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Monday, December 2, 2013

Hoarder or collector?

I got called a hoarder the other day and I am not sure how I feel about it. It was meant as a tease but someone else called the name caller an ass. So maybe it wasn't a tease. So I got to thinking. What is the difference between hoarding and collecting?

I don't know the answer. I just wonder. It was said in the "dirty German" book that Germans are notorious collectors an have some of the weirdest obsessions. Geeks have a weird neurotic component to being a geek and that is to have a collection of things that they love. As tastes change some geeks will be able to part with things. Some geeks can not throw or give anything away. And I think that is where the hoarding is visibly manifest. Hoarders can not part with anything. So hoarding is actually a symptom of a deeper emotional problem and not a characteristic of a personality type? I think so.

My mom collected. My mom was messy. Was she a hoarder? Since no one's health was in danger form her collections and there wasn't garbage everywhere I would have to say if she was it was mild. But here's the thing. She was also the family archivist. And as such, she was obliged to keep the families traditions in tact. Our families "treasures" came in the form of hard fought objects gathered during the dark days of the depression, or things that came from Germany.

In some ways I am also the family archivist. When there is a question I am the first one asked. And if there is a question of "whatever happened to....." the answer will be "I have it. Are you ready to take it home now?" So a lot of the stuff that I have is in holding.

Now that is not to say that I don't have traditional geeky obsessions. I've said it before & I will wear my fan-pride proudly by saying again: I have every album Matthias Reim has made. And a few compilations from record company aggregators.
  •  I almost have all of Castle's Nikki Heat books.
  • Every season and movie of Stargate SG-1.
  • Every Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett made.
  • Every season of MacGyver
  • I've had all the Dragonlance books. Twice.
  • Nearly complete Sherilynn Kenyon Dark Hunter novel
  • Every season of Frasier
  • Every one of Stings albums except Mercury Rising.
  • I collect art supplies in much the same way that I do books and movies. If I find a kind of ink I like I get a lot of the inks in the line. If I find a color I love I get it in as many varieties as I can. So I have a lot of art supplies.
  • And rubber stamps.
  • and quilting fabric.
But the  thing is. I use what I collect. It's just not out of the boxes because the storage situation in the house is a bit weird. And I am not sure where it all should go. Now there are quite a few things that will have to go. I know that. And I am ready for that. I just want everything done now and because it isn't I get overwhelmed.

The other part of this equation is the things that I collect. I like celebrating the seasons. We did this with school, I did it with daycare. And to some extent my mom made seasonal changes in the way that she decorated the house. Martha Stewart kinda made this a solid thing for me. It is a tradition that is hard for me to do without. But because I have done without it is hard for me to find the groove for it again. So I am trying to figure out if the mojo for home decorating and entertaining is going to kick in.

I am also surrounded by people who never embraced or indulged (I'm not sure which is the word) in these kinds of things. There were not everyday and holiday dishes in the families of some of the people that I am surrounded by. There was in our house. There were Summer dishes and Winter dishes. Cottage dishes and home dishes. It wasn't just for us. It was for the company that came.

We changed up place settings to indicate that something special was coming. Every day dishes at Easter or Christmas were frowned upon. My mom used to say that treating a special occasion like an everyday thing made it cheap and pointless. Setting the table with linens, sparkling "fancy" dishes and the crystal serving bowls was a ritual that helped us put our heads around the fact that company was coming; we were supposed to behave better than we did every day and, especially the case with Christmas and Easter, there was something important going on that you needed to pay attention to.

Of course some people who neither could afford "fancy" settings nor learned the art of entertaining just call it fancy, putting on airs and snobbish. Then decide that you are acting like you are either better than you really are or that you are better than them.  Who sets the better table: Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart? Who needs a Martha Stewart Living photo shoot with each holiday meal?

Entertaining may have a bit of showing off in it. Without a doubt I tried very hard to meet my mother's expectations when she came to my house for dinner. And then I took a few steps beyond that. So I did compete with mom. We did the show-off show-down. In my heart I can honestly say with everyone else who has eaten at a well set table in my house, it was set especially for the occasion so that they felt appreciated. it isn't about the hard work that goes into planning a dinner, preparing the food and setting a table. It's about treating your friends and family like royalty.... or as close as you can get in your pay scale.

I learned, from a few sources, to appreciate entertaining as a gift of hospitality. Elevating an evening meal from the mundane to the magnificent redirects your attention, brings intent back to the activity. Without intent its just a boarding house scramble to pile food into your face and get away from everyone else as quick as possible. Setting a table closer to proper than paper plates or eating over the sink encourages people to linger. It also encourages better manners than the boarding house grab. Not always, but most of the time.

I do have a lot of stuff. I have a lot of stuff as a family vault. But I also have a lot of stuff because I see it as tools to creating a comfortable and comforting atmosphere. These days I am surrounded by people who are into minimalism for the sake of getting through the day faster and not for the sake of simplicity. To me it seems slap dash, unintentional and meaningless to do things that way. Yes, it would be easier to eat off of paper plates and not have things to dust. But when does the special come in?

I guess this all has me thinking because I felt a little judged. And I've felt a lot judged recently. It's a pretty even line of being accused of being "too good" for some and "not good enough" for others. This is a horrible place for someone like me who is a people pleaser trying to learn to take care of herself, who needs rituals to make life make sense. I am literally stuck in the middle. Of course on the subject of being fancy (anything not white is fancy) one could argue that the act of bringing the fancy dish to the potluck is judging those who aren't "fancy" as being not good enough.

And calling me a hoarder somehow makes that assumption of judgment better. I should not care so much what other people think of me. I should just do my own thing and let others do theirs and not worry so much what goes on in their heads. If only it would stay in their heads.

And I still don't know if I am a hoarder or just a collector.

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