Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm An Anti-Hoarder

Some people have a psychological problem where they can't throw anything away. They're hoarders.

I have a psychological problem where I can't not throw things away. I'm an anti-hoarder. A thrower-awayer. A de-clutterer. A house purger.

I get a serious kick out of getting rid of stuff, and I get a serious case of the heebie-jeebies when I'm around a lot of cluttery junk. I almost enjoy getting rid of stuff as much as I enjoy buying stuff. Not quite, but almost.

Yesterday I did a major house purge. It was awesome.

I threw away pieces of paper. I threw away old towels that could have been still useful, but were too ratty to donate to the thrift store. I threw away some pajamas tops that I'd bought at a thrift store that couldn't be washed with anything else and thus were driving me crazy.

I made a giant stack of books to take to the used bookstore. I live in a smallish space, and I'm determined not to buy any more bookshelves, so now that I've got some new books I had to get rid of some old ones. Mostly I'm getting rid of novels I started and hated, or novels I sort of enjoyed but were too stupid to want to keep around the house. I say it's a resolution, but the truth is, I was excited and happy to get rid of these books.

I threw away an old wood cutting board that had gotten all moldy-colored on the bottom. I threw away an apple corer that I never use because I prefer knives. I threw away a cookie cutter in the shape of a buffalo. Cute, but when's the last time I made cookies? Never.

Those last two kitchen items were the only thing I felt bad about throwing away. They could have been used; in a perfect world I'd have found a new home for them. But there were only two of them, and they were small, and I was lazy. In the trash they went.

In a kind of fit of craziness, I threw away old mementos and letters. Who needs them? After all, I'm anti-nostalgia. That's when I started to think, "Maybe I am insane?"

Because the truth is I've gotten carried away before. Absurdly, my need to purge extends to my digital life, and I often delete old electronic documents. Once I accidentally deleted all my copies of my CV and I had to remake it from scratch.

Overall, though, I'd say the house purging desire is a healthy one, and only occasionally does it veer into madness. And if I ever get tired of being a professor, I figure I can become a professional. I would love to go throw other people's stuff away.

The only real thorn in my side, house-purging-wise, is the environment. When I was a kid my father did a yearly house purge, bringing the same pleasure to the task that I now bring to my own. "If in doubt, throw it out!" he'd chant, while dumping old boxes of crayons, markers, and half-used pads of paper. "We'll get new ones if we want!" he'd say.

I would love, love, love to throw away old pens, half-used boxes of greeting cards, packages of mailing labels, and old pads of paper. But the thought of the land-fill stops me. I'm proud to say I've got a half-used box of greeting cards that I've had for about ten years, sitting in my drawer. Ten years! I use one of them every so often. I've thought of trashing them about seventeen times. How's that for the triumph of rationality over desire, guys?



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