Confessions From the Edge of Hoardingtown

Are you a hoarder or a purger?

I pride myself on being a purger. I ruthlessly throw things away or donate them because clutter drives me batshit crazy.  I torture my husband over the things he likes to keep.  Like those roller blades I have never once seen him wear.  And the boxes of CDs that are pretty much obsolete.

Last year, when we cleared out our storage pod from the basement renovation, I came clean with my confession that I do have a soft spot for hoarding memorabilia and personal artifacts.  I showed you my Time Capsule of Random Crap.  I thought that was the end of the story and the true limits of my hoarding tendencies.  I remained, in my head, a Purger Extraordinaire in all other aspects of life.

Wellllll.   Maybe notsomuch.

In what can only be described as Early Nesting on Steroids, I recently started a massive room-by-room organizational sweep of my entire house.  In this process, I’ve had no choice but to stare my anti-hoarding policy in the eye and see where I’m failing.

It turns out there are a few other caveats to my purging mentality.  

1)  Dish towels and table linens.  I am as intrigued by this as you are.  What the hell?  Looking at the collection I’ve amassed, one might get the distinct impression that I adore doing dishes.  Or that drying my chaffing, soapy hands on a wide array of colored, festive towels is a big priority for me.  One need only spend half a day with me at home to realize this is not so.  Related — and equally mystifying — is the large array of placemats, tablecloths and cloth napkins I’ve uncovered.  You know, for the dinner parties I host about once a year.  Apparently I like to have options with how my formal table is set.  This is beyond comical for someone who serves 99% of the meals here on Disney character plates to people who think their hands make excellent utensils.

2)  Pantry food.  It seems I may have watched one too many apocalyptic movies and have subconsciously decided that my family can outlive any End of Days scenario in perpetuity — as long as we stay in our renovated basement, complete with a fucking mack daddy pantry.  Pasta.  Condiments.  Snack foods.  They exist in copious amounts — it’s like shopping at a mini Costco {without the free samples}.  If I had a therapist, I would clearly be told this all has something to do with optimizing the newly finished basement that nearly drove me to electric shock therapy.  If you or your family are in need of a cereal bar or some goldfish crackers — or even a spare ketchup, please do stop by anytime.  I’ll load you up — complete with a free commemorative dish towel.

3)  Again, memorabilia of any kind.  As previously discussed, this is where I have a borderline clinical hoarding problem.  I won’t spend more time today rehashing the passed notes in high school, the college ID cards or the concert ticket stubs I’ve saved.  Today, let’s cover a newly emergent problem area in the Nostalgia Junkie category: Kids’ art projects.  And by “art,” you know I mean unrecognizable scraps of yarn and cotton balls peppered with paint and some glitter from pre-school that are supposed to come together as a self-portrait of a two year-old.

So I need to discuss this.  Because I started throwing the art projects away yesterday and I was awash with guilt.  Where to draw the line between childhood memory preservation and Hoarders: The Next Generation?  

First, I decided to make some guidelines.  I would not save everything, damn it.  I would only hold onto projects with a handprint or other personalized details {versus the generic Happy Flag Day banner, for instance}.  The rest would go.  Because I’m a purger.

Well, that narrowed my stash down to about 6,000 pieces.  Because I underestimated how much pre-schools use a child’s handprints in their projects. It’s hard to be exact, but the unit of measurement is the shit-ton.

Having made little progress, I began to consider renting out a separate studio apartment to house the kids’ art.

At that point, I should have turned to Pinterest to learn how to turn all of this construction paper madness into a stand-alone Earth-friendly storage system or exquisite door mural.  Instead, I went to Facebook with my problem — where real people hang out — and with my plea not to call in a TLC reality show crew.

I got some great suggestions.  First, I was told to take photos of all the projects and collate them into a lovely commemorative photo book.  I’ve heard this suggestion before and it sounds perfect.  Unless you’re me — the slacker who is still trying to get her 2011 vacation photos into some form of keepsake.  Another Facebook friend jokingly suggested a massive collage — which, in my case, would equate to wallpaper throughout my house, and possibly seeping into my car and neighbor’s garage.  That seemed labor-intensive.

So here’s where I’m at:  The purger in me needs to take over and just start tossing most of it away.  If caught by my kids, I plan to blame Jingle, our Elf on the Shelf.  That little pain in the ass needs to take accountability for something around here.

And this is where you guys come in.  I need two things from you.

  • Do not suggest any “creative and fun ways” to store this stuff.  Listen, I know some of you are crafters.  I respect that.  But I’m not.  I don’t own a glue gun and I don’t have the crafting gene — it’s totally missing from my DNA.  So, please, resist any urge you have to guide me into a life of crafting.  That would make you a hoarding enabler.  And you don’t want that on your conscious, do you?
  • What I really want is this:  Collective, moral, parent-to-parent permission to throw this stuff away.  Not all of it. But, yes, a lot.  I hope you guys will be here for me in my hour of need.  Tell me you threw it away.  Tell me I’m not leaving the precious memories of my kids’ childhoods out in a garbage dump to languish.

I know I said I needed two things from you but I lied.  I need three.

  • Tell me what illogical things you hold on to.  Unless it’s finger nails or cat hair in a jar.  I can’t handle that and I might have to call the local authorities on you.  But if you have a little hoarding secret that’s not pathological, spill it here.  Please.

Because, after a good look at my tendencies, here’s what I think:  I’m still willing to call myself a purger.  Damn right I am.  If I see something and it’s clutter on a surface within my house, it stands no chance.  It’s out the door before you can say “intensive therapy.”  But clearly I should re-examine what I box up and keep in the guest bedroom closet.

Or, ignore it and live by a very wise saying:  Out of sight, out of mind.

{Not to be confused with, “If you know someone with a hoarding problem, please call TLC.”}


On a separate note, did you see my post over on Scary Mommy last week?  No?!  Please check it out.  Bring your passport, credit card and a diaper bag — I’ll explain when you get there.



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  1. Jennifer Krawiec says:

    Chuck it. Toss it. Deep-six it. There is no guilt only relief. I’ve been there, honey. I could be your purging sponsor.
    Save FOUR things from each child from each grade (or you pick a number less than 10 if four doesn’t work for you). This number of “save worthy” items diminishes exponentially once they leave 1st grade. (Unless in 3rd grade they accidentally spell “six” as “sex” and make a hilarious word problem like my son did and it is forever in Rubbermaid in the basement.)
    This advice, by the way, is coming from a woman who has her daughter’s dried-up umbilical cord stump thingee in a baggie in the baby box. It’s a long, ridiculous story as to why I kept it and I’m sure you are gagging already so I’ll spare you the details. (Incidentally, the first born’s was never found – ew – and third one, well with the third one there are many things forgotten or ignored which you will learn but they survive.)
    I hope this helps!

    • Allison says:

      I completely agree with Jennifer – setting some threshold as to how many things to keep per year per child is a perfect way to set a limit. Then, once you narrow down to your favorite 5 or 10 or whatever, you will find yourself looking at some years and being like, “yeah I only need to keep these 3 – the rest aren’t as cool/cute/etc”

      My husband has took it upon himself to organize the stuff from our daughter – it’s basically in a 3 ring binder and an accordion folder. And she’s…. 2. So yeah we have some purging to do eventually because we cannot keep this up.

      My mom probably kept only 1 or 2 things from each year. It was enough that it could fit in a manila envelope by the time I was a teenager and it included all of our report cards too. She ended up eventually tossing anything macaroni because those things fall apart and attract critters.

      I’m generally a purger but I haven’t let anything go that is baby related. Since we’re planning on having 1 or 2 more, seems like it could be a waste of money to get rid of some stuff if we’re going to end up buying it again. however, we’re looking to move soon and we need to purge some clutter in order to be able to sell this house. I look at our basement and it looks like a daycare exploded. I think we have like 10 bins of clothes?? Sigh.

    • fordeville says:

      Your advice was so convincing until you owned up to the umbilical cord hoarding!

  2. Jen T says:

    Girl, go download the Artkive app. It is sheer brilliance and will save your kids from what Ben’s parents did to us 5 years ago…handed us a moldy brown grocery bag with yellow papers and a crapload of glittery 30 year old pasta at the bottom.

    • Jennifer Krawiec says:

      My mother did that to me when my 3rd was 2 weeks old. It was my stuff from preschool to high school, it was mildewed, smelled terrible and OMG it was in a brown grocery bag. Possibly related? We need to look into that.

  3. Tara says:

    I am the most unsentimental mom… I don’t keep any of that stuff. I look at it. I admire it. And when the kids leave the room I throw it away. The same goes for birthday cards, Valentines cards, or any of the hundred other cards that my in-laws send during the year. Read them. Appreciate the thoughtfulness. Throw them away. Hopefully I won’t regret that someday…

    The thing I can’t seem to get rid of is photos. I may take a dozen photos trying to get that perfect shot and get one really good picture. But unless it’s blurry or the kid is half out of the frame, I feel like I have to keep the rest of the photos. It’s like I think I’m rejecting the child if I delete an halfway decent picture of him/her. 🙂

    • fordeville says:

      I envy you that you can toss everything. The CARDS! They multiply in the box when I’m not looking. They’ve got to go.

  4. Jenn says:

    Toss it – go ahead. Take photos of the stuff you marginally like and are throwing away. Put them in some digital folder and then forget about them (no need to make a photo album!). This will make you feel better about throwing the things away, but you won’t actually have to DO anything else once you’ve taken a picture. Then, seriously, just toss as much as you can. When your kids later say “Mommy, where is my XXXXX” you then feign ignorance and suggest you all look for it together later. Though this last part might not work for you because your kids seem slightly more detail oriented than Eloise is – so they might actually take you up on that offer.

    Also, we still have Eloise’s umbilical chord in the filing cabinet. No idea why. We also have a shoe-box sized diorama from Eloise’s “Science Project” last year (something that absolutely should be in the trash) in one of the top kitchen cabinets – good thing for us that the kitchen has more cabinet space than we actually need.

    • fordeville says:

      Another cord keeper.
      But I love that it’s in a filing cabinet. It gives the impression of being organized 😉

  5. Jacque says:

    I suggest narrowing them down to one a month. I used to teach preschool and art was part of our daily lesson plan, I always felt bad for the parents sending home art 5 days a week, so sad! Most of the time the projects were not well thought out but more of something to get the children to practice their fine motor skills.
    Try and think of it this way – Would you keep your practice ACT/SAT test?
    If you answer no then CHUCK them!

    And yes I am a crafter/DIYer/All around borderline (okay maybe a little over the line hoarder) … planning my own intervention as I type!

  6. Kyda says:

    I throw most of it away. all the stuff she colors for me at daycare, the stuff she paints at home. once she goes to bed, it’s in the trash. I’ll save a few things like a cut out of her hand or the awesome face made out of glued on puff balls, but haven’t figured out what to do with those yet.. 😉 not much help I guess, but I’m all for throwing out the art or it will take over your entire house!!!

  7. I like to think I’m a purger, but, then I generally immediately replace whatever I’ve let go of. It’s a vicious cycle. And, I hear you on the pantry goods. I currently have 15 jars of gravy. I know. Crazy.

  8. Erica says:

    Photographs, event tickets, airplane tickets, and (almost) every card & letter I have received since first grade! : )

  9. Wendy says:

    I’ve started dating the papers (with month and year) and then when I have a pile for any given time I pick my favorites and toss the rest. I have 2 storage tubs that need to fit at least 4-6 years of kids projects. I was a hoarder as a child and I see it in my daughter so I’m really trying to stay on top of the masses. My daughter has saved so many bits of paper that we now have a one in one out rule when it comes to school projects, unless of course I think it’s fabulous enough to go into my tub for her (she has a tub of her own).

  10. Nicole says:

    As Jennifer said, I keep a few from each year. As for hand or feet prints, I try to get a random sampling about every 6 months. Good God, does their hand really grow that much week to week? I keep one large storage box for each kid and throw in their items in a folder each year in order. It takes zero time to sort it out. Toss, toss, toss most things, and keep the ones that tug at your heart strings. We all blame someone else if the kids find out – my husband is the big jerk in our house who tosses out their masterpieces. Daddy can take the heat, I can’t.

    And, like Jennifer, I (gag, gag) kept their cords too. Ew. I know. Try not to judge. It’s just that it was a piece of him. How could I throw it out? How tell me?! Then with each subsequent kid, I had to continue the tradition. Besides that gross out session, I also kept their hospital hat, first blanket, onesie, and id bracelet as well as mine, all stacked in a little box. I plan to cry over it and wipe my tears with their blankets when they move out, get married, and leave me. It’s the circle of life.

  11. I only saved the really cute artwork. Which probably means the artwork that the teacher herself created.

  12. Lisa says:

    I divide it into 3 categories:

    1: stuff that I make a fuss over then throw out after they go to bed (but I have to be sure it isn’t something they are going to look for the next day. Tricky)

    2. stuff that makes my heart melt and makes me cry a little bit. I keep that in a drawer in my room.

    3. Cool stuff that I save for the school year (I have a large drawer for this too) and then at the end of the school year, I have each kid go through it and choose what they want to save. Anything they want to save goes into a box on their closet shelf. You’d be surprised how much they throw out.

    And what do I hoard? Magazines. BHG, Southern Living, Cottage Living, Midwest Living. I luff them. I neeed them.

  13. Kim G says:

    I toss it all. I think, sometimes, that I am a horrible mother for doing this, but then I think- hey, when C is 18, he is SO not going to be interested in his craptastic “coloring” of a pink snowman!!
    I keep the really cute stuff. My kids each have a memory box that they get to add to as they see fit. I also have a memory box of my own. In mine I have the random bits of crap from my own childhood and then also the stuff from my kids. I totally understand that one day my youngest will get my box after my memorial service and probably toss the whole thing!!Perhaps that what I will strive to teach her! I was a pack rat myself as a child. Living my entire adult life in homes with NO storage space I learned very quickly to throw that shit away!! LOL

  14. Estelle says:

    I hear you. I was a former hoarder, with paper products (magazines, books, newspapers), and today still hoard laundry so I don’t have to do it. My recommendation, through it out….all of it. You’ll feel so much lighter. I know I did.

    This is my story about my hoarding.

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