I think there is a fine line between being a hoarder and preserving things, that the general population would term as unwanted, for the sake of memories. I recently returned home amidst the corona pandemic and as has always been a ritual with me, the first thing I do when I get back home is, sit besides my clothes’ cabinet (that’s completely devoid of clothes and now officially houses my quirkiness) and dig out all my old scrapbooks and bags full of items that I’ve collected over the past fifteen years or so.
Having been away from home for the past two years, I have had my fair share of travel and experiences, from which I obviously accumulated a ton of “junk” to add on to my existing hoard. I bought all that back home with me, along with a vivid layout, I had in mind, for the arrangement of all that stuff.
For an otherwise ‘not-so-organized’ person, my memento collection from different years can come as a shock. I got multiple books and bags, all marked year wise, color coded and ranked in order of importance and size. Not all the stuff in there is necessarily associated with a happy event from my life. For instance, I have these pictures, of a couple of old school mates, that have no specific relevance and the books have a separate section dedicated for their pictures and other related paperwork.
One of the reasons I keep a stock of all my good and bad memories (in the form of these scrap items) is because I believe it to be a proof of the life I have lived thus far. A couple of years back, I showed this collection to one of my friends and for the next couple of days I got all sorts of ‘Hoarding disorders’ related emails in my inbox. I did, for a while, consider the possibility of suffering from this disorder. Let me quote a website’s viewpoint on compulsive hoarding:
“Getting and saving an excessive number of items, gradual build-up of clutter in living spaces and difficulty discarding things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder, which often surfaces during the teenage to early adult years.”
For a long time, I read a lot about this. Compulsive hoarders hoard almost anything and everything – catalogs, mails, broken things, worn out equipment & clothes, and in severe cases clutter their homes with beds that can no longer be slept in, damaged chairs & sofas. By all means, I was far away from doing any of this. I have always maintained a clarity of what is important to me and why and have justified the use of space for the same. A decade of “hoarding” has only led to a half-filled basement of my clothes’ cabinet. I’d say that’s pretty much bearable by any accounts.
The only things I have ever saved were the ones I personally had anything to do with. Birthday cards, the little labels that you stick on gifts with a nicely worded wish and the receiver’s name on it, flight tickets from the first time I went out all alone to a new city, copies of achievement mails, diaries as old as thirteen years, school headbands & ribbons, chit papers we would pass each other during a class. These are the kind of stuff I’ve stocked over the years besides the regular photo albums from each year.
A simple rule to live by, even for hoarders, would be to save things that bring happiness to you. Are of a sentimental value to you and for which your attachment comes from a good place.
For instance, have a look at this image of a gift I received, from one of my close friends, on my birthday. There are all sorts of weird things in that packet – soaps, shower gels, moisturizers, and shampoo bottles from a hotel room. She packed each item with a newspaper and wrote me a message on top of those. The gifts & messages were meant to be metaphors for some of the experiences we had shared, and I absolutely adored it. It only made sense for me to save all of this!
I would want to look back at this kind of stuff, when I reached my old age. Just to be able to remember all sorts of weird, passionate, and crazy people that have been a part of my life and all the experiences that have shaped up my perception of this very weird world we live in.
The joys and miseries of childhood and early adulthood are captured perfectly by Leo Tolstoy in his famous autobiographical works. His dead-on description of the state of mind we all pass through at different stages of life is remarkably accurate and close to, at least, my experiences. This particular post is a result of an extensive reading I’ve been doing, of his works, off late.
This quote from one of his books, ‘Childhood’, makes me a long for a simpler time:
“Do in the after life the freshness and light-heartedness, the craving for love and for strength of faith, ever return which we experience in our childhood’s years? What better time is there in our lives than when the two best of virtues – innocent gaiety and a boundless yearning for affection – are our sole objects of pursuit?”