Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Tossing

Mama Hungry and I have been passing time some evenings watching shows on hoarding. In part, we're fascinated; in part, we're embarrassed by our participation in this exploitation of mental illness. Watching the show has us contemplating the complicated (and in these cases unhealthy) relationships between people and their things: the emotional connection to things as a replacement for love, companionship, childhood, pleasure, or to remember the past or a person; the endless cycle of purchasing and keeping, without much concern for need or the ability to store or use it (oh, all the unopened bags of things people bought and never looked at again); "1 is too many; 100 is not enough," or overbuying/collecting to create complete sets; purchasing or keeping something only delays whatever emotion someone is avoiding for a little while (so they have to keep buying more!); don't bring in more than you toss out; never choose stuff over people; people become desensitized to mess and clutter; discarding things evokes hard emotions of loss, waste, guilt, even disloyalty; saving things "in case" or even broken things, swearing they'll fix them; family situations seriously influence a person's relationship to things (either as a continuation or reaction to the family's habits). It really is both difficult and inspiring to watch these people struggle with, and often overcome, years' worth of hoarding habits.

Is it cliché to say we've been doing more cleaning because of the show? But we have. I went through my entire food magazine and clipped recipe collection and tossed the majority of it. While we're not hoarders, we are savers and not very dedicated to housework on top of it. And we recognize some of the feelings and habits in ourselves, though definitely muted and less emotional. Because we are always working to simplify our lives, the show helps confirm our interest in simplifying and clarify our society's unhealthy materialism (even in people who aren't hoarders). So, it felt very good to throw things out and give them away.

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