This is a little hard to admit, but I think I might be a hoarder.
But not the heaps and piles of unorganized clothes, broken electronics, dusty furniture, dirty dishes, and garbage that is so out of control that I wouldn’t know if a dead cat was somewhere underneath kind.
No, not that kind.
I’d like to classify myself as a hoarder of paper.
All the books, notebooks, folders, files, and binders from my education and every job I have ever had is still in my possession. Not to mention all the utility bill records, medical records, cable statements, “important” receipts, insurance information, tax returns, and too many other documents to mention. And don’t even get me started on all the shoeboxes in my closet full of cards, letters, movie stubs, programs, momentos, and more. If you invited me to your wedding ten years ago, I am certain I can find the invitation. If you wrote me a thank you for a baby gift, I can surface that too. If you sent me a birthday card for my 18th birthday (or any birthday thereafter for that matter), yep I can find that for you. And did you know I saw Bob Dylan live in Burruss Auditorium during my freshmen year at Virginia Tech? Allow me to show you my ticket.
I find this all somewhat disturbing.
It’s only lately come to my attention that I even had a problem. In fact, if we hadn’t moved last April and my brother and his girlfriend never made me clean out my old bedroom, The Shrine, then I would probably be living blissfully unaware and the problem would continue to grow.
Fortunately, the more unpacked and settled I’ve gotten in our new home, and the fact that I have an office (as opposed to shelves in a basement and a childhood bedroom in tact — out of sight, out of mind), here I sit with all my papers IN ONE ROOM. After high school, college, graduate school, four jobs, and more graduate school, it’s a little scary and slightly overwhelming.
All these… all these… papers.
All this writing. All these words. All these numbers.
Whoever said it’s a paperless world has obviously never met me.
The funny thing? I am an organized paper hoarder, gosh darn it! I have to admit I kind of like admiring all my neat and tidy crates and legal boxes and labels and files and folders. All that hard work. I mean seriously, it’s kind of cool right? I even have newspapers from important historical days in my lifetime.
You want to know what was on the front page of the Roanoke Times the day after 9/11? Hold on, let me grab that file for you.
I have so many documents and information from my life it’s alarming. From now on, I think I should go by the name Queen Archivist of the 100th power.
You want to know who the lead actors in Mama Mia were on Broadway in March 2009? Let me grab my program.
You want to know to how much my rent was in 2001? Be right with you!
You want to know what grade I got on tenth grade vocabulary test? An A, of course.
Deep down I know I need to do something about my problem, but I am not quite sure where to start. I think I’d feel a million times lighter and maybe be able to unleash some uncluttered creativity if I’d just go through it all and send it on its way into the universe and out of my personal space.
But for now?
Here I sit paralyzed. My academic and professional and memory-filled life in one room. My kids are napping in the two rooms across the hallway. They are all I really need, right? These papers don’t matter!
But yes, they do matter!
Do you see my struggle? I am still trying to figure out why I felt so compelled to hold onto these artifacts and memories in the first place? Do other people do this? In some ways, it’s my little way of preserving certain rites of passage and special moments. What does this say about me? Do I want to know?
I need answers, people.
I know I will hang onto some of these artifacts, but
some most of it (and this is where it gets hard) needs to go. During the last year of unpacking and going through other items unearthed during the move, I took pictures of things before I threw them away if I felt torn about pitching them. I considered those items “relics of my past” that I needed to get rid of. Taking a picture made me feel like I was holding onto a memory, but moving forward with room for more stuff as I started the next part of my life, back in Pennsylvania where I started. This time with a family of my own.
The thing is though, I don’t really want more “stuff.” Lately, I have been finding it easier to throw things away. I guess I am trying to break my old habits and try to lighten my load. In order to do so, I need help.
What do other people do with paperwork after a class ends, a degree is earned, or a job is left? What about cards, letters, programs, etc?
I am on a mission.
To keep or to toss?
That is the question.