Monday, 5 July 2010
I am a hoarder.
There I’ve said it. I didn’t need to go on the Jeremy Kyle to tell a bunch of strangers who like car crash TV. I didn’t tell the world that I have come to terms with my problem because of some weird personality trait dictating that I should wash my dirty clothes in public.
Instead, I confessed it in a blog to a handful of readers, a lot of whom I have never met, most of whom probably think that I am some kind of eccentric oddball.
I feel much better now.
Mrs PM knows that I am a hoarder and she hates it. She is transient by nature and devotes all of her attention to whatever takes her interest during that fleeting period.
Take music for example. At the moment, she is devoted to The Black Eyed Peas and Lady Ga Ga and she will continue to be so until she gets bored of them. And then she will ditch them. Not only will she ditch them, she will also dispose of any evidence that she was remotely interested in them. The CD’s will find their way onto Ebay and into the hearts of any crazy fool dumb enough to buy them. To Mrs PM, she has lived for the moment and that moment will be well and truly over – so she will obliterate them from her life with absolute maximum prejudice.
This is her mantra: “It is so over!”
You may have heard me quote that mantra before when I have had to deal with her desire to throw out my clothes.
They say that opposites attract; in the case of hoarding we are poles apart.
As far as I am concerned, if a band enters my radar and I love them, I will buy the CD and I will keep it – forever. It has earned its place in my affections and therefore deserves a place in my life and in my cupboard. I will never, ever get rid of it.
I also have the same attitude to other things too. My collection of books, rock magazines, clothes, gadgets, university notes, football programmes, DVD’s – anything that I like.
Mrs PM hates it.
I have already told you about how, when we got together, she annihilated my wardrobe, throwing out all of my shirts and leaving me without clothes.
“You need to buy new clothes,” she said.
“How? I haven’t got any clothes to wear to actually go and buy anything. Do you want me to walk around the Trafford Centre in my underpants?”
“Not THOSE underpants – they’re SO over.”
Thankfully, she allowed me to wear some unfashionable jeans and a T-shirt in order to buy a whole new set of clothes.
I allowed her to get away with it, simply because we were in the honeymoon period and I wanted to impress her. She clearly didn’t feel the same way I did. I was a formless blob of plasticine to mould into the man she desired.
Of course, needless to say, I rebelled, as I usually do and revisited my hoarding past. It was a dirty hidden secret that I relished.
And this is where the problems began.
You see it is really difficult to hoard without keeping it a secret. My collection of CD’s outgrew the shelving that accommodated them. My wardrobe was only a finite size and every new shirt that I bought had to be crammed into an ever decreasing amount of free space. I bought yet more books and, like the CD’s the number grew too large to store on a bookshelf.
Mrs PM discovered my dirty little secret. She was pretty good about it.
“Let’s have a massive clear out. You can start with your wardrobe then you can move on to those paperbacks. And when you’ve finished with that lot we can look at you CD’s.”
“You ARE joking!” I retorted.
“No!” she replied.
Thus our power struggle began.
I know where my tendency to hoard comes from; my mother. She is the world champion at hoarding. Why does she hoard?
I have a theory about that.
My parents were both born just before World War II and this, as you can imagine, was a very difficult time in terms of acquiring basic necessities. Even after the war was over, the British government continued to ration supplies. People ran out of everything and consequently began to stockpile even the most fundamental bits and pieces.
As a child I remember all four of my grandparents telling me that I shouldn’t waste anything. If there was a use for it then it should be kept. My mum told me the same. It was a mentality born out of rationing. Few things were available so when something passed your way, you kept it.
I remember when my ex-wife’s grandmother died at the age of ninety six. She had lived a fabulously long life, surviving two world wars and more than her fair share of hardship. When the time came to clear out her house, she had hoarded all sorts of things; she had boxes of brown paper bags; bags full of paper clips, elastic bands, pens, pencils, notebooks, thimbles, cotton, plugs, fuses, cutlery, plates, books, newspaper, cotton, plasters, plastic containers, toothpicks, matches, kitchen foil, string – you name it, she had it.
And she wasn’t alone. When my mum’s parents died, we found money in boxes scattered in hiding places throughout the house, under steps, behind skirting boards. My grandfather trusted nobody and hoarded all sorts of junk. He built his own shed and it was literally overflowing with nails, screws, tacks, tools and all sorts of hardware. He could have opened a shop. His wife, my grandmother, was similar. Like my ex-wife’s grandmother, she kept bags and boxes of everything that we take for granted.
The mantra was “You never know when you might need some string” or in fact anything that could conceivably be useful.
Unfortunately my mother shares this mantra and her small house is overflowing with junk. I spend a lot of time telling her that she can and should get rid of some of her stuff but she repeats her mother’s mantra and looks at me as if I am a particularly stupid primeval swamp creature.
One day, I visited her and she said “I’ve bought a new fridge.”
“Fabulous,” I said. “I think you needed one. That old one was falling apart and it was too big for your kitchen.”
I walked into the kitchen to look at the new fridge and saw it standing there, nice and shiny and absolutely full of food. Next to it was the battered old fridge.
“Didn’t they take it away?” I asked.
“No – I’m keeping it.”
I opened it and, sure enough, it too was full of food.
I was speechless. “You’ve got enough food here to feed the British Army and have some left over for the Americans.”
“You never know when it might come in useful,” she said.
This happened two years ago. My mother is also the most stubborn woman who has ever lived and she still owns two fridges full of food.
I am desperate to go there with the world’s biggest skip and have a massive spring clean – but she is prepared. She won’t let me in the house unless I sign a declaration in blood stating that I will not remove a single thing from within her walls.
Mrs PM thinks that I have inherited this hoarding gene.
She is wrong. I do hoard but the things I keep really are necessary for my life and my sanity. I refuse to discard any CD’s and the vast majority of my books, as well as many other things.
Take my scruffy old leather jacket, for example. It is a masterpiece. I have worn it for every single rock concert that I have been to since 1985. It is twenty five years old and still going strong (though Mrs PM will allow me to wear it if I am with her). That jacket has character and is part of my history.
Here it is:
It’s a beauty isn’t it? It’s seen some of the biggest bands on the planet: Rush, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Deep Purple, The Foo Fighters, Metallica, Judas Priest, Guns’n’Roses… the list is endless. How could I possibly get rid of it?
Mrs PM thinks I want to keep it because, like my mother, I am stubborn.
Despite cementing my feet to the ground and refusing to budge, Mrs PM has worn me down over less important stuff and I have ended up having a massive clear out over the years.
However, I am wise to her motives.
Her “clearouts” are getting more and more frequent and she is trying to shame me into giving things away to charity, accusing me of being a heartless self-centred oaf when I refuse. I have started to give in and, with tears in my eyes, sorted out massive piles of stuff, filling bags and lugging them to the local Oxfam shop.
What she doesn’t know, however, is that I have quite literally started to hoard junk. I keep magazines, newspapers, flyers and all sorts of old tat. That way, when she wants a clearout (which are now becoming so frequent now that they are every two weeks), I simply throw away the junk that I have hoarded and have no emotional attachment to. I fill bags full of crap that I really do not want and then the stuff I really do want to keep is saved to live another day.
My fiendish plan is working. Please don’t tell her. I couldn’t bear to part with my beloved leather jacket.