When Clutter Runs Amok

My husband is a reality TV junkie.  Not the contrived game shows—although we are huge Amazing Race fans here in the Solheim house—but the programs about folks fixing up their homes, building supped up motorcycles, or rummaging through garbage.  Yeah, he really loves the ones where people get dirty:  Dirty Jobs, Myth Busters, and American Pickers.  On a recent evening, I happened by the TV as he was watching a show about hoarders.  It still boggles my mind that there is an actual show about people so ill they save used band-aids—Yuck!  But, like the millions of others who apparently tune into the program each week, my morbid curiosity got the better of me and I was sucked in for the remaining 35 minutes of the episode.

I came away from the TV with two things:  a resounding empathy for the family members of individuals with this disease—and it is a disease—and two, a profound relief that my house wasn’t as much of a wreck as I thought.  Seriously, I have become a bit overwhelmed with the amount of junk my family has accumulated over the years and seeing how extreme hoarders live was quite liberating for me.  No, my house isn’t crammed full of stuff; one can walk freely, sit easily and sleep in his or her own bed.  Okay, a caveat here might by my teenage daughter’s room, but I pray her college roommate or future spouse will have more luck with her than I have.

Living with a preponderance of stuff is a trait of the adult me.  I grew up in a military household.  By the time I was 18, I had lived in 16 different homes. Needless to say, collections of junk or anything else didn’t exist.  My mother keeps the mementos she saved from three children in a single manila envelope.  Not so in my house. The photos, artwork, crafts, and toys from my two children could easily encompass two rooms in my basement.  I am a saver.  I’m not sure if this is due to my upbringing or a change in the American culture—there just seems to be a lot more “stuff” an individual needs to get by these days.  Perhaps it is a bit of both.

My husband is a collector of junk as well.  His office and our garage are filled with used gadgets, TVs, cameras, computers, and other electronic devices he’s upgraded, leaving the old ones to languish on the shelf.  Both he and I are very conscious of the carbon footprint we leave behind, not wanting to throw anything away.  Maybe we’ll need these things again one day!  Right?  Nope.

So, does this make us hoarders?  I don’t think so.   A little lazy, perhaps, but not hoarders.  Lately I’ve been pondering what to do with all the excess stuff hanging about our home.  Deborah Norville hosted a segment on her TV show last week detailing how to hold an electronic garage sale by posting your unwanted items on ebay.  The monetary potential she predicted sounded great, but, like a traditional garage sale, this process involved something we don’t have an abundance of in our house: time.

Instead, maybe I’ll just box it all up and move to a storage facility.  Hey, they have shows about those, too!!  Outta sight, outta mind and all that.

I guess what I really need is a strategic plan.  Something I can get excited about and execute.  Kind of like a new exercise regimen or a new diet.  I’ll attack it with gusto and hope my interest won’t wan until most of the junk has made it to ebay or Goodwill.  I’m good at planning.  Carrying out the plan, well, we’ll see.  That time thing always mucks up my best plans. Until I have one though, I guess I’ll just catch an episode of Extreme Hoarders while cleaning out a drawer.  At least it’ll make me feel better about my own clutter.


About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at www.tracysolheim.com.

Posted on September 2, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. I have to confess I’m a little fascinated with the whole hoarder thing – it’s like the accident on the side of the road; you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help it. My kids are the reality show junkies here – I don’t think you need to be really concerned about Greg until he starts watching their newest fave – Dance Moms. Now that’s some sick stuff. 🙂

  2. Hi Tracy … I rarely shop unless it’s for books or some other necessity of life like food, more food, and yikes! Still food-shopping. So the the only thing I can be accused of hoarding is books and the invention of the Kindle has resolved that issue.

    We have minimal junk in the house mainly because when my neat freak husband gets bored, he cleans out drawers and closets. I couldn’t live in clutter, which might explain the lack of my shopping skills. If you don’t buy it, you don’t have to clean it or look at it or move it. And I can’t watch Hoarders. It’s worse than watching a horror show.

  3. Tracy,
    My grandparents lived through the depression and kept everything. When my poor mother had to clean out their house after 40 years, it was a very painful process. My parents have tons of stuff in their basement and attic and my father-in-law has two “buildings” in the back yard that my husband and I joke (not really) about setting on fire in lieu of cleaning out. We try very hard not to keep things that have outlived their usefulness, but that is easier said than done. And I’m with Sheila, I can’t watch Hoarders!

    • My mother-in-law saves everything also. She gave my son a Cross pen and pencil set that my husband had received as a gift for HIS high school graduation. I hope never to get to that point, 🙂

  4. Hi Tracy,
    I am a professional organizer, avid reader, who works with creative souls, did you know that were organizations such as these who could pick up your old and unusued electronics for free: http://www.allgreenrecycling.com/ I don’t know where you live, but maybe they have a pick-up in your area. All you have to do is pack the items and wait for them to arrive, you would have to check with them how they proceed and what they do pick up or not – the only time you will need is the gather the items that you know for sure you no longer want or use.

  5. Tracy, we are TV junkies too… and we watch the American Choppers you’re talking about, Storage Wars, and a multitude of others. Hoarders we haven’t done, because I can go to my daughter’s room and get all of that I want.


    We live in a little bit of clutter, basically because both of us are so busy and so on the move all the time, and then lazy when we get finally get to stop. Weekends are my decluttering days, but lately even that has been slacking. But it’s not a whole house worth…really just one table and our bedroom…lol…there’s this one table that everything seems to land on…not sure why. Missing something? Go look on the table. It’s probably there. And our bedroom is a catchall too. When we met, we each had fully stocked households and one kid each. When we combined that, we overflowed, and haven’t balanced out yet…lol…that was nine years ago. It’s a work in progress. 🙂

  6. Hi Tracy, and everyone else! I consider myself pretty lucky because if I don’t know where to put something I can always stick it in a box and put it up in our huge attic where it can languish forever until we move – which I have no intention of doing. When my mom passed away I was bequeathed a bunch of her things that I’ve also put “up there” and I guess that kind of behavior will continue to happen because I don’t know what else to do with it. Everything my kids draw and give to me, cards, you name it, I save as “mementos”. If they all were burned in a fire today I wouldn’t even know what I had lost.

    • It’s the kid’s creations that are the hardest to part with. They keep asking me why I save them. I think they fear I’ll embarrass them by displaying all their artwork. Of course, I reserve the right to do so at their weddings!!!

      • I saved everything because my mom did. When she passed away, she was so organized she had three boxes sorted out for each of us, with all the stuff we’d given her over the years. Then new boxes for grandkids. Of course now I have that box. Probably pass it on to my kid because lord knows I don’t know what to do with it! LOL.

  7. Tracy, I watched Hoarders a couple of times and then decided it was not for me. My mom has several big moving boxes packed with Plastic Nestle Quick containers in one of her many storage buildings. I am not looking forward to the cleanout and like Tracy think a bonfire might be the best solution.

    The Fly Lady suggest doing just 30 minutes a day of de cluttering. Choose a manageable task. One bookshelf or one closet.
    My family can’t get rid of things, so they “give” them to me, knowing I will take it to goodwill.

  8. The 30 minutes a day sounds manageable but only if NOTHING new comes into the house. Ever. Never ever.

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