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Horrendous hoarders or prudent packrats?

Posted Wednesday, September 1, 2010, at 9:40 AM

After watching the Hoarder episode on television, I was stunned.

"How can anybody live like that?," I asked hubby later that night, after describing the couple's home, packed with 75 tons of clutter.

"I have no idea," he said, right as a pile of magazines he was digging through fell onto the ground. The teetering pile of "Farm Journal," "Progressive Farmer" and "Cattlemen" magazines dated back to 2004.

"I mean, why would anybody need 200 purses, or 600 pairs of shoes that aren't even the right size?" I rattled on, while tripping over two sacks of sweatshirts I eventually plan to cut up into shop rags. "That poor woman, imagine trying to fill up your "empty nest" with all that clutter."

I had a hard time getting the hoarding images out of my mind after I laid down that night. I wondered what it meant that I had closets and closets stuffed full of everything from my childhood "skate case" to the 20 crumbling Popsicle stick and pine cone Christmas ornaments crafted by my sons "back in the day."

Or the attic full of boxes from every toy tractor my sons had ever owned (they are worth more with the original boxes), the plastic bins of "freebie" caps full of logos and brands that no longer exist, the boxes of Disney toys my sons outgrew years ago (they could be worth something someday) or the box of eight-track tapes featuring bands like Bread and The Monkeys (you never know when 8-tracks will come back in style.)

It was still on my mind that morning when I headed out to our farm shed, where I was looking for the old push planter I sometimes use in our garden.

I couldn't find it until I pulled out two old doors I saved from our old house (I might want them someday), the dusty plastic truck our sons once pedaled around the floor, two bicycles that obviously hadn't been ridden for several years, a box of old cattle grooming accessories and two buckets full of supplies for an electric cattle fence.

I finally found it lying underneath three rusty Tonka trucks I saved from my son's old sand pile.

As I was working in the garden, I started thinking about the area of our farm, we often call the junkpile where we take all the things that are "too" good to get rid of, but too big or ugly to keep up close, like the old chicken house that often doubles as a deer stand, the old calf waterer that just needs a "little work, six piles of old fence wire and some sand leftover from making our son's sandbox.

I soon walked over to our still unfinished farm shop and saw several items I thought I tried to throw out of the house last spring, including two chairs from our first dining room set, (they were grouped in a circle, obviously being used for farm "meetings"), a humidifier that quit working mysteriously (obviously somebody wants to see if they can fix it) and a metal cabinet and six shelves that I had deemed too old, ugly and rickety for the garage.

In another corner there were old coffee cans full of the 5,750 pounds of miscellaneous bolts, nuts, screws, etc., saved from projects through the years. On another series of shelves were 87 antifreeze containers cut to hold a variety of nails ranging from tacksize to big enough to hold two 6 by 6 posts together. Next to them was a container with baby jars (I'm pretty sure the food was once eaten by my husband) full of nuts and bolts ranging from 1/8 inch to metric and everything in between.

On the other side of the shop was a pile of wood, ranging in size from 1 by 1 by 3 feet to 2 by 9 by 12. Next to them were a bucket full of broken shovels and tools, awaiting new handles, along with a pile of hard to find baling wire.

After taking in the inventory, I finally got the nerve to ask my husband something which had been bothering me since I watched Oprah the day before.

I found him working on a tractor.

"Do you think we are hoarders?" I finally asked.

He looked out from beside the tractor, where he was filling the oil with an old jar and funnel, I'm sure once belonged to his grandfather.

"No, of course not. We're just providing antiques for the next generation," he joked.

Getting a little more serious, he continued.

"You know we have to keep extra things around here. Think about all the times some little part, old bolt or tool around here has kept us from running to town when we've had a breakdown."

It was true, no doubt. Many times we've been able to "rig" something together to keep running for another day using some obscure piece or part found in the shed. And keeping something, "you might need some day" can often save money, a necessity for farmers.

In fact, my mother-in-law always called it "saving it for hard times."

That's it, we're not hoarders, I said to myself as I walked back into the house. We're just "saving for hard times," I reminded myself, just as I tripped over the knee-high stack of "skinny jeans" I had piled next to my closet.

You never know, enough "hard times" and I might actually be able to wear those size 2 jeans again.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Marcia, if your husband somehow ever runs out of wood, bolts, nuts, wire...you name it...have him call my husband. What's not in YOUR basement is, I'm sure, in OURS.

And I might have a spare pair of shoes or a purse or two, now that I think of it. Or plastic storage containers...or...well, smaller clothes I'm saving for when they come back in style. And my doll collection...

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Sep 3, 2010, at 5:01 PM

Just a small post before I dive into shelves of books from the 40's and present that my mother mostly read and kept. Then there are my books mostly read from the 70's to present. Then there are the saved life magazines from the 60's. I keep telling my mom that we need to clean out the clutter and she responds...She can't find where all the books have gone that she lends out to her friends. Note I boxed up 6 18x18x18" boxes with books and sent them to library purgatory. But let not talk about my very important and valuable collection of .......

-- Posted by movaldude on Wed, Sep 8, 2010, at 1:49 AM

Marcia,

I've watched those hoarding shows from both sides of the pond. BBC America's shows from Merry Olde England are frightening too.

The shows from Britain are big on doing swabs of sinks, kitchen counter tops and putting the swabs into petri dishes. The results make you want to jump into a vat of chlorine bleach.

Can you imagine the size of the cockroaches and mice in those homes?

Your husband is right--you're just being sensible.

-- Posted by upsedaisy on Wed, Sep 8, 2010, at 4:45 PM

Kathy and Movaldude, Glad we're not alone!! Upsedaisy, I don't think I'd like anyone to swab my countertops. I'd rather not know. But I can say, I draw the line at any hoarding I think would bring in bugs or mice!!

Thanks for reading,

Marcia

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Sep 8, 2010, at 10:14 PM

LOL - This is a discussion I have on a near weekly basis with my husband!

We very efficiently saved very little from when our daughter was small...and consequently had a TON of stuff that we needed to buy when we had our son! Now, I have saved EVERYTHING in case we decided we're not having another one...and I sneak new plastic bins into the house when hubby is not home to store it all. I just have to keep promising him to have a ginormous garage sale when we decide that we're done having kids!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Thu, Sep 9, 2010, at 1:24 PM


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