Collecting or Hoarding?

Dear Blogary,

When does collecting become hoarding? I’ve spent my morning going through a trunk-load of treasures, created by my boys over the past 4 years. I’ve also gone through storage bins and crates full of creations.

Blogary, how many drawings and created treasures done by one’s kids does one keep? I’ve managed to put many of the drawings in the recycling bin, using a ‘no name is on it’ kind of approach. Still, I have two bins (one for each kid) full of items that made the ‘save’ pile.

Joe starts Kindergarten in August, and he will come home with even more creations, drawings, writings, etc. Blogary, how do I determine what to keep? And, why keep it? Is this where the collecting/hoarding habit begins? I know I have at least three bins in the basement full of things I’ve collected over the years. I’m ready to throw all the stuff away, too. I’m just not ready to pull it all out of the closet downstairs.

Blogary, earlier this week I changed the boys’ bed sheets. Putting the sheets on Joe’s bed is a bit challenging. When the bed is made and the pillows are ‘perfectly’ placed, Joe’s bed looks normal. However, if you move the pillows, you will see his menagerie of treasures. And, every night before he goes to bed, he checks his collection, adjusting it as needed.

Much of Joe’s collection consists of stuffed animals, though if you looked through it you’d find a towel, a wooden snake, a note or two, etc. I suspect as he gets older, he won’t be as drawn to the stuffed animals as he is now. But, will he replace the stuffed animals with something else? That remains to be seen. And, Blogary, do I encourage the collecting or discourage the collecting? How much is too much? I suppose I had better check myself, and see what I keep in piles here and there.

Going through the trunk, bins and crates felt good. I collected quite a large quantity of paper for our recycling bin, too. Perhaps next week, I’ll tackle the closet downstairs. Blogary, let’s see if I am all talk, or if I am prepared to let go of what will certainly be memorable treasures.


Ellie the Elephant

My beloved 'Ellie the Elephant'

My boss is in the midst of Project Clean Sweep. She and her family are going through all their things, passing the good to charity and the bad to trash. I am helping with the project, recycling what can be recycled and taking the donations to the various organizations accepting what they have to offer.

Now, this may sound silly to some, but I am certain some of you will be able to relate to what I am about to discuss. You see, my boss has a 13yr old daughter. And, this girl has gathered quite a collection of stuffed animals over her 13yrs. But, she has also come to a point where she is ready to let go of some of her animals. Getting to the point of being ready to let go wasn’t easy for her. A few tears were shed, when she realized she had to literally pick the ones to send away. And, she really felt like she was sending them away. Because, to this 13yr old girl, these were more than stuffed animals. These animals were her friends.

She would talk to the animals; and, in her mind, the animals would talk to her. As far as she was concerned, she was Andy from Toy Story. Unlike Andy, however, she knew her animals were alive. She wanted to make sure her animals were going to be loved as much as she loved them. She remembered the Goodwill scene in Toy Story II, where Jessie sits on the shelves, lonely and sad. This 13yr old girl didn’t want her animals to be sad.

When my boss shared this story with me, she asked me if I thought that was silly. I think I surprised my boss when I said I didn’t find it silly. In fact, I shared a story of my own with my boss. Because, like her daughter, I believed my animals were alive. ‘I LeMutt adore you’, ‘Winston’, ‘Elliot – Pete’s Dragon’, the Snuggle bear from the Snuggle Fabric Softner commercial and of course, ‘Ellie the Elephant’. I have others, but those five meant the most to me. One day I left the house without Ellie, that was not a good day.

With absolutely no embarrassment I share the following story: My parents spent the Summers in Amherst, Nova Scotia. My mom would drive from GA to Amherst and stay the full Summer. In August, my Dad would fly up and drive back with us. During the Summer of 1982, I was 13. My Mom and I left the house and headed North. I remember driving through a city in South Carolina when I realized what I had done. I was frozen. My heart sank, and I didn’t know how I was going to manage. Then a song came on the radio, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago. I sobbed. Sobbed. Why? Because I realized I left Ellie – my prized Ellie the Elephant at home. Ellie and I would be separated for over two months. And, in my heart, I sang (and sobbed) the song ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’ to Ellie. A long distance dedication, if you will. (giggle) And, I believed that Ellie was sad, too.

I am happy to say I made it through the Summer without Ellie. And, I am thankful I had younger cousins, so I could borrow one of their stuffed animals to get me through. [Insert Barry Manilow’s ‘Made it Through the Rain’ Here]  And, when I got home, you bet your bottom dollar, I hugged Ellie for a very long time.

My boys have their favorite stuffed animals, and I suspect they will keep them close for years to come. I will certainly encourage my boys to give to charity, especially if  their zoo of stuff animals ever becomes overcrowded. And, I don’t know that my boys will still be clinging to their stuffed animals when they reach the age of 13. But, I do know I will let them cling to their special friend as long as they want.

Where is ‘Ellie the Elephant’, you ask? He’s on my bed.