Saturday, April 2, 2016

Hoarding vs. Collecting

A recent local news item reported on an elderly man who perished in a fire in his home. Firefighters had difficulty controlling the blaze because the man was a serious hoarder. The house was filled with papers and other combustible material. He also had a gunshot wound, but there was no follow up on how that might have been a factor in his demise.

As I listened to this story, I glanced around our family room and wondered: How do you know whether what you’re doing has jumped the shark from being just “collecting” to being “hoarding?” My husband has stacks of papers, catalogs, direct mail fliers, and books he has either been given or has purchased (sometimes from offers in those fliers). He would probably never throw any of this out if I didn’t nag him about it periodically. (Pun intended.)

I’ve always been a collector. I don’t think I’m a hoarder, but I’m not yet in my eighties. Is hoarding lurking in my future? One of my earliest blog posts dealt with my collecting habits. “I always felt that one of something was lonely and needed a friend. Once I made the pair, I was sunk. Because whenever I came across another related item, I was compelled to bring it home to introduce it to the others.”

I was forced to jettison some things when we downsized, but visitors to our condo who never saw our house in Providence would find that hard to believe. I’ve come up with various ways to display my collections that should dissuade anyone from calling them hoarding. For instance, I’ve arranged my antique evening bags (13) and gloves (11) in four shadow boxes. Scattered among them are old compacts (8), buttons (8) and circle pins (9), thus making these boxes objets d’art hanging on the living room wall.

I still fall victim to the urge to begin new collections. When I started playing the saxophone again, I decided to get some Christmas ornaments of figurines playing saxes. That evolved into cats playing them even though they weren’t suitable to hang on a tree. After the holiday, I expanded my search techniques and stumbled across clowns playing them, too. I also discovered that some sellers misspell the instrument as “saxaphone,” which doubled the number of searches I made.

Two months and many EBay surfing hours later, I have: 3 cats playing sax (Felix is earmarked as a Christmas gift for my instructor); a tiger, an alligator and a sheep all also playing the horn; a clown playing sax and one with a concertina (they were sold as a pair); and cats playing bass fiddle and drum—too cute to pass up, even though there was no sax player in the group. Besides, I’m now jamming in a small combo, so why shouldn’t I celebrate that?

I had to move my collection of miniature teacups and saucers from the display shelves to make room for the band menagerie. They’ll still require dusting in their new locations, so I plan to sell them on EBay. Since that money will wind up in my PayPal account, I’ll probably use it to buy more must-have finds for my musical menagerie. Note to self: look for animal piano player.

As I write this, it’s evident that there are some gray areas in my defense of my collecting addiction. And yes, I just used the word “addiction.” I admit that a collecting addiction is probably just a few glasses of wine away from a hoarding disorder. NBC had a feature this week on the “Sip and Click” phenomenon. It’s the habit people have of coming home after a late evening of drinking with friends, logging on to their computers and buying all sorts of things they don’t need and wouldn’t buy if sober.

I’m not in danger of that happening, but there’s one hoarding habit for which I’m probably at risk. That’s becoming a Crazy Cat Lady. We recently adopted a senior cat from a local rescue shelter. We had picked out a senior brother for her, but he has developed health issues that could be too serious for him to be adoptable. If he recovers, we’re definitely taking him, but it could be weeks before that’s resolved.

In meantime, our new girl is in need of some company (besides me). That could mean we’d be back to three cats at some point, which is where we were when we had Pansy, Lily and Luke. I look at the shelter’s website every day to see who else has shown up. “Oooh! That one’s so cute. But she’s too young. I want an older cat.” Lord help me if they ever get several seniors surrendered at once.

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