Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Hoarders versus Non-Hoarders

Is there any better feeling than throwing stuff out? Am I the only person who feels this way? (Show of hands, please.) The whole spring cleaning exercise started this year when my teenage daughter, whose bedroom had last been decorated when Clinton was in his first term of office—before the blue dress, before we used the word “impeach,” before Hillary grew her bangs out—protested that she was too old for pink, Laura Ashley wallpaper and flowered bed linens. I took a look around at the sad, drooping wallpaper, and the flowered comforter on the bed with the grape juice stain, and had to agree. It was time for a change. And a major cleaning.

But as anyone with teenagers knows, they have a lot of stuff. (With thanks to my idol, George Carlin, for his extended riff on the stuff we have and collect.) So, to get things started, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: I’ll redo your room but you have to clean it out.

Her: I will.

Me: No—I mean really clean it out.

Her: I WILL.

Me: Let me be clear: everything that comes out is not going back in.

Her: IT WON’T. Please leave me alone.

That went well.

But the momentum gained from the cleaning out of her room was unexpected and welcomed by me, a Non-hoarder. Once we tackled her room, we moved onto my son’s room or as we call it, The Land of the Lost Action Hero. We moved the bed, the bookcase, the desk. I took the back off of his dresser and fixed the two drawers that were broken. We were on a roll. We found shorts that hadn’t fit him in two years and bagged everything up for the used clothing bin. We were very happy.

Since we were doing so well, I then made a proclamation that we would next turn our attention to duh, duh, duh…the attic. Let’s be fair. Although it is technically an attic, our attic is akin to what most people have in their homes called a basement. That is, it’s a catch-all room: it is home to my 5’ x 5’ office, a family room/television area, and a play section that holds all of the toys that aren’t found in my son’s room. But it is also home to several decades worth of sports equipment (five baseball mitts anyone?), the magazine from 1988 that has a picture of my wedding gown in it (why would you keep that?), several hundred baseball cards, and close to a thousand—conservative estimate—comic books. And let’s not forget the videos from toddler-hoods gone by and the tween and teen detritus.

In other words, it’s a mess.

Which brings us to the real purpose of this blog entry: hoarders versus non-hoarders. I’m a non-hoarder living with a bunch of hoarders. I will admit to keeping any piece of preschool artwork with the word “I Love My Mommy” on it but I will throw anything else out that isn’t bolted to the floor. Haven’t looked at that signed Bobby Orr puck since you got it? Gone. So’s the stack of ‘45’s that you can’t play anymore because we don’t have a record player. And make sure you don’t look for that stack of Power Rangers videos—they were donated in ’99 to the preschool tag sale. So, needless to say, when I brought my family of hoarders upstairs, the fur flew, so to speak. I picked up a bunch of Nerf-ish ammunition from the floor, little orange Styrofoam darts that I was sure my son used to torture my daughter.

Me: What are these?

The Hoarders: Those are the pellets to the Nerf Super Blaster.

Me: (holding aloft a black plastic garbage bag) Say goodbye.

The Hoarders: NO!

And so it went. I would create a little mound on the floor and to be fair, would give the Hoarders a chance to take a look before bagging up the items in the great pile. There was a great deal of consternation as things proclaimed “favorites” that hadn’t been played with in years, or items that all of sudden became “special,” found their way into the garbage bags. It was an endless, emotional process that left all of us drained. And not just a little bit angry at one another—me because of the collecting, and them for my lack of sentimentality or recognition of the special nature that each item held.

I had had enough. I was tired of working in an area that looked like the set from “Sanford and Son.” But they had worn me down. I was done. I couldn’t battle to get another Wonder Woman action figure (missing a leg, no less) into the garbage bag and they couldn’t hold me down long enough or distract me for any length of time to go through the bags. As I lay on the floor, exhausted from the cleaning and the fighting, a thought dawned on me:

In two days, they would go back to school. And we live two miles from a Good Will Donation Center.

The skies parted and the angels sang and I left the attic. The Hoarders were more than a little suspicious but confident that they had worn me down.

I had a very nice chat with the ladies at the Good Will Donation Center this week, who were more than happy to hold the door when I arrived, boxes in tow, with all things “special” and “favorite.” Bless you, ladies. May someone else—a Hoarder in training, maybe?—enjoy the fruits of my cleaning labor.



  1. I salute your attempt to collaborate on the cleaning. At our house, an awful lot of things get "disappeared" when the young one's back is turned. He never misses them.

  2. Hilarious and relatable, as usual. I am hoarder with a deep deep desire to cross over to the dark side.