Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Eccentricity or Common Hoarding?

There are a few TV programs that I never miss, including Breaking Bad—the writing is SO fabulous, I think Vince Gilligan must have channeled every great literary mind in history—Deadliest Catch—I met the late, fun Captain Phil Harris in a rough-edged pirate dive almost three years ago, and Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC and Hoarding on A&E.
The hoarding shows fascinated me from the first moment. Like nearly everyone else, I sat there, slack-jawed and mesmerized by the utter chaos the subjects live in, some with junk (and unspeakably worse stuff) often stacked so high that therapists and the house cleaners are forced to walk on layers that sometimes put their feet at table or counter height. Often the inhabitants of these homes have that shopping gene that I seem to have. Part of their accumulations include merchandise with price tags still attached and going unused. They can’t find anything in their "hoard," and are forced to go buy replacements because of that. They hang onto things they believe will someday be useful, or would be a shame to ditch. Of course, these people are troubled and usually have inciting incidents in their histories that trigger their behavior.
In fact, I’ve seen enough episodes to begin to recognize a touch of that behavior in myself. (Please see photo.) I used to boast that yes, my office is a mess but I know where everything is. After ten years in the same location, that doesn’t seem to be true any longer. I bought ink cartridges for my printer last weekend and now I can’t find them. I put something down on one of the two desks in my office and, like creatures from a Harry Potter novel, the furniture consumes the item. I know I’m not the only writer who works in this kind of environment. Yes, there are those who need the zen simplicity of a monk’s cell with a table, a chair, a laptop, and nothing else in the room except perhaps a view. Or a lighted candle.

Others of us have stacks of reference books on the floor, copies of printed manuscript sections here and there—my dog seems to have taken over one of them—and pens. Oh, yes, yes, baby, give me pens, give me all you have. I LOVE good pens. Sharpies. Highlighters. Beautiful pens. Fountain pens that flow with the blood of words. Susan Wiggs unknowingly fed this desire when she reported that she writes with an economical Sheaffer fountain pen and peacock blue ink. What a wonderful idea. Let’s go shopping on eBay for pens and ink and sealing wax and seals and high quality paper. Oh, and more pens.

Now if a person is famous, or an artist, or in some other way creative, this behavior is considered eccentric. If that person is just an everyman or everywoman, they’re seen as hoarders or disturbed, etc. I confess I like the eccentric designation a lot more. It has a flair and a dash of interesting romance to it, don’t you think? Here I sit amid my stacks and stacks of CDs, loose papers, the occasional visiting cat or dog, books, spiral notebooks I get for 10 cents apiece at the start of every school year, photos, and pens, toiling away in creative abandon. (I’m making the job sound easy again, aren’t I? Sorry, it's not.) Anyway, my printer is sending me messages that its cartridges need replacing and I can’t find the ones I bought.

Tomorrow, I’ll have to finally excavate in here to find where those things have gotten to or I’ll be out of commission. One of my rewards will be, I'm sure, the discovery of more pens.

1 comment:

  1. I completely get it. My desk is the evil twin of yours. Pens multiply like rabbits when you're not looking. I may have to set traps.

    I too love to watch Hoarders. It invariably makes me declutter and take a box to the Goodwill on Monday.