When Hoarding Goes Too Far

Eggs on a Blue Washbasin - Toni Sanchis

I know many people who hoard. The things they hoard range from university lecture notes religiously written in their own brand of shorthand, to disposable plastic containers from take-away meals to expired foodstuffs hidden away in the bowels of the freezer.

People hoard for various reasons. The old folks explain that it's an aftermath from hard days gone (especially if they lived through WWII), so they learned to become frugal and save everything. The younger ones say it's because fashion comes around in circles, and who knows when an outfit they hadn't worn in the last six years would come back in style. The ones who have put on weight keep old outfits as a beacon of hope that one day they might fit into that outfit and life would be good again. The women who keep their wedding gowns hope to pass them on to their daughters for their wedding days, presuming that their daughters will:

  1. get married
  2. be roughly the same size as them when that day comes
  3. actually like the same style
  4. want to wear their mother's wedding gown
So in short, it all can be summarised into one simple reason. I call it the 'I may need it one day' reason.

Since I relocated from Sydney to Singapore earlier this year, the Boy and I have been living with my mother while waiting for our own place to be ready. My mother is a classic hoarder. Last week when I saw her throw one broken shoe out I asked her what she was planning to do with the other one. She explained she was keeping it to (mis)match with her other shoes.

When she offered the Boy a sultana biscuit a fortnight ago, he bit into what tasted like cardboard, and a subsequent inspection of the box which had been kept in the freezer indicated an expiry date of 2000. The only consolation (or not) was that the box was not the original one the sultana biscuits had come in, so the biscuit might or might not have been 10 years old. Similarly, the lozenges she gave him had turned from a honey colour to a milky brown. I had popped one into my mouth before questioning the vast change in colour, and examined the box to find an expiry date of 2002. And I had thought I had done a thorough sweep of my mother's kitchen and thrown out anything that had expired, was unrecognisable, or had morphed into another life form. Obviously, I had missed a few things, and luckily, we have yet to be poisoned.

So now we look suspiciously at anything she offers us from the depths of her freezer, carefully scan the expiry date, and then discreetly chuck out anything that might possibly land us in ER.