Collecting or hoarding

AT RANDOM: At what point does an interesting collection of items collected on one’s travels turn into hoarding?

At what point does an interesting collection of items collected on one’s travels turn into hoarding?

As someone who hates clutter, I am in no way, shape or form a hoarder.

My desk must be neat before I leave at the end of the day. At home, I have empty boxes I fill with stuff I no longer need; when they are full I wait for a charity garage sale and off they go.

I’m not someone who struggles with extra paper and junk mail as I am ruthless with it: once it’s been looked at, into the blue box it goes.

When my husband dares to put his wallet and keys on the counter, he’s not in the door more than five seconds before I’ve repositioned them on top of the dryer (which I suspect is a hold-all for many households).

But recently, he accused me of being a hoarder and it shocked me until I realized I did indeed have hoarding tendencies. I was cleaning out the basement and organizing things on newly purchased wire shelving.

Among the items I was organizing was a number of plastic storage containers, all filled with memorabilia. A lot of it was letters and birthday cards I had received since I was very young, but most of it was stuff my daughter had created, starting when she first began using fingerpaints, progressing through to more intricate projects involving feathers and other found objects.

In other words, these were all valuable treasures with which I could not part. I had literally saved anything to which my precious child had applied so much as a crayon stroke,

But was it crucial to save every school supply list and every party invitation, particularly to parties hosted by children whom she probably wouldn’t recognize if she ran into them on the street?

My mom had three kids, and all of us now have a carefully curated collection of our handiwork. Mine includes my plaster hand-print from kindergarten, which is actually rather cool to have.

I know when it all began. I was 12 years old and we were living like nomads out of a Volkswagen camper, spending five months driving/camping around Europe. Everywhere we went, I collected stuff: I still have an empty Welch’s chocolate box crammed with stuff: a pack of hand wipes (apparently known as rince doigts) from a hotel in Orléans, France; sugar cubes from a hotel in Casablanca, Morroco, complete with Arabic printing; a tiny tube of toothpaste (crema dental) from Spain.

But I was also happy to collect closer to home, so mixed in with the collection is a gold-wrapped bar of soap from what was then called The Village Green Inn and a pack of matches from Knott’s Berry Farm (today, it’s hard to imagine a family theme park with souvenir matches).

I don’t need this stuff, but I can’t bear to part with it. Every time I open the box, I am transported back to those places I was lucky enough to discover as a child, to a time when the five members of my family were together 24/7 (not without some squabbling amongst my siblings and me, to be honest) seeing the world and learning about other cultures, discovering a world beyond the familiar.

And now my daughter is showing similar tendencies. At my gym recently, there was a basket of shampoo and conditioner samples, so I figured I would take one home for her. That was three weeks ago, and she refuses to use it, deeming it “special.” Every toilet paper tube, every large box, every Popsicle stick is saved because it might be handy for a craft. To be fair, she has made tiny houses out of Popsicle sticks, and “lava lamps” out of old water bottles, so she usually follows through on her crafty instincts.

And under the sink in the bathroom is a plastic container filled with her collection of miniature hotel soaps and shampoos. Apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.