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Hoarding Memories: The Life And Times of A Memory Hoarder

Every time I walk into my house, something catches my eye that triggers the exact same reaction: Why do we have that?

Day in and day out, I pull into the garage and immediately in my line of sight are the shelves—multiple shelves—of no-longer-worn baseball cleats. I feel the tension in my shoulders immediately.

I round the corner into the mudroom, passing the hooks that hold 27 (I counted) baseball caps from teams my husband coached (note past tense, making me presently tense) over the years.

Drives. Me. Crazy.

I keep trying to figure out ways to get rid of the clutter, to no avail.

Me, I can pack things away, even give them away (oh the horror), ‘cause it’s all stored in my head. I don’t need to see it to remember it. This fundamental difference in how I store memories causes serious conflict in my nuclear family. It inevitably leads to the same conversation with my husband about decluttering and moving into my dream home—a tiny house.

“You mean a tinier house?”

Am I the only one watching HGTV in this house?

“No, I mean a TINY house—like less than 400 square feet.”

And it always comes back to the same question from my husband: “What would we do with all of our stuff?”

So while I dream about HGTV’s Tiny Houses, my husband dreams about another show, Hoarders.

“Honey, we’ve been through this,” he’ll say. “We just cleaned the basement. What else could we possibly get rid of?”

I silently count his high school letter jackets, the albums in the basement, the piles of newspapers from every championship we didn’t win in Cleveland.

I nod, slowly.

“You’re doing that thing where you are nodding with your head but disagreeing with your eyes.” One of the many reasons I don’t play poker.

“I just think it’s crazy to hold on to so many things when we don’t need them. It feels … excessive.”

“You cleaned out the basement with me. There were things you couldn’t part with either.”

“Like what? Name one thing I wouldn’t get rid of.”

“Zach’s little rocking chair.”

Okay, he got me.

“Name another.” My eyes dare him to continue.

“What about the little people minivan, and the pieces that go with it—the mom, dad, dog?”

“That was their favorite toy! E and Laine played with that for HOURS! I’m not getting rid of that—are you crazy? That’s like asking me to erase my memories of the kids!”

He looks at me knowingly, and that’s when I get it.

As Marie Kondo says, the items I see as clutter actually “spark joy” for him.

I have finally come to terms with the fact that there is no tiny house in my future. The memories will continue to mount.

For me, that means (as my kids so often tease me) nostalgia for the times we’ve spent together as a family, plus all the old photos, videos, and the many journals from trips we’ve taken. For my husband, that means a not-so-tiny house full of not-so-tiny “memories.” For each of us, it’s priceless.

Stephanie Schaeffer Silverman is publisher of Your Teen Magazine.

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