Hoarders on Parade

33 thoughts on “Hoarders on Parade”

  1. That storage dreck reminded me of my brother’s garage, LOL! Coming from a family of hoarders (I’m infected too), understand the constant struggle to restrain buildup. Cleaning out our depression era relations houses was a bleeping nightmare. Found totally useless items like tax returns from the 1950’s and rationing stamps from WWII. Enough books to start a small library. Even potentially useful items like china, fancy silverware, and sort of antique furniture, no one else wanted either. And getting rid of it not so easy, as in some states a lot is classified as hazardous waste requiring special disposal. I envy those that can keep a spare life.

  2. Like most people (I think), I define a hoarder as a person who accumulates goods in a way that is harmful or hazardous to themselves or others. I don’t think your neighbors’ laserdiscs are hurting anybody, down there in the basement; their grandkids might even be as happy to have them as I am to have my great-grandmother’s shellac 78s. I certainly wouldn’t judge.

    1. The point of this post wasn’t to call my neighbors hoarders. Instead, I have been called a hoarder by some of my neighbors because I keep a well stocked pantry with a year’s supply of food on hand. It has been suggest by one neighbor in particular that this is a sign of mental illness rather than pragmatic preparedness for unemployment or natural disasters. So I wanted to take a look at what my neighbors keep stashed away.

  3. manpace said:

    “Households accumulate mountains of stuff continuously and they need to purge just as continually or they will be swimming in all that stuff. Even one net item gained per week will bury a family eventually.”

    Thinking of your house as a living organism is a useful heuristic. The house-as-organism is (necessarily) always taking in new items (eating) and this requires constantly shedding items (shitting). We shouldn’t think of this process as anything but natural and expected.

    If someone claims their house never consumes anything (minimalism) or never purges anything (“zero waste”) it is either not true or their house(hold) is essentially dead or sleeping.

  4. Some years back a co-worker was helping some friends pack for a move halfway across the country. A job took them there. While loading boxes he found several filled with coffee and tea mugs. All of them had the handles broken. He suggested that the mugs be thrown out rather than moving them. The friends said, no we’re going to fix them. From the amount of dust on the boxes and mugs that was not going to happen soon. They had plenty of things to drink tea and coffee from that were not broken.
    Probably, like many, the friends had experienced times when they did not have the money to replace broken things.
    I went through that for some time. Now I look at things a little differently. When something breaks I try to quickly determine the utility of whatever it is. Most often it gets recycled, donated, or trashed as appropriate.
    As you mentioned most items in recent times are cheap, not necessarily inexpensive. They tend to break, wear out, or stop working too quickly. Replacement is the usual ‘fix’.
    I started a policy that I do not keep the old thing around so I might later repair it. I make an evaluation and if repair is not cost effective, out.
    Similarly when my partner gets a new kitchen thing/appliance we sort through what we have and donate something. That keeps the accumulation at a minimum.
    I saw some TiVo boxes in the photos. Since that type of tech changes so rapidly I wonder if those would function in the present. Take them to a recycler. (I am aware of the problems with “recycling”). Of course, if you wait long enough, they might be valuable. I read that some are looking for 1970s 8-track tape players.

  5. Households accumulate mountains of stuff continuously and they need to purge just as continually or they will be swimming in all that stuff. Even one net item gained per week will bury a family eventually.

  6. I think my parents, children in the Great Depression, are possibly borderline hoarders. They never really part with anything they perceive as useful, or as having useful life left if repaired. They strongly imprinted these ideas on me, and for too many years I used the “is it useful/can I fix it” question when something was in my hand and I was making the choice to store or to dispose.

    Today I am more likely to use the “will I use it” question, and unless something can be fixed in 3 minutes with Crazy Glue, I am unlikely to attempt most repairs. Even then I probably keep too much, because I also ask the “can I donate it” question with the proliferation of places that accept most stuff. But at least that stuff eventually goes when a boxload justifies a special trip.

    But back to the Depression mentality: when, as you allude to, one has suffered any period of deprivation (raggedy clothes, not enough food, broken down old vehicle), there is probably more tendency to hold stuff in whatever category one is imprinted.

    1. My goal is to be able to endure future difficulties. I store generous amounts of useful things. I also keep tools and equipment on hand that I know I will continue to use for productive activities. That’s how I differ from most folks who keep broken tennis rackets and bell bottom pants in the basement.

      There is a risk, however, in people being too minimal and not keeping enough of the right kinds of things on hand. The super efficient fashionable dematerialized home with automated just-in-time food deliveries from Instacart might not hold up well during a rough patch.

      1. Amen. I only dispose of broken tools, and I replace them. Lately it’s been cordless power tools replacing/supplementing the corded ones. Over my adult lifetime I’ve moved from the “cheap/make-do/need it right now for a job” tools to ones that are more durable. My “hoarding” does extend to keeping shop scrap bins, though.

        I figure I can help neighbors in need or hustle up work and barter if I own tools and have some pieces of material on hand.

  7. I know that everyone’s reasons for keeping stuff they don’t need, or useless stuff, are as varied and numerous as the individuals keeping it. For myself, the primary reason is that I would rather do other things with my time: read blogs like yours, or good books, or work in the garden, etc etc. Anything is more interesting than to organize and sift through and make decisions about and give away to just the right person things that aren’t hurting anyone by remaining where they are (as godozo describes). But to create space and order is a type of creative endeavor — I must keep reminding myself of that!

    What appears as a habit of hoarding comes with the blessing of being able to be in the same large house (stuff expanding as larry says) for almost three decades, from which numerous children and extended family gradually move out and make conservation of beautiful open spaces less urgent. I still seem to be using some of my space to keep food supplies, not as tidily as yours, but also of a sort that makes people say they know where to come if there is a Tribulation or Apocalypse or something like.

    But currently, I have more urgency, similar to your storage cleanout, getting ready to remodel my main storage area, and there comes a point where one doesn’t want to move a thing around one more time. And this situation is a blessing, too! Here’s hoping I make the most of it.

  8. Books! They’re beginning to take over our household (you can tell this is the case when there’s only room to stash them sideways on top of the standing ones). But, being ‘old-school’ folks, we love them – even the ones we may be unlikely to re-read more than twice. Others may view them as wallpaper on entering our home (bookshelves standing in every room), but to us they are the essence of Home.

  9. My basic hoarding tool is a shopping cart for moving stuff in my home. I haven’t yet taken the step of buying heavy duty shelving units on wheels.

  10. Stuff expands to the space available to store it.

    Books, music, and photo albums account for most of mine, but IT is a big help in that regard. I had gone from vinyl to CD long ago, and this year put all the CDs on an I-think I got as a Christmas present and the computer. The jewel cases were discarded, and the CDs fit in four stack boxes in the basement.

    The kids will probably have all their music, photos and even books in electronic format, or even as listening and viewing rights, their whole lives. But that raises a question no one (else) is asking put someone probably should. Since people last longer than organizations, will the really have these things, or might they just go “poof?” And not just in the social collapse situations imagined on this blog.


    Too bad we don’t have a functioning government to do something about this.

    1. Who said I imagine social collapse? I keep saying – over and over again – that I’m primarily concerned about things like unemployment and earthquakes. No one seems capable of stepping away from the Zombie Apocalypse narrative….

      Will some of our social institutions change over time? Sure. They always have. Is that the same as collapse? Meh.

      1. Unemployment isn’t the future I expect. It is more like plenty of jobs will be available, but they won’t pay much, because businesses can’t raise prices because their customers — the workers — are broke. They’ll shut down rather than raise wages.

        The institutions I’m concerned about here are those like Apple, Amazon, etc. from which people have purchased books, music, videos in electronic format. We had digital photos uploaded at Kodak, which shut down its service. It turned it over to Shutterfly, but had no legal obligation to do so.

      2. “I’m primarily concerned about things like unemployment and earthquakes. No one seems capable of stepping away from the Zombie Apocalypse narrative.”

        You did imply at one point that I might have ended up the last guy at a City Council meeting saying there was a problem as the Soviet Union fell, while you were taking advantage of the chaos to sneak across the Finnish border!

        1. I suspect the things that make a household able to ride out unemployment and an earthquake might be some of the same things that would make it easier to respond to a systemic failure of institutions.

          The other half of my preparedness plan involves staying out of debt, having liquid assets on hand, having like-minded friends in other places, and being able to walk away and relocate with minimal drama. That could include a passport. Or not.

          It’s not often, but from time to time things do go seriously wrong. Venezuela, Syria, Bosnia, the Soviet Union, just about anywhere in Europe or Asia in the 1930s and 40s… I have a friend who grew up in Chile who moved to the States when Pinoche took power. She recently returned now that Chile seems more stable and foreign born folks are less welcome in the U.S.

  11. I was brought up by parents of the “Make Do And Mend” generation and still “sides to middle” sheets and keep a ragbag and button box. Hoarding was harder then because people had less money and fewer things. Now, hoarding on a massive scale is possible because the world is flooded with impossibly cheap stuff which isn’t a sustainable way to carry on. However, hoarders will always find something to hoard according to their means. I remember several elderly people hoarding neatly tied bundles of newspapers, their rooms filled floor to ceiling with precipitous towers of them. I really don’t think you’re a hoarder and your store cupboard is what the War generation would have thought of as normal.

  12. I’d have given a loving home to the framed seahorse.
    You’re a casual Mormon. 🙂
    I agree, tho. People have too much crap.

    1. I get my best advice for pragmatic solutions from Mormons. Good people. But I’m actually a salad bar Catholic. (Take the olives and croutons, ignore the Thousand Island dressing and synthetic cheese crumbles.)

  13. I don’t think most people are hoarders. I think things just accumulate. A T-shirt is bought, a t-shirt then gets forgotten. A new computer gets bought, the old one gets set aside with the idea of being given elsewhere but stays stored. A book shelf gets built and filled; another book shelf gets built. And forty years later, you can have an impossible amount of stuff that you need to get rid of without any effort at gathering stuff.

    1. Yes. And if you have available storage and little time – or little pressing desire to use your time to purge and organize – it accumulates all the faster. I was able to be more mindful of my possessions when I had neither small children nor a basement. Now it is all to easy to stash something down there in my few free daylight moments.

      1. My point wasn’t to label my neighbors hoarders. They aren’t. Rather, I have been called a hoarder by others for practicing basic preparedness – the kind of common sense practices that would have been perfectly normal to any of our great grandparents.

  14. You may not be a hoarder, sir, but you are definitely “type A”! LOL!

    I actually admire your efficiency and the usefulness of the items in your “closet”.

    1. I’m actually bone lazy and a bit of a mess most of the time. What may appear as Type A is really just a reflection of past financial insecurity. “With God as my witness I’ll never be hungry again.”

  15. In the last few months it has been impressed upon me just HOW HARD it is for North Americans to get rid of things. They just LOVE the thrill of the deal but somehow they find it very difficult to make a match between object and owner. One person can only efficiently use so much.

    You have a lot of toilet paper and canned goods, but I have no doubt it will all go to good use. Even sentimental items can be said to “work for their supper” when they’re displayed or (gasp!) passed on, storing stuff out of sight for the kind of rainy day that will never come? Get rid of it.

  16. Having gotten a bidet and gotten used to it, it makes me wonder just how valuable toilet paper is in a SHTF situation.

    1. Two things.

      First, in a SHTF situations do you think your bidet is going to still be functional? Shit Hits The Bidet?

      Second, what I’m preparing for isn’t the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s more like a stretch of unemployment, or a relatively short lived supply chain disruption. I will say that everyone who gave me grief over the years about my “prepper” tendencies didn’t think i was so crazy last month when I had high quality respirators on hand for the intense smoke in the city from distant forest fires.

      1. Water pressure is a matter of elevating water. The aztecs and romans had aquaducts. Every old building above x(four?) stories in manhattan has a water tower.

        I understand your prepping. I consider the same to be ideal.

  17. There are several vehicles in my town that I notice parked here and there from time to time. The only space available inside for use by a person is the drivers seat, all other space is occupied –up to neck level– by stuff, mostly paper stuff. I imagine the homes of the owners of these vehicles are similarly configured.

    You are not a hoarder.

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