Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hi. My name is Stacie. And I'm a hoarder.

I made the mistake of watching A&E's reality show "Hoarders" for the first time sometime last year, late at night when I couldn't sleep. I was enthralled at the perverse nature of these people to save every single item, every newspaper article, every knick nack, one woman even recorded every show and stashed the VHS tapes. Yes, VHS tapes. She apparently missed the news when they announced the digital revolution. After the show was over, my eyes were wide open. No sleep for me. No time soon. My brain was still wrapping my mind around how these people collected stuff until they no longer had room to walk, eat or live in their own homes.
Then my mind drifted to the rubbermaid container in our attic of old VHS tapes, and the box in my closet of old newspaper clippings, and the other box of knick nacks from my childhood.

Meet Freddie Bear. He is 33 years old and deserves to be on display. 

Holy moly! I'm a hoarder!! I mean, these people had to start somewhere, right? It didn't just happen overnight! That night I collected 3 trash bags of things and took them to Goodwill the next day. And then a little more the next week and then a little more the next week. My addiction has been getting better and I can safely say that the A&E producers will probably not be knocking on my doors for at least the next 5 years, maybe 10.
But the past 2 weeks I have been doing some spring cleaning and getting ready for a local children's consignment sale. I've been sorting through old toys, clothes, shoes, baby items and deciding "Consign, Donate or Keep" Every single item I looked at brought on an onslaught of memories. I have never been one who wants to go back in time. So many of my friends say, "Oh, I just miss the newborn stage" or, "Don't you miss being pregnant?" Uh, no and no. Don't get me wrong. I loved those stages (mostly), but I never want to reverse the flow of time so I can do it all again. Call me in 20 years and I may sing a  different tune. But for now I am fine with having moved past the prelude and into the chorus of life.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself surrounded by old things wanting to relive all these moments of time. I wasn't even just wistful, but downright nostalgic. And I haven't been the only one. My husband's face said it all as he took out the last (after potty training) of the dirty diapers from the Diaper Genie. Lower lip pooched out, frown line in the eyebrow. We are moving into a new season of life whether we want to or not. More children may or may not be in God's plan for us and we may have changed our childrens' last dirty diapers (let's hope). I scoffed at his sad look and said "C'mon. Gimme a break. It's NOT sad." But yesterday when I dropped the Diaper Genie off at the consignment sale (yes, you could be the proud owner of a used diaper genie!), I felt the smallest tear well up in the crease of my eye. And then I laughed at myself. Out loud. A few women looked at me, but whatever.

But what I've realized is that 'hoarding' can also be genetic. As we've been cleaning out things and digging to the bottom of the toy box, my daughter has been clutching, nostaglic, wanting to keep things and breaking down in tears. I did the exact same thing as a child! I can recall selling my Berenstein Bears books in a garage sale and screaming and crying that night as if we lost a family pet. Guess what was on my wish list for my 16th Birthday? The complete Berenstein Bears library. Sentimental much? But my mother wasn't wrong in wanting to clean things out, move onto the next phase of life. Now I am on the other side of that drama. I guess I am being paid back!

Now please don't think I'm completely hard hearted. There are certain things we won't ever give up. And they are random toys, worthless to others. For example, we still have the cake toppers from Lily's first birthday cake. 3 plastic Disney princesses. She loves them and still plays with them during room time! We even had a scare with Belle on a couple of occassions. She broke in the bathtub so we tried to glue her back together, but glue and baths don't work, so she is now held together with a screw through her sternum. We found her just the other day wedged into the couch cushions smooshed a bit, but still resilient as ever. My husband and I exchanged a knowing glance. Ahh the memories. So, we hoard cake toppers. Who doesn't hoard something?!
Belle is now forver bending over to smell the Beast's rose thanks to a stint in the couch. 
Personally, I am a hoarder of smells. Yes, that's right smells. The power of a certain scent can bring on a downright tsunami of memories. I still have the perfume I wore in high school. I don't wear it anymore and I'm sure it's technically gone bad, but every once in awhile I will pop the cap to my little bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo Sport for Women, take a long sniff and reminisce.

This past fall we lost my grandfather suddenly. We had to travel to Louisiana and pack up my grandmother and 65 years worth of memories and move them and her back here. It was an emotional task for certain. I took my grandmother through each section of the house and asked her what she wanted to bring. Did she want to expensive china? No. The crystal? Please. The things she had us pack were the things that had memories attached to them. She was flooded with memories the same way all of us are at one time or another. When all was said and done I had to go through the rest of the things and decide what I wanted to take home to remember my grandfather, to remember the house they called a home. I chose a few random things that also had memories attached to them. But the one thing I brought back that I have treasured is a old nightgown of mine that my grandmother kept in an old cedar chest. The nightgown itself doesn't hold a lot of memories for me. I do have a picture or two of me in it as child. I thought I would pass it down to Lily and let her wear it since it's her size. But when I unpacked it at my house I noticed it had THE smell. The smell of Grand & Gramps' house. A distinct odor of cedar, mothballs and a little something else. Something undefineable. Something sentimental.

So, naturally the nightgown went directly in a plastic bag and I take whiffs from time to time to permeate my memories. So I don't forget my grandparents. Their house. The hot summers in Louisiana. The crawfish boils in the backyard. My grandfather's garden. Fishing at dawn. Old candy in a dish. Coffee in bed as a two year old. Eating cake until I threw up. Friday nights watching "Murder She Wrote". It's amazing what a smell can do for me.

As I sifted through all our children's belongings the past two weeks I kept reciting this verse over and over.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destory, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
Matthew 6:19-21 

Now, I do interpret this as being about wealth and assets and probably not knick nacks and newpaper clippings. But I do so desperately want to impart the importance of this onto my children. I want them to know that our identity is not in things, in toys or even in the momories of this world. That our identity is that we are sons and daughters of Christ and there is a treasure more than all we can ask or imagine waiting for us in His kingdom. 

So I am slowly figuring out how we do that while still preserving our family history and memories. It's a fine line, I can tell you that! The line between living in the past and living for the future while still enjoying and learning from the present. 

You all may see me on a future episode of Hoarders kicking out the psychiatrist from A&E while clutching my cake toppers and smelling my nightgown. Pray for me, y'all. 

Hi. My name is Stacie. And I'm a hoarder. 


  1. Love it. I have perfume from high school too! It smells TERRIBLE...not that it's gone bad, it smelled bad then too! I don't know how it didn't make me sick then, it sure does now. I somehow can't get rid of it though!

  2. Great post, and it actually brought a tear to my eye! I have the natural tendency to save a lot of things, for memory's sake, as well. I'm learning to hold onto things more loosely and throw a lot away!! Love your blog--fun to get to know you a little bit more through it. --bumberjoy from ig

    1. Thanks, friend! It's fun to get to glimpse into other's lives through the net! I'll check out your blog, too!