but I don't dare yet, as they would probably refuse me, or degrade what they would give me.

5.  I have such narrow walkways between the junk, I'm constantly bumping my toes, feet, legs, arms, & other parts of the anatomy.  Painful and induces swearing!

6.  Because things are stacked so high, they fall once in a while, causing me to thing there is someone in the house.

7.  Things get broken under the weight of the stuff on top.

8.  I'm embarrassed to have anyone visit, even my brother who would be as bad as me if he didn't have a wife.  He is the only one I let in my house anymore.

9.  My garage is so full, It's a huge pain getting my large woodworking tools out, so I put-off creating the wood projects I want to build.

I'm sure there are other good reasons for a huge cleaning, but I put it off because other things are more enjoyable.  

That being said, I do have some small positive steps in that direction.  A few years ago, I went through several boxes of books and magazines.  I threw-out all the old out-of-date magazines, such as Consumer Reports along with all the old electronics and computer magazines.  I gave all my old Readers Digest's to Goodwill.

As for all the religious books I found, I totally destroyed them.  I think they're such a detriment to society, I don't want anyone reading them.  Didn't feel bad about it at all.  It felt good.  There were a few that I kept because they're old and show what Mormons used to believe and show how much they've changed the "everlasting truth". 

I also have definite plans, in the near future, to make my 1-ton flatbed pickup with dual rear tires usable again by unloading it and getting rid-of the nearly worthless stuff, like small pieces of weathered lumber.   At present, it has 4-foot walls and a ceiling, and is packed with stuff.  A few years ago, when the city told me I had to get rid of that pile I had on the ground because it increased the mouse population, I couldn’t bear to get rid of all of it, so I filled my pickup full, and it’s been sitting useless ever since.

I'm sure I would be much happier if I could reduce my stuff 70%.  I guess hanging-on to everything is an emotional thing, or even an addiction.  However, your post and my reply has encouraged me to start again to reduce the clutter.

Comment by sacha on October 1, 2010 at 1:22pm
cauliflower & mushroom pie! yum

I've always been the opposite. I search the house to get rid of things on a regular basis. It makes me feel good. lighter. I just moved out of a cottage that was 300 square feet. I lived there for 5 years. I did outgrow it, but it took 5 years. A small room, and a loft that was big enough for a bed and a small trunk, a small kitchen, and a bathroom. The worst was not having a bathtub.

I'm now renting a room in a friend's home. Except for one sofa chair, everything of mine fits in the master bedroom, with room to spare. It's like a mini apartment in one room... and I have a bathtub.

I constantly give things away, and of course, 99% of my clothes are from Goodwill, so when I donate there, it's like trading. I have a closet full of expensive clothes, all from Goodwill.

I'm glad you did that, Daniel, I find it cleansing.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on September 30, 2010 at 12:49pm
Do you have a VA hospital in your area? I give all my old books and magazines to the VA. I don't know if ordinary hospitals still have book carts for patients. The VA has a book swap in their library. A lot of public libraries have book swaps, too. Or you could sell them at a used bookstore. In addition, I give old movies to the VA home/rehab center. The VA seems to pretty much run their library on donated books - especially in the VA homes.

If you know anyone stationed tdy in the Middle East, you could also send them as a contribution to the libraries they have overseas. Believe it or not, there is usually a library on every base even in combat zones.
Comment by Daniel W on September 30, 2010 at 9:28am
Thanks for the comments. For my parents I was concerned partly about the piles of stuff they would leave, and partly about their safety. When things build up to a point that they are a fire hazard, and make difficult to get out, there's a valid safety issue.

For me, it's partly an efficiency issue. If there is too much stuff, it becomes easier to buy something than to find the same item, unless I hae some great organizing system.

Ive been working on losing weight, after increasing 40 pounds in 10 years. I had keps my prior clothes as I bought new "fat clothes". Now, it's a bit like going through an estate sale in my own house, finding things that fit. It's not really worth it - much better to take it to good will, or give it away, let someone else, who might actually need the clothes, have them, rather than tell myself "that will fit if I lose # more pounds". If I want to save money, I can probably find similar items at someone else's yard sale or estate sale, or a used clothing store myself. Much more efficient.

Im also thinking I shouldn't keep the bibles I have. There are several. There is no shortage of bibles in the world, must be tens of millions. But I hate to throw away books. Goodwill does take book, I gave them several boxes, but I don't want to mistakenly give someone a bible to read.

I took another carload to goodwill this week. My car doesn't actually hold that much, but it made a difference.

Now Im trying to decide what to do with the old National Geographics - I mean really really old, 50, 60 years. They seem historic. Maybe Craigslist. Maybe 2 boxes of those.
Comment by Grace Fitzpatrick on September 29, 2010 at 7:29pm
I had three grandparents who were not hoarders and one who was. She hoarded weird stuff like coffee creamer and frozen pizza. I always attributed it to her fear the Depression was going to come around again. I do know what you mean though, I have a concern my mom maybe a hoarder.
Comment by Regina M on September 29, 2010 at 12:54pm
I've just been dealing with this as well since my parents have sold the house they've lived in for 35 years and have downsized to a condo. I think some of this accumulation has to do with the fact that they lived there for so long. I've moved 3 times in the past 11 years, and that in and of itself is a powerful impetus to rid oneself of all the unnecessary morass that manages to wedge itself into one's life. I've been feeling a powerful need after all of this to do the same as you and get rid of things. I did a major overhaul of my office a couple years ago, but even that has started the slow downward spiral of complacency. You have inspired me!

Books. Oy. Don't talk to me about books!
Comment by Patrick B on September 28, 2010 at 10:14am
My parents do the same thing. They are both in thier 80's. My mom saves everything and my dad has just given up. All of my brothers and sisters feel the same way. What will we do with all of this stuff when Mom and Dad are gone? Charity or sell. It is going to be a big job. I think part hoarding is caused by living thru the depression. Save this, hold onto that, might need to have one of these someday. All you can do is love them. :)


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