One against the hoard

(Feel free to skip this one, Felicity, it’s about life here in Fanhattan. ) 

I live in a hoarding household.

I have known this for a long time, but this is my first time overtly admitting it to myself.  I guess it’s been bothering me for a while and today is the day that it crossed the sensory threshold[1] and became a conscious thought that I could no longer ignore.

The evidence has been quite literally stacking up. This whole apartment is jam packed with boxes and boxes of random crap. There is a huge island of it taking up a third of our living room, for crying out loud.

You know how when people are describing a hoarder house, they always say “there was just a thin corridor between the stacks of stuff”? That’s us, to a T.

And it surprises me to suddenly realize how that has been bothering me.

Why? Because like Joe and Julian, I have stopped seeing the hoard. I’ve accepted it as part of the structure of the apartment. Most of the time I am not even conscious of its existence most of the time.

And as anyone who knows a bit about hoarding knows, that’s called clutter blindness and it’s one of the classic symptoms of hoarding. The hoarder is addicted to adding to the hoard and thus learns to block out all signals from the environment that might tell them to stop, much in the way that a food addict like myself might ignore messages from their body telling them that they are full because they are so fundamentally addicted to using the pleasure from food to meet emotional needs. [2]

So it’s not surprising that when I have broached the subject with Joe, he’s become very defensive and hostile. It’s his hoard, and I was challenging it. That’s never going to go well, no matter how reasonable a case I make or how gently and thoughtfully I put it.

Now as hoarding homes go, this is a very mild case of the syndrome. The hoard isn’t messy or gross, it’s all somewhat organized, and it doesn’t have a severe impact on our lives or place harsh limits on what we can and cannot do.

Makes it kind of hard, not to mention embarrassing, to entertain guests, though. And it would be nice to have the room to have a table and chairs where we could play board games or, miracle diablu, even eat a meal together.

Ya know. Like humans do.

But you can see why it took me by surprise that it had been bothering me so much for so long. The hoarding has had very little direct and obvious impact on my life. I can get around the apartment just fine. It’s not an unhealthy environment.

So compared to the toxic nightmare I lived in when I lived with Angela, who is a pet hoard and a regular hoarder, this place is so clean you could perform surgery in it.

No, the effects are much subtler than that. Like our patio. We have a lovely patio. Wraps around the corner of the building and everything. I would love to be able to curls up with a book out there and get the fresh air and sunshine I so desperately need.

But nope. The patio is also packed with stuff. Stuff that we never ever use and that, therefore, seems entirely superfluous to me.

Like I have said to Joe, it’s not that I want all this stuff to end up in a dumpster somewhere. Perish the thought.

But that doesn’t mean it has to stay with us. There’s a Value Village three blocks from us that would be happy to take our excess belongings and find good homes for them.  We could free up so much living space if we did a little purge.

But it’s Joe’s stuff, and he’s not going to agree to that like, ever. Like all hoarders, he feels like he is “saving” this stuff from being “wasted” and therefore has a sentimental attachment to it, like it was a rescue puppy.

Getting rid of it, even if it went to good people who really need it, is like giving said puppy away to a hoarder.

And like with the puppy, trusting anyone enough to do that when you are emotionally attached to the puppy and it has become “one of the family” in a sense is very hard.

I mean, I get it. I’m a Taurus too and I understand the power of our karmic mission to accumulate value. We Bulls are far better at acquiring than divesting and our biggest spiritual challenge is to learn to let go.

But unlike some bulls, I have never had a hard time purging my possessions of the superfluous and unnecessary. Even when I had to get rid of half my books in order to move from our previous apartment, I had little problem weeding out the ones I didn’t really feel I needed, and books are the physical objects I come closest to feeling a real emotional connection to.

Other than that, it’s all just stuff to me. Material objects that changes of circumstance can turn from an asset to a liability (and vice versa) at any time.

That makes me the odd one out amongst my friends, I suppose. I like to get things but I also possess a strong dose of opposite instinct as well.

To me, getting rid of the low value things only increases the value of what is left. I mean, what is more valueable – every episode of Doctor Who, or every episode plus a lot of other random stuff?

And I know this is one of the things that makes me seem cold and inhuman to others. And suppose it’s true. I am somewhat cold and inhuman.

But at least I’m honest about it.

And I think that should count for something.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.



Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Incidentally, the sensory threshold effect explains why the old saw about being able to boil a frog without them knowing it’s happening if you raise the temperature of the water slow enough is pure bullshit. No matter how slowly you raoise the temperature of the water,. eventually the pain will cross the sensory threshold and the frog will feel too hot and jump out of the water. So much for scientifically ignorant metaphors. Nature is not that stupid, people!
  2. That’s the main reason I developed such a strong bias against eating between meals. If I confine my eating to meals, I have some control over how much I eat. And I rarely ever add anything to a meal, no matter how hungry I am. I still eat too much, but at least the problem doesn’t get worse.