On Hoarding…

I’ve just read Corinne Grant’s book “Lessons in Letting go: Confessions of  Hoarder

And Wow.  Firstly, and slightly parenthetically, it turns out that no, she wasn’t the Corinne from Corryong I sort of knew.   Two Corinnes of roughly the same age from the same small Victorian country town – I can only think that the one I knew may have influenced the naming of the other.  Or, that the name was in the air – just as when I changed my name to Caitlin (and that’s a story for another day) there were suddenly a gazillion small Caitlins appearing. Which lead to several uncomfortable years when someone would scream “CAITLIN! PUT THAT DOWN!” in the supermarket and I would instantly drop whatever I was holding.  There seems to be a new batch of five year old Caitlins, but I seem to be inured to the parental admonitions now.

“Lessons in Letting Go” is cleverly divided into sections which illuminate the process Corinne went through in learning not to need to hoard.  “Where it Started” leads to “Where It Became Unsteady”, “Where It Collapsed”, “Where It Was Rebuilt” and finally , “When It Was Done”.  She then adds “Twenty-two Lessons in Letting Go” as a helpful afterword.

She has been vulnerable and brave in examining exactly how her need to cling to possessions started.  And she’s still the funny Corinne we know from TV and standup.

Before reading “Lessons in Letting Go”, I didn’t think of myself as a hoarder (unlike Corinne, I don’t still have socks from primary school, or lolly wrappers) but as an accumulator of stuff.  Now I’m questioning my view – am I a hoarder? Can I let stuff go?

I’ve walked away from everything I’ve owned more than once.  More than twice.  I’ve run away and ended up with very few of my possessions. Some of which I  regret losing now, but maybe I should be grateful they’re gone and not adding to the clutter.

And I’ve been broke.  In fact, the fear of not being able to afford to buy something is probably driving a lot of my current stashes of stuff.  I can’t get rid of that paper/book/magazine/item of clothing I currently don’t fit into/scrap of fabric,  because who knows if I’ll be able to afford one when I need it?  It’s a mindset that living on a pension doesn’t help. And it’s filling up the house and studio.

It doesn’t help that Mr Beloved has also had to walk away with the just clothes on his back and very little else from previous stages in his life, and that he is possibly even more concerned about the lack of money to buy replacement things.

It shows up in our pantry, which never has less than a dozen tins of tuna, and at least the same of baked beans and chick peas.   Most of which are hidden at the back of a hard-to- reach cupboard. (And I keep meaning to clean it out but it’s just so daunting….)  There have been weeks and months previously in both our lives when baked beans were what was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s hard not to think back to those times and panic that it could happen again. Even though we now have a regular income, we live with the fear that it could be yanked out from under us at any time.

The hardest thing for me is getting rid of books and paper.  Especially books.  For one, they’re bloody expensive (disproportionately so in Australia) – so much so that I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of books we’ve bought this year – and still have enough fingers left over to hold a cuppa tea. And I am reluctant to throw out paper and magazines because hey, I use them in my art journals – but let’s face it, I have more of that stuff NOW than I will probably use in the next ten years!

In further reading (this interview on amazon.com with the authors of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things – thanks, Tanya, for the link!)  I’ve learned that there are different reasons people hoard.  Not just emotional attachment, but also fear of losing information, or the idea that somehow the item might still have value or be useful.

Eeek.  I’m almost paralysed with the idea of cleaning the sewing/craft room – it’s become so cluttered that there’s only a small path through it. (It’s a small room to start with, and with an ironing board and sewing table set up, it’s a losing battle.)  So I don’t think I’ll start there.  Perhaps, as Corinne recommends, something less painful first…

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