Straight out of college, my first job involved strolling into the homes of strangers. This is when I learned about hoarding. Turns out, you don’t have to venture into many American homes before you stumble into a full-blown hoarder’s lair. I don’t mean a messy home. There’s no moderated middle for hoarders. If it’s not floor-to-ceiling chaos, you’re just a slob — not really a hoarder. [Oddly enough, “hoarder’ sounds less offensive than slob, but it’s worse… much worse.]
The occupant of the first hoarder-labyrinth I sidled into was an old lady who’d busted her hip slipping on a glossy magazine from an avalanche that had collapsed into the narrow, navigable canyons of her living room.
At the time, I couldn’t understand the impulse to hoard. I’ve never clung to used up material objects. For me, books are the closest thing to a precious, inanimate object, but they’re like soup bones — once one has sucked the marrow out of them, they just take up space and gather dust. [With precious few exceptions that are uniquely-shaped and -sized for a task like opening a beer bottle or clubbing an intruder.]
Still, if I’m to be honest, I’m an ethereal hoarder. All that page-extracted marrow is clogging up my mental attic. I don’t know that I even have narrow, navigable canyons at this point. Too often, it’s a soul-crushing slog to schlep one of the few fine pieces out from storage. It may sound like a good problem to have until one realizes that a lot of it is rubbish, rubble, and remnants — no more useful than the broken-hip lady’s twelve-year-old newspapers, twenty-three year old Good Housekeeping magazines, or eight-track tape polka music collection.