Virtual hoarding takes fewer boxes, makes less mess

Hanging on to memories is easier with a hard drive

June 01, 2011|By Susan Reimer

I am not a hoarder, I can say with authority. But then I start feeling like Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon.

Hoarding can be a matter of degree, and although I do not have a room full of empty pizza boxes, I do have a box of cassette tapes and another of record albums, and we no longer have a cassette player or a turntable.

I spent a recent Saturday clearing out junk from my back basement, and afterward felt an incredible lightness of being. But I was unable to let go of my cross-stitch projects and the box of 125 different colors of thread.

That's because I am sure I will someday have the time to finish the wedding tapestry I am making for my brother and sister-in-law, who recently celebrated 18 years of marriage.

I haven't parted with my stamp art kit either because one of these years I will be making my own stamp art Christmas cards, I am sure of it. After all, I take the kit with me to the beach every year so I can get an early start on the project.

No, I am certain I am not the hoarder in this family. But somebody is, because we sure do have a lot of useless junk stuffed in the corners of closets and in the garage and the basement.

I think it is my husband who is the hoarder. He has so much stuff that if we got rid of it all, the house might float away.

But that's how it always is, isn't it?

Junk is what everybody else keeps around for no earthly reason.

I once sorted my daughter's dresser drawers (I will never do that again) and tried to persuade her to give away just a few of the 43 T-shirts she has accumulated. She refused, saying they have memories attached to them.

"Are you sure the memories didn't escape through the holes in the T-shirts?" I asked.

I tried to persuade my son to take back four cartons of mechanical engineering college classwork. "Whatever is in those boxes has changed, or you can find it on the Internet," I said. "What are you — wait a minute — what am I keeping it around for?"

"Those boxes contain knowledge," he said.

"Then what are you carrying around in your head?" I asked.

Hoarding has become much easier to hide, thanks in part to the Internet.

How many pictures do you have on your hard drive? More than you have in boxes, waiting for you to sort into albums?

Have you had to purchase a new computer lately because there wasn't enough room on yours for all the junk you are saving?

I have saved all of my children's college essays in document files, along with guest lists for every major event from their youth and every Christmas letter I have ever mass-mailed.

I haven't ever emptied my online mailbox — make that mailboxes — because some of those emails are sentimental and others contain information I am sure I might need someday.

(I am better than I once was about email. I used to print each one and keep it in a folder in my desk.)

I have "gone paperless" with my bank and all my creditors. But when I get the notice that a statement is available online, I print it out and put it in a folder in my desk.

My husband the sportswriter recently discovered that he could search for his byline on a service called Lexis-Nexis and find every article he has ever written in almost 40 years in this business.

"You don't need to," I told him. "You already have them all in boxes in the basement."

But sometimes, saving becomes keeping, and keeping has meaning.

There is a box — among all the other boxes in the basement — marked "Joe's stuff."

In it, I found the outfit he wore for his christening and the one for his first Christmas. I found his first pair of tennis shoes and all the toddler-size T-shirts his father brought back from all those long-ago sporting events, including Super Bowls and Football Hall of Fame ceremonies.

I found his beloved "Fluffy," and his first bibs, carefully hand-stitched for him by someone I have since forgotten.

I packed it all up in my suitcase, including Fluffy, and took it to San Diego for my 5-month-old grandson, Michael.

I returned from my visit with about 150 more pictures of the baby, for which I must find room on my hard drive.

But Michael's mother is the one who will now have to find a place to keep Fluffy and all those T-shirts.

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