Am I a hoarder?
I have two bowls of Meyer lemons on the dining room table at which I type. An iron candelabra. A little dish of crunchy salt. A jar of spiced cashews. A box of matches. A Safeway receipt. A dish towel, a cloth napkin, and a washcloth. A bottle of Tylenol, a bottle of Advil, and a bottle of generic Motrin. A silver dish of raw-cut, brown sugar cubes. A notebook and pen. A 2023 calendar still wrapped in plastic. My phone. The lower part of a plastic thermometer case. Oh, and a bowl of cat food with a strawberry pattern on the outside.
All that, and to my eyes, the dining table is relatively… clean.
That’s a wake-up call right there, is it not?
When did I become a hoarder?
Of course, I’m not a “real” hoarder. I’ve encountered real hoarding, and this isn’t it. Last year, and the year before, my son and I cleared out the room his father rented in a house in Berkeley. That was a horror of vast proportions, just like you see on the sensationalist shows about hoarders buried by their stuff. My mentally ill ex- had made a habit in recent years of collecting whatever he deemed useful from the street and bringing it back to his room. This included broken appliances, dishes, random pieces of wood, rocks, abandoned luggage (?) (one of the weirder things), spilled and spoiled food, cords, wires, clothes galore, broken pottery, glass, mirrors, and so on. The detritus holding it all together like some kind of mycelial web was comprised of bong water, pot residue, rodent feces, prescription medication, ash, dust, and dirt. The diversity of junk and its tailings boggled the mind.
So, no, I’m not a hoarder like that.
But the truth is, I’ve let my stuff begin to bury me. The worse truth is, it’s not even my stuff, in most cases. I seem to have allowed myself to become a kind of catch-all for other peoples’ stuff, as if my job on this earth is to safeguard the memories of others. I have my grandparents’ (on both sides) stuff, some of my ex-’s stuff, my kids’ stuff, my parents’ stuff, my dead friend Victor’s stuff. And then my old stuff, including several boxes of journals that I have no idea what to do with.
I have paintings and portraits, my dad’s 1953 sextant, a doll collection from my…