I found a new website, childrenofhoarders.com, to which I contributed this entry.
My father’s hoarding was focused on the mail he received. Every single letter (including all junk mail), postcard, bank statement, and magazine, had to be meticulously dated and saved. Even magazines which print the date on the cover had to be dated with the date of arrival, as if this mattered.
I’ve seen the same sort of obsessive writing down of useless information elsewhere — the mileage on his car’s odometer every time he’d fill up the tank. Which at least makes some sense, in that if your gas mileage suddenly changes you might have a car problem. Even thinking about that hurts me, because I see I am trying to apply logic to a compulsion he has that has no logic behind it.
To this day, I resent the delivery by the post office of junk mail, for although I myself can throw it away without even looking at it, I curse how this unwanted junk mail ruined my parents’ house. When I hear about the United States Postal System possibly going out of business, my reaction is “GOOD!”. Or more reasonably, I wish the postmaster would make it so expensive to send junk mail that delivery of junk mail would be a rarity, rather than the main business of the post office.
First it would be piled on the dining room table. Then it would migrate into the living room. When the living room was full (some twenty years ago), movable carts in front of the front door area, and the filling up both the basement and the cellar.
I also still recoil at the sound of a knife slicing through an envelope. Because he would stand at the dining room table, doing his “slice slice slice” routine on all the mail which any normal person would simply dump into the recycle bin unopened. To this day I still use my finger to open my mail to avoid that sound.
On the positive side, I have to say that for myself, I get a thrill out of disposing of bulky packaging. For example, when I buy a CD (and yes I am still buying CDs until iTunes starts selling lossless-quality downloads!), I put the disc and the artwork in a thin plastic sleeve meant for such things, and I throw the bulky jewel case into the garbage. And it feels great. It feels like being free of the excess crap that society tries to foist on us. Same thing with movies – they go into binders or discsox. Because even though there are things that I want to keep — and I do keep some stuff, I am not a monk — I want to be rid of the weight and bulk that so ruined my folks’ lives.
It is fair to say that the accumulation of too much stuff scares me, on what has now become an instinctual level. No doubt because of the trauma of seeing the junk grow around me from my father’s actions as a child and young adult.
I am a young 40 something now. My father and mother, still alive, still do period cleanings, taking a few years at a time to get one room (such as the cellar) empty. Very unlikely they will have a living room again. I also remember my mother crying, begging my father to change, many times throughout the years.