I’m nowhere near a true pack rat, though I have minor tendencies. I haven’t watched the television show “Hoarders” on A&E, but I only had to glimpse the Web site’s photo gallery to see the wicked extremes. Apparently true hoarding includes completely neglecting the space where your goodies amass. One woman, Augustine, packed to the brim her bathroom, which displayed a toilet that was caked black as though she forgot to flush two years ago.
On the other hand, Richard’s beer can collection turned out nicely. Previously stacked in crate towers, the vibrant cans eventually lined the basement walls on clean shelving.
I, too, have items that could enliven my walls. Currently in a box are the memories from my fleeting stint in gymnastics. As a six-year-old wearing bicycle spandex shorts, I gathered countless blue ribbons that were awarded every time I achieved a significant goal. I could tack those up. Twisting in the wind of my air conditioning, the relics would inform houseguests of my stellar performance on a balance beam that hovered two inches off the ground — tough falls. Or maybe they’d spot one that applauds an intense trampoline combination move: knees-to-stomach-to-butt.
My closet holds more recent acquisitions. After my study abroad travels in the fall of 2008, I toted home everything from church brochures to Paris metro tickets. I probably even have a receipt from some piece of food I thought deserved preservation (doner kebabs are glorious).
Then I bowed out of architecture but held on to a sleeve of drawings and a hefty storage trunk packed with miscellaneous gear including rulers, plaster mix and concrete models. As a freshman, I analyzed and drew the geometry of a green pepper — I still have the wrinkled vegetable, which is somehow odorless.
Design remains important to me; I can’t readily part with the physical remnants. Just the same, though I never stuck with it, gymnastics was a marker for my first explorations of sports. Those affectionate letters recall the gals with whom I shared big moments such as my first handholding session and first (cheek) kiss.
Our memories can be beasts in some instances, but at times they falter. While the brain can stitch together a decent picture of the past, artifacts can instantly increase the resolution. And while oratory skills are important, having a show-and-tell stockpile to complement your stories seems likewise precious.
However, I suppose there are reasonable limits; to overwhelm otherwise livable spaces is suspicious. Nostalgic for the ’90s, you can stow away your extensive POG collection in cylinders that demand little square footage. But if your thing is, say, life-size cardboard cutouts of Disney characters, it could be weird for your friends to use the bathroom with Peter Pan watching from the tub.
At least avoid Augustine’s humiliation and brush the toilet.
Once upon a time, I lived alone and had almost bare walls.
I had one set of matching dishes and a simple set of pots. I barely had enough to decorate the empty corners and bookshelves, and my DVD collection consisted of roughly eight discs.
My pantry was almost always empty. Except for two folding chairs, my balcony always had enough room for no matter how many visitors I entertained.
And then I moved in with my fiance, Tom.
Now, we have a hodgepodge of dishes ranging from a mug shaped like a clown to a plate with the visage of President Barack Obama reading “Change Has Come.”
On our walls, shelves are crammed with VHS tapes, DVDs, video games ranging from Atari to Wii and an autographed photo of the monster truck Bigfoot hangs in the kitchen. A light-up Pope John Paul II clock sits on the same bookshelf as an old picture of Frank Sinatra.
Around our two marine fish tanks are enough saltwater supplies to fully stock a pet store.
A framed, giant photograph of a mustached stranger from the Victorian era hangs in our hallway. We nicknamed him “The Duke.”
Oh, and our bathroom walls are completely encrusted with obscure old albums, from to Peter Nero’s “I Gotta Be Me” to Andy Gibb’s “Flowing Rivers.”
Tom says that our apartment “is like living in Bennigan’s. It’s
Comfortable if you like everything imaginable nailed to the wall, which even included a foosball table at one point.
I open one of our closets, which is crammed with board games: Battleship, Candyland, Captain Planet: The Board Game, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Sorry and Trivial Pursuit. I notice we have two Perfections, two Risks, three Guess Who’s and four Twisters.
It’s then I realize: Tom and I are hoarders.
A quirky sweetheart with a degree in fine arts, Tom has a fun sense of humor and an eye for the truly outrageous. He frequently spots “treasures” at the thrift store and excitedly brings them home like the trophies of a heroic conquest.
In his zeal, we’ve amassed a good amount of junk we simply don’t need.
But in assessing our mess, I can’t simply blame Tom.