Confessions of a Former Hoarder

By Estelle Erasmus


I used to be a hoarder. And by hoarder, I mean someone who would surround herself with paper products. I must have had at least ten filing cabinets from office monster filled with loose pieces of paper. Come to think of it for as long as I can remember, my office has always been jam-packed with clutter. Old bills, work documents, receipts…you name it, I have probably kept it at some point. Unless it was used toilet paper (I’m not an animal). And by paper products I mean newspapers and magazines. And by magazines I mean any that featured cover lines like, “200 Fashion Tips for the Fashion Foolish” ,”101 Great Canapes” or “The Sexless Marriage: You Decide“. All of which I was always thisclose to using in my writing and research as a journalist and magazine editor-in-chief, which ultimately ended up being used. Not. At. All.

As a “perk” of my job, along with the seasonal makeup trend items from Chanel and Givenchy, I also received enormous comp piles of rubbish sent to me (thank you not-to-be-named manufacturer for the disposable “flushing” device, and cheers to the distributor who deemed me worthy of the health drinks made from the rarest of berries found in the rainforests of Costa Rica). I even got daily deliveries of hard-bound books (we’re talking pre-Kindle times). Ever practical, I kept a “goody” bag in my closet, for handing out the fruits of my hard labor to friends, relatives, my cleaning lady, the mailman, random Christmas carollers, and even Steve Martin (a colleague of mine with that name, not that Steve Martin), I was a hoarder not a celebrity stalker, people.

I wasn’t exactly like the poor souls you see on the eponymously-named show that shared their home with used carbon paper (do not inhale says the warning label), boxes of menthol cigarettes (I don’t smoke), and dozens of rat traps from Costco (their sales can be the bomb), but I came this close. Honestly, I’d probably need some of the help for hoarders in Chicago with how bad some of it got.

It is hard to recall exactly why I decided that my behavior needed to change, but I do distinctly remember reading an online article all about how hoarding unnecessary possessions can turn your previously tidy home into a breeding ground for pests! I absolutely despise rodents, insects and creepy crawlies. If ever I noticed an infestation of mice or bugs I just know that I would not be able to cope and would be on the phone to a pest control service like Pest Control Experts within minutes! Thank goodness I grew out of my hoarding phase…

One time a guy I was dating came over for the first time to my meticulously clean home, and by clean I mean I tossed everything into my closet even my dirty laundry which hadn’t been touched washed in months weeks days. As we were leaving to go out to dinner, I looked for my keys, and to my horror realized that I must have tossed them in the closet right when I was tossing everything else I own in there (yeh, I did THAT). That’s just how I used to roll. But. As previously mentioned. Not. With. Toilet. Paper.

So, I opened the closet door and everything came tumbling out, bras, panties, blouses, socks, random ripped out newspaper clippings, unopened boxes (I owe my doormen and the UPS man from 2002 many apologies–the packages WERE delivered), books and of course magazines. Lots and lots of magazines.

Unperturbed I jumped into the pile, with the enthusiasm of a toddler throwing herself into a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, shifted around a few bras, packages, papers and magazines, scrounged around and happily proceeded to hold up the keys like I had won the lottery shouting “I found them.” He looked at me as if I were holding up Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress and I knew he found me hot (or was it disgusting)? Or both. Because isn’t a Meat Dress both hot and disgusting?

Well, it took another boyfriend, he of the dour disposition coupled with the abilities of Mr. Fix It to avail me of my habit. As one day he forlornly watched me go through my piles of rubbish, his only sullen comment was “Estelle, do you think you’d miss that?” in the tone of Henry Higgins trying to rein in an unruly Eliza Doolittle (without the British accent). My overly defensive response: “Yes, this 1995 Better Home and Gardens recipe for beef lasagna might be useful some day.”

Here is the gist of our conversation, at least what I remember (you know the fumes of that Meat Dress stay with you).

Him: You don’t cook, nor do you write about cooking, or edit a cooking magazine.

Me: I might one day.

Him: You never eat pasta.

Me: I might one day.

HIm: Get rid of it.

Me: Um, ok.

And so it went.

Things sort of avalanched after that. I went from throwing one recipe away, to completely emptying my life from junk and unnecessary belongings. I boxed things up and either took them to charity shops or threw them away. The throwing away took a long time, so for anyone in the same position I was, I suggest looking into alternative forms of waste removal. Cheap rubbish removals Melbourne are plentiful so take your pick.

Finally, my apartment was clean, about one year before I met my husband in 2003. And today, despite the presence of a very covert Kindergartner, my home is clutter free, except for one area: the bedroom. It’s the one place my husband and I can indulge our inner hoarders, and pile up our laundry (see photo). Have I mentioned we hate doing laundry? But we’re working on it. And by working on it I mean Not. At All.

And my subscriptions to magazines? They’ve all been canceled. And by canceled, I mean I read them, but at the manicure place. In fact I’m reading one now. And Lady Gaga is on the cover. But not in a Meat Dress. That would be messy.

Do you have an inner hoarder? Tell me your confession? Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. Much.

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15 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Hoarder”

  1. Pingback: A Preschooler’s Guide to Five Common Phrases Used on a Cruise | Musings on Motherhood and Mid-Life
  2. Your post cracks me up! My husband and I might consider ourselves reformed hoarders, having spent many weekends over the course of the last year cleaning out the clutter in our basement, garage, and closets (see when you move out of the city to the ‘burbs you have so many more places to stash more stuff!).

    However, we have six mini-hoarders running around here constantly collecting little “treasures” and hiding them in every nook and cranny of their rooms.

    Thanks so much for linking up with us (#ShareYourLife)

    1. Hi,
      It’s my pleasure to link up with you. Thanks for your comment, fellow reformed hoarder with mini-hoarders in training:)

  3. My husband is this way and our home can get out of control if I don’t pare down and donate while he’s at work or away. Truthfully though, our garage enables us to horde more than I would like since I hate going in there (because it’s his domain and such a MESS!)

    1. Hi Amanda,
      I love to pare down, too. Right now I’m focusing on my bathroom; I have some lotions in there that must have expired:) Thanks for visiting.

  4. Ha ha ha!! My mother and grandmother were very much like that with magazines and newspapers. I want desperately NOT to be a hoarder, but you would never know looking at my house than I am not. I actually despise clutter and yet it still finds it way to my home. On a very regular basis.

  5. This is great! I used to obsessively keep my NY Times book reviews, because of course, I was going to read each and every book they recommended. When I was younger, I had a tiny room, but managed to keep all of my Teen style magazines with Davy Jones or David Cassidy in them, and as I grew more sophisticated, all of my Creem rock mags. Since I have gotten older, I find it is easier to purge. But I still have shelf after shelf of cooking utensils, dishes, platters, etc…Cooking/giving parites is kind of a hobby, so I find it hard to part with those useful items.
    How will you handle the avalanche of paperwork that will begin coming home with your daughter? It is a problem for every mom I've ever spoken with. After keeping every precious scrap, I finally delegated a box to each child, and used my sharpest "mom as editor" axe to keep only the things I thought were absolutely priceless…So hard at first, but it gets easier. And it will be fun to show to their children someday.

    1. Paula,
      I think Kindle changed that whole "I have to keep hard cover books around" feeling. For my daughter, I have colorful upright boxes that I got from the container store that don't show clutter,and can stand on a shelf so I'm good. Thanks for sharing your story.

  6. Great story. Stuff makes me really uncomfortable, so hoarding is not a possibility for me. It makes my husband crazy when I'm constantly trying to get rid of everything!

    1. Thanks Jessica. I'm constantly trying to get rid of stuff; so determined not to go back to my former ways, especially for my daughter's sake. Maybe that's why I'm constantly on her to clean up her room.

  7. So funny, Melissa. I think there are more of us out there than we know:) Hope this is a forum for people to fess up.

  8. Great post, four years after moving house I came across three boxes we had never opened. As we were preparing a baby room I simply picked them up and threw them in the bin – Still to this day have no idea what was in them, clearly never missed anything!!!

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