My wife sometimes worries if left unchecked she could turn into one of those depressing people on that Hoarders show that for decades never throws anything out until their house becomes a tight labyrinth of thin weaving paths between the mountains of obsessively-kept crapola. Yes, like me, when it comes to keeping stuff she might be a cautious saver versus reckless tosser but speaking as someone that has lived with her for nearly two decades, I think her hoarder fear is completely unjustified. Besides, there are so many better (worse) things to stay up all night being paranoid about.
Although I had many examples, when I was a little kid, I did not really think about the different ways people fill the space around them. My brother Arthur’s room was usually neat, organized and fairly sparse. His walls were fairly bare. His dresser often had some folded laundry on it that had not yet been put away but it was not messy. On his desk was usually a stack of textbooks and juggling beanbags (it was not till later that he made his first juggling clubs from the remaining pins of my old plastic bowling set). I recall he had a single fairly empty shelf with a few paperbacks like The Andromeda Strain and Cat’s Cradle next to his blue Soma Cube game which was his era’s popular geek puzzle game, sort of early 70s Tetris meets a Rubik’s cube.
On the other side of the spectrum was my brother Neil, whose room could be described as Early American Dump or Post-Modern Chaos. Sort of if The Odd Couple’s Oscar Madison rented out part of his room as a warehouse to the American Picker guys and hired a family of kleptomaniac blind chimps as caretakers of the place. To say he lived in a mess would be a vast understatement like saying ISIS is kinda not keen on Western Culture or Hitler was a bit unkind to the Jews.
I was the youngest of five and in our New York house, space was a premium. My first bedroom alone really wasn’t. I mean, it was actually just a bigger room that I shared with Arthur. Dad put up an ultra-thin easily removable pressboard wood panel divider with no doors and a two-foot gap from the ceiling to regulate the temperature. My much older sister and brother would torture me by tossing my stuffed alligator over the wall till one day his leg almost tore off and I had to put him back together the only way I knew how, with band-aids. I still have not forgiven them. At least as revenge for here ever after, they will always continue to be old(er).
My room was somewhere between Arthur and Neil’s, busy but not messy. My stuff was always put away but there was a lot of clutter. Atop my dresser and desk sat my record player along with random books and toys. From top to bottom my walls were covered with stuff like the fold-out insert from the Beatles White Album, Yankees baseball cards and various other pictures.
I have a vague memory from when I was pretty little of going to the Mays department store with my Mother and from the metal flip rack of posters in the ‘groovy teen department’ picking out two of King Kong. I am not sure why I chose two different King Kong posters. I do not recall having any special affinity for Mr. Kong over say Godzilla or Frankenstein. Maybe I was just always amused by monkeys.
I don’t think I picked the Kong posters because of Fay Wray being in them; at that age I would not have noticed if she was hot or not. It was not until several years later when my hormones were raging that I added to my wall a picture I cut out of Time magazine from the new 1970s version of King Kong where King’s giant fingers pulled down Jessica Lang’s top exposing, to a kid my age, some very exciting side boob-age. Certainly if that slightly older breast-curious pre-teen Dan went on that same poster shopping trip, the preference would be one of Suzanne Somers or Bernadette Peters.
I remember getting home and excitedly hanging my new King Kong posters on opposite walls but that night I was afraid they would come to life and I could not sleep. What I should have been afraid of was the desperately different proportion sizes of the ape to the city from one poster to the other. In one he was hanging off the top of a building swatting airplanes and on the other, he was stomping through the city taller than half the buildings. If he could change size so easily what was to stop him from coming in my front door?
During my High School years while living in Miami, my walls still were covered with many of the same posters including one of the Kongs. The only difference was under some of the posters I also had some naked woman pics cut from dirty magazines. Things were tougher for kids before the internet and its mega-easy access to porn. Hell, at one point I was happy with the bra ads in the color Sunday newspaper circulars.
Nowadays my wife and I still keep the walls very full with art, photos and clocks. Space for something new is at quite a premium but besides the busy walls and shelves, the place is usually not too messy. All the excess stuff goes into our storeroom i.e. ‘place to put crap we should really throw out but don’t’. Some people use the attic, basement or garage for such purposes but we have always had a dedicated room that we can lock when guests come over so we can pretend it does not exist. Maybe I should add self-delusion to that list of paranoia that keep me up at night.
When the storeroom gets so full that I can’t swing open the door and toss something on top of the mountain of crap without it falling back out into the hall before I can slam shut the door, I know it is time to go in for one of our periodic sort and toss sessions. That happened this past week which also explains how I wasted the better part of Sunday. Oh, its still a very full room that would make my crazy-organized neatnic Dad cringe but it works for us. Does one out-of-control room make us hoarders? Well sometimes hoarding is in the eye of the beholder.