Tuesday, September 21, 2010



Nature has its hoarders and one of them takes daily advantage of my generosity. I nicknamed this particular bold chipmunk “Redpants” as his hindquarters are exceptionally gingery. As long as there is food on our deck, he is there stuffing his cheeks and then running away to store it in his home. I have watched him empty a bird feeder filled with sunflower seeds with singular purpose and surprising speed.

I visited several homes over the years where hoarding was a significant mental health issue. The worst place I visited was piled ceiling-high with boxes, newspapers and magazines and there was only one narrow pathway through the mess in the entire apartment. There was no place to sit, cook or take a bath. The smell was atrocious and the rooms were infested with vermin. The lady had been sent home from hospital after breaking her hip and I was the first Home Care worker to visit her. It was impossible to provide care for her in that environment and I had to report her to the local fire and health department. Unfortunately, I had a new employee with me that day for orientation and she was so distressed by the visit that she quit her new job.

I have seen patients from Europe who were displaced and survived concentration camps during World War 2. Another lady, who lived alone, had two freezers full of food and enough bottled water around for at least half a year. She had never thrown out any clothing for decades and while her place was clean and organized, she was very anxious about her possessions and the possibility of having nothing again.

Local Flea Market

At this point of my life I have accumulated more things than I can keep track of. We have household items from our parents and grandparents which have sentimental value but are seldom used. I doubt I could make a list of half the things in our home and would not miss them if they were gone. Melissa of Empress of Dirt has been doing a series on “simplicity” and describes her successful efforts to organize her life. Her fifth post was very inspiring and has me thinking of ways to make some needed changes.

No, I have not watched Hoarders on A&E and I don't want to look at a mess I didn’t create. If I had time, I could buy a table at a flea market and peddle my discards to other hoarders for a few dollars. But writing this post is strengthening my resolve to put aside sentimentality and "what if I need it" thinking and simplify my life.


  1. Now that D is gone I so want to simplify my life ... I just need to work up the actuality of doing the sorting out and getting rid! I now, so wonder, why we bought some of the things we bought. What possessed us?

  2. I confess I am a hoarder, not that I buy a lot. But I have a lot of paper work.

    I tend to over photocopy, and then don't want to throw away the excess. So my school room has lots of paper.

  3. It's something we all need to do for sure. We all have "stuff" we've simply not even touched for years! I always wonder what it would take for someone else to have to go through it all if something happened to me, and that alone should propel me to start simplifying a bit?

  4. Sometimes I look at the things I have accumlated and think what a waste. I can't say that I'm a hoader but maybe more lazy in thought of wanting to go through it all. I have watched the show Hoaders and I feel so sad for these people. It is a sickness! Now as for Redpants...he is a hoader and I'm sure he doesn't remember where he has packed all his food :)

  5. As a home care nurse I often had to deal with hoarders like that. So sad to see people living in those conditions.

    My mother-in-law was a hoarder, but a very NEAT and organized one. Fortunately she kept it all under beds, in closets, and dressers. To walk into her house you would never dream she was a hoarder. She lived in a large house and every single storage space was crammed full. You could not have slipped a sheet of paper between the clothes hanging in the closets. When we moved her to live near us she had 46 pairs of pajamas, never opened and never used.

    Love your industrious chipmunk. They are always so cute when they are at someone else's place.

  6. Mexico Mom12:17 pm GMT-4

    When Grandma Devins passed away and Dad and I had to empty her condo we realized that except for real memos, what is a treasure to one generation is not always to the next. We are trying to download to help you all in the future.
    Not morbid, just practical and less work to clean.
    Love Mom

  7. I'm all for simplifying. We got rid of quite a bit when we move but not enough.

  8. I think we all hoard something. Is it collecting or obsession? Hard to tell. I've seen the OCD of the unhealthy home and the starkness of no sense of self. Should be a balance. Yet having a yard sale never hurts and feels surprisingly uplifting to lighten your load. Or even just donating to the right place. Can get to the point where the things own us.

    Redpants is an adorable hoarder for survival.

    Love this new page look!

  9. CS- It is a lot of work to simplify as well as the emotional energy required to revisit the past. I am working on the right mindset.

    Ann- I have piles of paper from our daughters' school days.

    Jayne- You live what my goal is :-)

    Cheryl- Redpant is my only chipmunk visitor this year and I do spoil him rotten.

    NCMW- I know tidy hoarders too. But it takes a lot of time to keep all that stuff clean and neat. 46 pairs of PJs...wow!

    Mom- Grandma simplified many things when she moved to the condo. If you have a big house, you tend to fill it. I know a lot of stuff went when she moved.

    AC- I have considered the merits of moving. That is one way to sort out what is really important.

    Gaelyn- You are right. Our things do have meaning. I like a home that has things about which speak of the owners' personality and interests.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.