I tend to be a packrat.
In fact, according to my partner Sara, it’s a sickness I suffer from—one whose prognosis is potentially terminal.
As you might imagine, moving overseas challenges my packrat-itis, if you will, requiring me to sift, sort, simplify, and, in most cases, dispossess myself of stuff—stuff I’ve saved, stuff I value, and stuff, Sara says, I hoard.
Mind you, I’m not as bad as my maternal grandmother, who, when once asked what she was doing with a pantry packed floor to ceiling with toilet paper, insisted, matter of factly, that she was “keeping it so all the hoarders wouldn’t get it.”
Toilet paper, specifically, is not my thing. But paper, in general, is.
Whether or not I inherited a genetic tendency toward possessing too much paper, that’s not what matters most, in this instance. I suppose, what matters now is making the writer-artist in me get rid of paper products that Sara says litter my life—and my extension—hers.
It’s not the books or journals that bother Sara.
She’s agreed we’ll move all of them.
Rather it’s the receipts that drive Sara crazy–the scraps of maps, the images cut carefully from National Geographic magazines, destined, I’ve imagined for collages-yet-to-come. It’s the papers that push her to the brink, the ones my friend Ellen and I used to call “potential art.”
The concept of potential art, mind you, is one Sara seems to understand only in the abstract, but it’s one that rules my life in a very literal, and Sara says, trashy way.
Call this what you will. We all have our crosses to bear, and having a few extras of everything lying around is Sara’s, I suppose.
My problem is that I see creative opportunity in almost everything.
At one point it was cat food cans I saved.
At another it was empty Equal and Sweet ‘n Low packages I transformed into this:
But I’ve stopped collecting cans. I no longer save the packaging of artificial sweeteners or receipts that evidence my misadventures in retail therapy.
I’m still mad about maps, however—still crazy for cartography.
I don’t know how to handle this addiction. And, in fact, having to handle it at all is, according to Sara, my problem in the first place—the piles and piles of paper—all to be sorted and saved, boxed up and moved.
So—onward we march toward Ecuador.
Our house has sold, as most of you already know. Sara is posting our lives item by item on Ebay, selling and passing it along to other potential hoarders.
She insists, however, that my paper scraps won’t sell—that there’s no online market for my bird’s nests, bones, and stones.
(My trash-savvy Sara says I suffer from rubbish blindness.)
Whatever we want to term my sickness, it looks like I’m gonna have to toss my trove of treasures, my stash of trash, as Sara calls it.
But I have one request of you, my readers.
Would you mind saving some replacement papers and pebbles for me, some new buttons, bricks, and bones? You could mail them to me in Ecuador.
I promise I won’t tell Sara you’ve contributed to my hoarding habit—or her clutter curse.
I swear on a saved sale’s receipt or empty cat food can, I won’t!
Do you or anyone you live with have a hoarding habit? Does a creative impulse cause paper to clutter your life? Have you ever had to get rid of almost everything in order to manage a move—international or otherwise?