The blog of photographer Kim Ayres


If I was another 20 pounds heavier, I would not get up those stairs.

This has nothing to do with levels of fitness, but with the fact there are piles of boxes and stuff from floor to ceiling up 2 flights of stairs and along the hallways. In the bedroom there is a narrow pathway between the door and the bed, while the bed itself is a merely a mattress on top of more boxes of stuff. The living room door has been removed and a curtain placed there instead to allow access. If you are too wide, you risk getting wedged.

I have no idea what colour or design her wallpaper is.

Most people are guilty of holding on to things because they might come in handy one day, rather than being of daily, weekly or even seasonal use. We've all experienced that feeling of having thrown something out, only to discover it would have been the ideal solution to a problem 2 weeks later. But this relative of mine has taken it to a whole new level.

It has become a burden. She knows she needs to do something about it. She could make a small fortune selling it all at car boot sales or on eBay. She knows this too, which is why she couldn't take the other route of throwing it all out. It has all become too big and too scary to even know where to start.

She knows its dysfunctional. This level of hoarding is the kind of thing they make Channel 4 documentaries about.

Every time Maggie, the kids and I go on holiday and rent a place for a week, we get by with a minimal amount of stuff. The cottage or apartment we stay in has all the furniture, fittings and kitchen utensils needed, but beyond a handful of books, games and DVDs left for the guests, it will be uncluttered.

We live for a week like this and love the sense of space and lack of responsibility for decades of accumulated stuff. We resolve to have a major clear out when we get home and adopt a considerably more minimalist lifestyle.

Of course, once home and faced with all the stuff, either it is useful or it has sentimental value of some kind - evoking memories of a time and place we'd forgotten until we picked it up and were reminded. Now, with that memory fresh, we don't want to lose it. To throw away that object would be like throwing away access to a memory. The decision to discard it is scarier than putting it back with a promise to deal with it another day.

My problems with physical hoarding are nothing like the level of my relative, but I've come to realise I have a deeper problem with hoarding ideas - interesting bits of information, something to learn, something to try out, things to do, stuff which will definitely come in handy one day.

I have endless folders, boxes, bags and piles of scraps of paper with things scribbled on them. I have hundreds of emails sitting open in my inbox ready to look at in depth when I have the time to spare. Typically I have anything from 15 to 25 windows open in my browser, with web pages I need to come back to when I've got a moment.

Each of these thoughts, ideas and bits of information has potential. Each one kept with hope and expectation of solving problems, improving my life or improving the lives of others if I harness it right.

Discarding them would be throwing away possibilities and dreams.

I don't harshly judge my relative for her compulsive hoarding, for I am guilty of exactly the same thing, just expressed in a slightly different way.

My name is Kim. And I am a Hoarder.


Z said...

Having spent the last year dealing with the stuff my late husband hoarded, a task that is still ongoing, I'm cured of all inclinations to hoard. When I find it hard to focus, it's because there is so much to do and sometimes I can't cope with it. I even gave away about 400 books a couple of months ago - not much, but a start because they were mine, not my husband's. I've no longer any capacity for the indulgence of dreams. I'm not at all sure if this is a sad thing or not, but it'll be a relief, eventually, to be free.

hope said...

My problem isn't hoarding per se, just being too sentimental. And all my family knows it! So when they feel the need to clean out something family related, they tend to want to leave it on my doorstep. I finally made the decision that if it didn't have a purpose other than, "this use to belong to your great great whoever", I politely say no. Because when the aunt I took care of died, I had to deal with 40 years worth of hoarding. I knew it was bad when I found a bathing suit I remembered her wearing...when I was six!

I have "idea" files too, which I made myself clear out once. And some days I still think, "Why did I get rid of that story idea?! Now I know how to fix it."

The only "thing" I can't bear to part with is all the photos, etc. from my genealogy work on the family. Oh sure, I've scanned everything and stored it on a flash drive. But the thought of throwing out someone's face, smiling up at me, is still hard. I knew it was just me the day I tried to share those photos with other family members and they either laughed or ignored me.

Well, at least you're in good company. Because we aren't lazy, we have our reasons. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Z - Sorry to hear of your loss. I hope it's not too long before you're finally clear the hoardings.

Hope - Photos are an extraordinarily difficult one to deal with. I have tens... no, make that hundreds of thousands of photos on my hard drives. I'm better these days at getting rid of ones shortly after I've taken them, but in the early days I kept every photo I took on the digital camera, and now there are just too many to go through

TamraKi said...

Great writing. We have a constant donation pile:)...but yes, as an artist/ writer...those scraps...lil paper piles...cleverly your angle.

Kim Ayres said...

Tamra - thank you - and welcome to my blog! Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

Coralie said...

Ha Ha, I think I know who your talking about!
If I get rid of my things, then that amazing something i am going to make out of it all one day, wont ever happen!, which will therefore stunt my growth in the developmental and creative process of my future Artistic ability. ( if that makes sense)?
But yes your right, I have a hoarding disorder, which i am finally confronting. The stairs are now clear, my bedroom more like a bedroom and my hallway now allows a more medium build person access. Ive been taking stuff to charity shops and book/ clothes skips. I have the best help, in the form of a really funny book, which i have to keep referring to when i feel myself lapsing from time to time ' The secret of how to win Freedom from Clutter' by Don Aslett. I highly recommend this all hoarders out there, as it brings to light the absurdity of being a hoarder, in a really amusing way.!

Kim Ayres said...

Coralie - wow! That's truly amazing progress! Really, really, really proud and delighted for you :)

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