Lost In the Catacombs

Yard Sale Northern California May 2005. This i...

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Just before we left for our pseudo holiday in B.C., we participated in the hamlet’s every other year garage sale. Our community is small but we are tied together through the Ag Society, which organizes events and whatnot for us. They are responsible for my teaching yoga at the community hall from October until early spring. They put on a chicken supper to kick off the start of summer and make it possible for locals to use the ice arena for free every Sunday afternoon during hockey season.

In 2009, someone had the idea for a community wide garage sale. It took place on Rob’s birthday that year. His worst birthday ever. But in terms of helping emptying our home and putting us on the road to one day be free of the shadow of hoarder house status – it was a great success.

I have been purging the nooks, crannies and closets of excess stuff since the spring of 2010*. We’d thought to have a garage sale on our own last August, but that heart attack thing prevented it, so this year when the community sale loomed, we had several seasons worth of clothing and more cast off stuff from the renovation purge than we would have normally.

The new kitchen proceeds at a steady if not quite “done” done pace, and as I emptied cabinets and drawers from the old kitchen, a fair amount of items didn’t make the cut for inclusion in the new space. The ball bounces that way sometimes.

Fare and Mick were invited out to sift through things before the sale and after. More stuff was off-loaded.

One thing I discovered in the process is that the basement storage room has more in it than I thought. Or Rob thought. He’d been on the opinion that most of what was left was ours – his and mine. Not so. Things he thought the older girls had taken with their childhood things and anything of their mother’s that had value or meaning. Not so.

When Mick came after the garage sale to pick through the leavings of the hordes, she and Rob searched the storage room for a box containing Shelley’s writings.

She was a writer too.

Mick is as well and wanted to see some of her mother’s efforts and share them with her boyfriend, Dare.

But while the box proved elusive, several others surfaced. One was filled with keepsake shirts and another inexplicably held shoes.

“We should plan to spend a bit of time rummaging through down here over Thanksgiving,” I told Mick.

I bring up stuff again only because we all acquire it over the course of simply being alive. Dee’s room is near hoarder status – a trait she unfortunately comes by via the genetic gifting of her late father’s mother – a woman worthy of reality tv intervention. Rob’s stash (which reminds me totally of my own father) is based on the idea that someday he might need something he’s given away. A primitive affliction he got from his mother, whose constant mantra while we helped her pack was “you never know when you might need something some day.”

I am beginning to lean towards the theory that the “hoarding” of dead people’s stuff , however, is based on the fact that we no longer bury their stuff with them. Keeping it in boxes and drawers is the modern version of the Egyptian pyramid tombs.

But, the accumulation of things could just as likely be an outgrowth of the idea that memory is tangible, and objects are infused with them. It’s like a 3D photograph, whose effect is just as fleeting as thumbing through a photo album or watching a video of times gone by. The memory jarred to life is held inside us and the external catalyst just reminds us that it is there all the time, and we’d forgotten about it. The guilt of living in the present compels us to save items that take up space in the dark places of our closets and basements, still forgotten really until the next accidental discovery.

*The reality is that purging has been an ongoing thing for both Rob and I since 2007, individually and as a couple. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever be clutter-fuck free.

5 responses to “Lost In the Catacombs

  1. shedding IS a lifelong project, because we are – via limbic system – gatherers! i am shedding… and with each jeep full of stuff i haul away (hell, i just gave away a car), i feel lighter. i am also becoming more conscious of what i bring home… nothing comes in, without 2x the volume of stuff going out…

    nowhere near done, though… good luck with your excavations!

  2. My mother keeps an entire house of memories – she hasn’t lived there in over 8 years. No one lives there, yet it is kept lit and heated. She doesn’t live anywhere near the place, not even in the same state. My mom doesn’t see, use, or need any of those things any longer but she refuses to shed herself of what represents what really was instead of the memories she tries to spin even today. I get in trouble with her because I shed things too easily in her opinion. If her way is the alternative, I will choose my method any day.

    Good luck with your continuing shedding of “stuff” ~

    • My mother is not the hoarder that my dad was and she has actively purged in an effort to make things easier “when the time comes”, which I do appreciate. Shedding though, I fear, is a lifelong project.

  3. Ann, I feel your pain here. My late husband was a hoarder disguised as a neat person. He liked to obsessively clean, but I think that was just a deflection technique. Since his passing, I have discovered boxes of neatly wrapped packages of old catalogs, plastic bags wrapped in rubber bands inside small boxes stacked inside larger boxes. Sometimes mixed in within the trash are little treasures, also neatly organized and packaged, always with the rubber bands. It has been an emotional journey, confronting the intricate ways he stored seemingly random items alongside valuable keepsakes. Brings new meaning to the term, controlled chaos.

    I have discovered that as difficult as it has been to offload things I know he was saving, the more I have gotten rid of, the more of a dent I have made in my accumulated resentment and frustration at having been left with such a physical burden in his wake. The further along I get in the process, I seem to be clearing the way for happier memories to peek their way through the clutter of OLD THINGS (it’s all they really are), and I find I am more able to claim the very real love we shared.

    It’s amazing what a little breathing space will allow…

    • It’s hard for me to throw away cards or little notes of my late husband’s b/c he left so little tangible evidence of our relationship behind that I like to keep the few things that do exist, but I am a “space” person. I love open rooms with minimal furniture and few decorations. Clean and crisp. That’s not the reality for a wife and mother though. In need of cleaning and crumply is.

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