Ever been woken up on garbage day? It’s mildly annoying. Hearing the sound of the truck swallowing you and your neighbor’s undesired products as an alarm clock might be enough to get you out of bed and at last reconsider your consumer habits and your ecological footprint. Me, I’ve built a tolerance to the garbage truck. I live with two cats who tease and jump on my face through the night. I’ve become resilient through necessity.
So when I heard garbage bags tossed rather violently into their bins and rolled out to the curb a few days ago, I didn’t think much of it. I happily closed my ears again, knowing I still had some sleep left in me. But then the sounds repeated themselves: trash bags tossed into a bin which was rolled out to the curb. Then it happened again. And again.
Intrigued, i walked outside to explore the situation. Across from our cottage, twenty feet away were two guys wearing face masks. One of them was looking out the second story window of our neighbor John’s apartment. From the window he would launch trash bags into the trash bin held by the other guy who then wheeled away the bags to the street, into their parked truck.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked.
‘We’re clearing the apartment’ they say, ‘the tenant broke his key on the front door lock, so when the apartment was opened by management they found out he was hoarding. The tenant never threw away his trash’
John?? But he was such a nice guy?!
Twenty feet from where I live there lived a hoarder, among us, quietly going about his hoarding business. From floor to ceiling, stuff stacked in pillars, a temple of things— garbage to some, but not to all.
The whole scenario was too comical. You can’t really know who people are, even neighbors, even when they hold a conversation and seem like they’re holding up alright. We all put on appearances to seem normal, to keep the cover on some strange freaky compulsion we developed somewhere along life, and kept it to ourselves.
John our neighbor (from my projection) was a loner. He hardly talked but seemed alright. And the thing about having friends or people who care about you, is they keep you in check whenever you develop a weird or odd habit. When we become a little too detached, we become susceptible to forming irregular ways of being.
Later that day my girlfriend Kadie turned me on to a show called Hoarders, and what do you know, there’s a whole slew of hoarders out there! Oh brave new world, ever full of surprises! As an armchair hoarder specialist, and thanks to the show, I discovered these multiple cases of hoarding showed atypical psychological behaviors that individuals develop through some kind of trauma. Usually the addictions begin after the rupture of a relationship to another person. In that absence arises an attachment to things. Understandable. Stuff doesn’t talk back to you. It stays in place. There’s a level of control that can’t seemingly be had with other people.
One guy in particular had a fetish for trash. He collected it. He ate from it. Another man collected bikes. He had over 400 bikes in his garage. Another woman began filling her home to the brim as a way of coping after things didn’t go her way. Generally, hoarders are tipped over the edge after something doesn’t go their way. Instead of alcohol some turn to hoarding.
Sad and comical and heartbreaking all wrapped up in an unpredictable package you wouldn’t exactly accept into your home, but watch out- blink and it’ll be gone, taken by someone as an exquisite addition to their museum of possessions.
Laughs aside, the sobering truth is hoarding isn’t so much a rare disease, but a part of our nature. we all live somewhere in the spectrum- if you’re like me, you live in a place you call home, you buy stuff you think is nice and use it to decorate. Sometimes you buy too many things, and have to throw some away to make room. There’s a delicate line between that balance and the edge of turning your trash bins into flower pots for those pizza boxes you still have around for some reason.
Get to it.