Today in class I diagnosed myself with mild hoarding tendencies. No, you will not find cat bodies littered across my apartment or old newspapers stacked chronologically to the ceiling. I said “mild tendencies.”
One of the main cognitive distortions that fuels hoarding behaviors is the irrational belief that the moment you throw something away, you let go of that specific part of your life. In this category you can find the high school all-stars who got injured after their senior year of football and were left to relish the glory days through excess copies of personal sports statistics. In this category you can find “borrowed” items from previous acquaintances that never found their way home to the original owner. And it is in this category that I fall.
If you were to visit my childhood bedroom you would find it to be quite normal looking, until you looked in my closet. The shelves of my walk-in closet are sufficiently organized according to year of my life since age 14. Each year contains some sort of box holding a variety of objects that represent the experiences and emotions that I encountered at that time. To someone else, it looks like a cluttered mess of meaningless objects. To me each bin serves as a time capsule, protecting my prized memories of youthfulness and preserving interpersonal relationships that have long since faded. Each scrap from the past holds potent remnants of a life once lived, telling a story of a happier time, a scarier time, a sadder time, a time where the only thing I needed was a kiss at the end of the night or a slow dance while Jesse Lacey crooned in the background… moments that are probably only meaningful to me, as the people involved have journeyed on in their lives for the most part. Each time I return home to that room, to that closet, current life becomes suspended as I pick out one moment at a time, study it and return it to its proper place.
The almost superstitious quality of my logic behind the boxes should be a concern of mine. It’s not as though I am foregoing participating in life because all I do is look backwards… although that might be the case on occasion. The real trouble comes from the biased nature of my collection. I save only the things that will help me to recall the past as I see it. And as the years wear on, people become less like people and more like caricatures of an individual; situations turn polarized to the point where I can only remember the most dramatic details and thus propagate a deluded reality as my memory gets foggier. Eventually the purpose behind the tendency, maintaining specific parts of your life/not wanting to forget, becomes moot because the trinkets and the poems and the love notes just add to this skewed fantasy that replaces what was real. So I ask myself, which is worse: to let go of things as they go and experience the vacancy as it occurs or to preserve the past by pumping it full of falsities until it transforms into something vaguely familiar to something you once knew?