Voyeurism, Hoarding, & Stuff.

The show ‘Hoarders’ on A&E really fascinates and scares me and I can’t help but watch it.  Certainly there is a voyeuristic approach to the show – the viewers get a chance to look inside other people’s homes and see how they live.  But it’s never as exciting as the word ‘voyeuristic’ makes it out to be.  If anything it’s heartbreaking, saddening, and frightening.

The show follows seemingly normal people with a terrible secret – they all have hoarded ‘stuff’.  Some of it may be part of a collection.  Some of it may be gifts for someone else that were never sent.  Some of it is just impulse buys.  But the fact is that it’s all ‘stuff’ that they can’t get rid of.  One man, adamant that he wasn’t a hoarder, said, “…we don’t hoard…we’re…we’re collectors…”  While a collection is typically themed, say sports cards or comics, these people had everything.  And collectors are proud of their collection – they keep it clean, maintained, and on display; these people had none of that.  The simple fact of it all is this: the hoarders have collected ‘stuff’ of all types, for many different reasons, with no way of overcoming the problem by themselves.

I’ve been in a few houses of hoarders – some minimal, and some extreme.  It’s overwhelming to be in a house crammed full of items of all shapes, sizes, smells, and value.  It takes a few minutes to acclimate yourself if it’s your first time because the sheer sense overload takes you for a ride.  When in these situations I always want to start cleaning up and throwing stuff away – old newspapers, broken cups and vases, photos of people no one knows.  But I can’t because it’s not mine, it’s not for me to say that this is trash and that is a keeper.

What’s especially difficult for me is dealing with my grandmother who is in her mid-eighties now.  She lived through the depression and learned at a young age to use what’s available, keep what may be usable, and don’t throw it away unless you’re absolutely sure you won’t need it.  Her thought process makes sense to me because I understand her background, but I can’t understand why she still thinks this way.  She hasn’t gone without in a very, very, very long time.  Her pantry is packed full of canned food, she has a full-size freezer loaded with all kinds of meats and fruits, and her refrigerator is maxed out to capacity.  When she is in plenty, why does she still maintain the thoughts of one who is without?

When I moved to (and from) Alaska, I had to really pare down my possessions.  On the trip up I had mailed many boxes of my belongings, and had only minimally weighed down my car.  But when I returned penniless I couldn’t afford to mail anything, so I had to abandon many of my belongings – printer, books, cd’s, etc.  A lot of things I assumed were precious to me were left behind.  Granted, my car was still loaded down on the return, I had essentially a quarter of what I did before I left to go to Alaska.  Through the years since then I’ve acquired new items, but I’ve also gotten rid of a great many items.  I learned that it’s okay to be without ‘stuff’ – I can survive without the books I never read and the cd’s I never listened to.  I’m proud to say that I can easily get everything I own into my little Mazda Protégé – with room to spare.  I can do without a lot of physical stuff because it’s replaceable, it’s temporary, it’s not all that important.

But here’s the sad fact: I am a hoarder.  I look at my life – my inner life (spiritual, emotional, feelings and all that) – and I realize that I have so many old feelings and hurts stored deep inside me.  So much so that it keeps me trapped, unhealthy, and unable to move forward in life.  I have memories of being hurt by old friends who told me that I wasn’t good enough to be their friend anymore.  I have resounding voices of girlfriends past telling me that it wasn’t me – it was them – when in fact it was me…they no longer wanted to be with me.  I have pictures of faces of people who have scowled, frowned, and yelled at me.  I hoard all this, and so much more, deep within my soul.

It’s a challenge, too, because I don’t always remember the good times – those I don’t always hoard.  Maybe it’s because the bad is easier to remember.  Maybe it’s because I want to hold on to that grudge.  Maybe it’s because the bad is the only thing I remember of that person or event.  I know I’ve had many good things happen in my life, I’ve had many great relationships and friends along the way, and I know the memories and feelings are down in my soul somewhere.  I am a hoarder of emotions, feelings, and all that.

So it’s up to me to say that this is trash and that is a keeper.  Whatever an ex-girlfriend said about why I’m no good – this is trash.  I must hold on to the truth that I am loved by many people – and that is a keeper.  The idea that maybe I never was a good choice for the kickball teams as a kid – this is trash.  Being told that I’ll never be able to read or write – this is trash.  Learning that God loves me in spite of all that I have done to him…in spite of what others think of me – that is a keeper.  That, most definitely, is a keeper.

much love. sheth.

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