The annual Hoarding Conference was held recently in Sydney, but no one could find their car keys to come.

A FEW weeks before I went overseas in December, I made a pact with myself. I would go through all of the boxes I’d stuffed in my wardrobe and do a spring clean. Worse than the boxes in the cupboard are the boxes in the garage, because they contain clothes that need to be sorted so that most can be given to charity. I feel guilty every time I get into my car.

I also feel depressed when I go looking for something that lives in something, put somewhere, under something, and most probably inside of something else. Like my car insurance papers, in a file that never got returned to the filing cabinet, so it was put into a plastic bag which went into a box, which went into a cupboard of unknown location.

I never did the spring clean. Who has a week free before an overseas trip? I tell myself I’ll do it one of these days. My inner child asks my inner adult: ‘‘Does ‘never’ work for you?’’

My friend, who’s a clutter buster, says I’m a compulsive hoarder. Hoarders often live in squalor and risk fires, asthma and illness. Their over-attachment to things can compromise their relationships, a clinical psychologist, Christopher Mogan, told a recent conference on hoarding in Sydney.

‘‘To throw something away is to throw away part of themselves,’’ he said. It’s estimated there are a million hoarders in Australia, and literally scores of millions around the world, squirrelling away old photos, a hair from an ex, a letter, a note, a newspaper, a birthday card.

But I want to stand up for myself and others like me. We’re not the obsessive compulsive disorder clinging types of hoarder. We are a sub-group of hoarders. We are the chronic procrastinators. When forced with the prospect of doing something we don’t like doing — tax returns; returning calls; assignments; but most of all cleaning out our cupboards — we will find any excuse to avoid the issue.

There are so many brilliant avoidance techniques. I once wrote a bad novel rather than reconcile old tax returns that required me to go scouring for scrappy, faded receipts in nooks and crannies, boxes and bags, all over the cluttered house, before parking my bum on a chair for days.

We find the best way to handle things we don’t like is to push them into a cupboard and forget. Selective amnesia. God forbid we should open the dusty gates to hell where all the nasties live. But weknowthatoneday. . .onedarkday. . . a spring clean must come.

The National Hoarding and Squalor Conference attracted 135 experts from Australia, Britain and the US. But no one came. They were all buried under rubble, trying to find their car keys.


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3 Responses to Hoarders

  1. Ruth Ostrow 1 April 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    Very Zen Buddhist!

  2. nomadd 30 March 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Really Ruth, you do surprise me. How do you manage to travel successfully. Where is your passport, your travel tickets?

    I love going through all my things and throwing everything away. I tell myself. I don’t need them anymore, as they are junk.

    I surround myself with very little in the way of possessions, all my past world travel photos have gone. So have all family photos. I prefer to use my excellent memory of pictures, people and places.

    I am 83 now and firmly believe I should leave this earth with nothing, just as I came into life. With the exception of about one dozen people, nobody alive today will ever be remembered in 500 hundred years time, so what’s the point of collecting – vanity?

    I’m having a jolly good laugh at your writings, as they give me pleasure, but I could never follow your lifestyle.

    This may surprise you too! I dump friends as quickly as trash. Once I leave a habitation, they vanish from my mind, since I am more interested in the brand new friends I make on my next journey.

  3. lilian roth 26 March 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    Hi Ruth, what a great column, as usual. I and my kids have been sectret hoarders all our lives. We hide it well in cupbaords and drawers and big boxes in the garage. Its so hard to give up all the sentimental and loved objects. Kids drawings, cards and old clothes! Help, what is the answer?. You are wonderful and expose all our little foibles

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