Downsizing My Home and Discovering That I Am a Hoarder

Since when does any human need 58 glass vases? (Likely from 30 years worth of roses and other arrangements delivered, but) why did I find myself keeping that number of vases anyway?

The answer to the second question is in the ridiculous amount of cabinet, storage and closet space I had in my home. That allowed me to hoard in secret -- and I guarantee that this custom home that I am leaving, was built by a hoarder. That's the only way to explain the excessive amount of storage space this house contains -- probably five homes worth. It's actually a hoarder's dream house. Maybe that's why I am so upset at losing it. (Note that I was flooded out of my home. Read my flood blogs for that scoop.)

At any rate, if you have 4300 square feet and most of it includes deep storage spaces, closets and cabinets, you can keep stockpiling things like glass vases and not even know that you are hoarding.

I have never considered myself or called myself a hoarder, but I do bear many of the traits. I find it painful to part with sentimental stuff. (The vases I had no problem getting rid of, and I did get a laugh when I saw how many I had.) I literally must have saved every printed thing my children ever brought home from school -- awards, certificates of participation, report cards, transcripts, acceptance letters etc. It is all so hard to part with; they are pieces of their childhood.

I guess because my home is clutter-free, and everything is away in its place, I did not consider myself a hoarder. Hoarders have messy homes where you can't even walk due to things piling up. Some have homes where you find dead animals under piles and piles. That was not me, although several of my so-called friends helping me pack my life's contents up had no problems with using that term for me. (Halloween decorations from year one, every book ever purchased, greeting cards from forever ago, Bat Mitzvah RSVP notes from 15 years ago, 45 rpm records and memorabilia from my youth, every newspaper story in print with my byline, my jewelry box from childhood, even old love letters.)

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So here goes: My name is Arlene Nisson Lassin, and I am a hoarder.

I'm just a very tidy and neat hoarder, where everything is put away, and the only inkling is that some shelves are filled with too many trinkets. (My friend Marisa once warned me that when I pass away my children will hate me for leaving them so many of my "treasures" to sort through.)

That new book about tidying up by throwing out stuff that everyone is talking about doesn't work for me. You are supposed to hold the item in your hand and see if you feel happy or if it brings you joy. The problem with people like me is that EVERYTHING brings joy and happiness. And conversely, it is painful to part with anything of even minimal affection or sentimental value. As I unearthed treasure after treasure, I tingled with pleasure. "Oh no, I can't get rid of this," I kept saying at each item. How could I possibly part with any of it?

That includes my kids' tiny outgrown clothes and costumes, cheerleading uniforms, dance shoes (tiny tap shoes!), toys, books, trophies, collectibles. (Not just Beanie Babies but so many collectibles!) I have five huge plastic tubs of toys alone packed up now to keep. But I swear I threw out three large boxes worth.

I have a lifetime of more stuff that, since I need to go through a few more moves as we will be displaced from the flood and won't be in a home of our own for the next few moves, I need to get rid of as soon as possible. We are downsizing our home and won't have nearly the amount of build-ins, cabinet space and closets, so there won't be a hoarder's paradise for me any longer.

What's a person to do? I know I need a 12-step program, or some sort of intervention to get me through this downsizing, or else I will need a storage facility -- no make that a small warehouse, for all the stuff I MUST KEEP that won't fit in our home going forward.

Yet I know if I get that storage space, where stuff will just sit without any use or function, it will be a waste of money and a reason to keep hoarding.

My adult children hoard too, but it's not their fault. They just kept everything from childhood on because mom's home accommodated it. Nothing had to be tossed. So now they have an ultimatum of taking it away or having it thrown out or donated. That's two rooms where the problem is solved, which only leaves me with a dozen more of my own to deal with.

So my question remains, how do you pare down a lifetime of meaningful stuff? Key word: meaningful -- why does everything mean so much? Any suggestions are welcomed.