photo by: Heather Zabriskie

The Careful Art of Letting Go: Confessions of a Mild Hoarder

I think my difficulty letting things go is hereditary. I have 10 hand-me-down vintage church keys from various breweries somewhere in my room to prove it. I have yet to officially look up whether or not you can inherit hoarding-like tendencies but you sure can inherit the items necessary to make it appear that you have a problem. And, full disclosure, I might have a problem.

My parents divorced when I was 9 and I remember being sold the idea on the premise that I would get two of everything. Two toothbrushes, two beds, two somehow became the magic number, an excuse to accumulate more shit. Even worse, I had a habit of misplacing things and then finding them fairly soon after purchasing a replacement.

My penchant for accumulating various and useless stuff was only further exacerbated by my late grandpa who, in his spare time liked to frequent garage sales. While this for most people is a usually harmless, eco-friendly, and fun past time, it became increasingly obvious this was becoming problematic. It wasn’t until after his passing, while sorting through possibly valuable antique farm equipment (he lived on the north side of a city with a population of 250,000 people and had virtually no reason to ever own a forged iron bale hook… much less three of them) I had wondered if his incessant need to buy and hold onto (usually with a death grip) essentially useless items (sometimes in bulk???) was an indicator of severe anxiety or depression. A way to fill some sort of void within himself that he couldn’t articulate, but knew he felt better after buying something, anything.

“Just give it away,” was a common response from my grandma, who kept the ever-growing accumulation of junk at bay, oftentimes making solo trips to the thrift store to donate items my grandpa had lost track of after he bought. This always incited a lot of anxiety for me personally, unwilling to disappoint anyone, I developed an unnerving emotional attachment to anything he ever gave me over the years and ultimately kept things I knew I didn’t need. This only got more difficult after he passed away. I still have all of the cassettes he ever gave me, including duplicate copies of the Beach Boys’ “Endless Summer” which my family members can pry from my cold, dead hands.

The good news is that I’m not buried underneath my belongings. Somehow I have managed, on occasion, to part ways with various items with little to no fuss while also finding a bit of humor in the whole thing. I still have three trash bags in my car full of things I just know I’m going to need at some point, but y’know… baby steps.

To read more about Hoarding, its symptoms, and the effects it has on lives refer to these helpful links:

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