Keep close things that matter

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My father was a hoarder.

We wouldn’t have qualified for a reality TV show, however, since my mom somewhat controlled his hoarding. She wouldn’t allow things to pile up — at least visibly.

But try opening any drawer in the house, cabinet or closet and you were often in danger of something falling on your head.

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We had a large basement and that was home to much of his treasures.

They also were antique dealers and our home was filled with items collected over the years that didn’t sell in the store or my parents just found too “neat” to not keep for themselves.

They often went to antique auctions. My father, whose name was Norman, loved to buy the bulk sales where you had no idea what you got. One year, one such lot included 100 ugly clay pumpkins. He loved them. They’re still in a box somewhere.

He was a typical hoarder.

“You never know when you may need it,” he would say.

I remember being a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, and our neighborhood had many new homes being built. I sneaked inside one and found a pretty bathroom tile on the floor and put it my pocket. I forgot about it as one would forget about finding a penny on the ground.

Years later, I was sitting on the phone (when we had to actually use a phone connected to a wall) and absentmindedly playing in one of the many junk drawers and lo-and-behold, there was the tile. My father found it and figured it could come in handy one day, of course.

In my early 20s, I was driving with my then-husband, and saw a flannel shirt in the road. I then saw my father coming in the opposite direction.

“He’ll stop and pick that shirt up,” I told my former husband.

Sure enough, when we returned, in walked my father.

“I found this nice flannel shirt ….”

I had a house fire in 1996 and lost just about everything. After the home was rebuilt, we moved back in with almost nothing. A year later, I remember standing in the living room and looking at how much stuff we had already acquired and how unnecessary much of it was.

I am the opposite of my father now. I throw away everything. I may regret that one day, however, my children won’t. Having to go through and get rid of all my father’s little treasures was heartbreaking and, 11 years later, isn’t completed. There are still boxes and boxes of things to go through. Most of it useless.

After the fire, I just decided that my life wasn’t going to be filled with “things,” because those things can be lost very easily. I have a few small items I treasure, and of course, photographs.

Before my mother died, she told me she had some jewelry in the bank that I would get once she passed. I told her I’d rather her give them to me while alive so I can learn about each piece — where it came from, the stories behind them. She wouldn’t, and now I have pieces of old jewelry that sit in a box that only have meaning because she once owned them, but they mean little to me otherwise.

Anything I intend to give my children, they will get while I’m alive and they’ll know why. They won’t have boxes and boxes to sort through.

I treasure the people in my life. I treasure pictures made by my grandchildren. I treasure photographs.

I chose to hoard memories, life experiences and the love of my family.

Alyssa Schnugg is city editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at