Monday, August 29, 2011

Katie Gill and Too Much Shit

If my life were a series of children's books, the above would definitely be one of the titles. Recently I've realized something: not only are my parents total hoarders, but they have trained me to be a hoarder as well. Let's start from the beginning:

As long as I can remember, my family has had a ton of shit. Unlike other families who used their garages for things like "cars" and "bicycles," ours was reserved for more important artifacts, like towering stacks of cardboard boxes. These boxes were filled with invaluable possessions like old sports equipment and Christmas decorations from the 70s. In fact, a lot of the boxes were leftover from our move to Pennsylvania. We even had boxes in the dining room for a couple of months. Apparently the contents had been precious enough to transport, but not to ever access again.

My parents hate throwing anything away. It never seemed weird to me that our hall closet belonged to four people and contained no fewer than thirty pairs of shoes. When I outgrew a pair of sneakers, I never thought to throw them away, I just tossed them in the hall closet. Finding our shoes in the morning was a constant annoyance, as each of us had to rummage through an ever growing pile for his or her current pair. Jackets were the same way - each one stuffed back to back on a weakening metal bar. Around 8th grade we stopped trying to shut the door. Our wardrobes never rotated or cycled, they simply expanded.

Kids would come over to visit and ask me what all the boxes were for. "For stuff," I'd say, like it was stupid to ask why we had an entire room that was completely inaccessible to humans. My parents used to complain that we left our toys around the house. "Why don't you just put everything where it belongs?" they'd ask, and it would have been a fine suggestion, if our closets had not been packed with things like formal wear from kindergarten. When at age 13 I decided I was too much of a mature adult to share a room with a little kid and evicted Jame, I had three dressers of clothes plus the closet. And five days out of the week I wore a uniform!

Electronics were no different from clothing. TVs were family members, and when a newer model arrived, the elders would simply be moved to their place of honor in the guest room. Stacks of cassettes lay next to stacks of CDs lay next to stacks of VHS tapes. Our house was like a museum of dead technology.

When I first moved out at age 19, it took over a month for me to pack all my shit - and I still left a ton of it behind. I was the only person in my apartment with a walk-in closet, and it was full to the brim. I even had to buy a 3 shelf organizer from WalMart to hold the surplus clothing. Two big boxes remained unpacked for the entire year, as I had no place to fit the contents. None of this seemed strange to me, even when my roommates offered inquiries such as "uh, why do you have four rain jackets?"

After another move and a decision to move to Pittsburgh, I reached a conclusion: I have too much shit. I vowed to downsize, and tried to give away as much as possible before making the three hour journey from State College. I got rid of tons of stuff, and thought I had done a great job. After all, I had made three trips to Goodwill, and countless trips to the used clothing drop-off center. Some of my dresser drawers weren't even stuffed to capacity anymore - I could open and shut them easily without catching a stray sleeve!

Turns out I underestimated how much excess I truly had before. I may have cut a lot of the fat, but I had such a gargantuan amount before that now I've simply reduced myself to a Person of Clutter as opposed to a straight up Hoarder. My room still contains the tell tale sign of hoarding - empty boxes yet to be unpacked, despite having been here for a month.

This week I'm making it my goal to finally get down to a REASONABLE amount of stuff. And hopefully learn from the past. From now on, when I find a shirt I haven't worn in two years that wasn't even flattering when I bought it, I'm laying it to rest in a Goodwill donation box. It's time to let my shit cross over. It's the least I can do.

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