am I a hoarder? - jan 8th, 2012

There’s something strangely disquieting about having things, amassing possessions – clothing, books, collections . . . things we value. Granted, on some innate subconscious level, it is soothing; makes you feel like you are somewhere, some place, there where all your shit is. We define ourselves by what we own and surround ourselves with. Having more, or the latest, in some convoluted form of reasoning, gives us substance, style, definition. Down deep, I guess, we fear that otherwise, we might just disappear. So we proceed to outline ourselves – in thick tip sharpie.
When I first left home to set out on my own, my life consisted of a guitar and a small trunk which contained all my clothes and everything else that I owned. (Well, there were a few boxes in my parent’s basement . . . thank God for parents!). Anyway, I vividly remember having this wondrous free feeling, an openness, a lightness of being that I sometimes do yearn to taste again. Ah, but it might be too late for that!
My wife and I have a custom of getting up early on Saturday mornings to go out for blended mocha coffee drinks and then hit the yard and garage sales in our little neighborhood. It’s a social thing . . . okay, it’s a shopping thing. We never spend much, usually a quarter to a dollar per item, but quite often we find bargains we can’t pass up, or discover things we can’t live without: possessions passed along by others who are moving, or who are just downsizing. I am a sucker for books, or anything musical. Last week I bought a James Brown biography and Woodie Guthrie’s “Born To Win” for 25 cents each – and a Jimi Hendrix “Axis: Bold As Love” sheet music transcription book for a dollar. I own six or seven copies of “On The Road” because when I find one for a quarter, I just can’t pass it up.
But vinyl albums are my main weakness. I’ve kept my old turntable in good working condition, so for 50 cents I can relive musical memories from the past, immersing myself in warm, crackly, familiar sounds. The problem is, my library has grown to over 4000 albums!
I once bought an assortment of 40 or so small brass hand bells, each one different and unique, that someone had painstakingly accumulated on their travels – $5 for them all. They were, well, musical, and just too cool to pass up. So now they sit on a bookshelf in my living room. Will I ever actually use them, incorporate them into a recording some day? Probably not.
Sometimes I’ll find a brand name shirt or flannel that’s soft, already worn in, and fits just right for a dollar or two.
I have a collection of Tony Gwynn baseball cards that I gathered back in his playing heyday. Some I bought, but many were given to me by my friends and family because they knew that I admired Gwynn’s work ethic, his easy going, unpretentious attitude, not to mention his prodigious hitting skills. Lots of these little pieces of cardboard are unique and rare regional issues, the kind that came in cereal boxes or on food packaging. Do I use them? No, although every so often I look through them and revisit memories.
I have a niece, a young 30 something woman, who has restricted her clothing closet space to 36 inches. Anything that doesn’t fit in there is given away. If she adds something new, something else has to go. Go take a look in your closet right now and tell me you can even imagine that. I really admire her – to have that sort of resolve in the face of the rampant consumerism that rages through today’s world.
We all have way too much, and we’re creating, collecting, and storing more every day. It’s not going to go away. And, one way or another, we will eventually have to deal with it.