I am a hoarder.
I should probably write a self-help book, but I’d just hoard that too.
My parents were hoarders before me, so I can’t just blame my neurotype.
I was lucky enough to hear the wonderful Susan Kruse speak recently about her ideas on Autistics and Love. I’m going to paraphrase clumsily, but it’s based on the idea that our brains light up in the same way for objects as they do for people.
Rather than proving that Autistics see people as unemotionally as they do objects, Susan suggests that it proves the opposite. It proves the great love we have for things as well as people. Please read her love letters to inanimate objects. They are divine. This one is my favourite. They make me sigh.
It turns out that I am twice-cursed. Cursed by an upbringing that taught me to always ask, “But what if one day you need three inches of string/an empty yoghurt pot/this scrap of fabric?”, alongside a deep love for ‘things’ and a problem-solving brain that will find a logical space for them in my life.
I have always been this way. When I was nine I spent my pocket money on a large, wooden decoy-duck that I found in a market. When I was eleven I rescued an old gas-lamp, dripping with rust, from an unloved corner of a junk shop. When I was fourteen I fell in love with my dad’s old blazer, and I wore it until it physically came apart at the seams.
I love things with soul. I love things with history. I love things with angles and lines and purpose. Don’t buy me new. Don’t buy me fresh and uncharactered. There is an emptiness to them.
To be able to survive the onslaught of my temperament and my upbringing, I have had to learn to overrule one for the other. There will always be another jar to collect, and they tinkle so beautifully as they smash in the recycling bin. There will always be string in the world if it’s needed, that’s why I own a roll of it. Yoghurt pots want to be turned into more yoghurt pots, they want to be whole again, so in the recycling they go.
In my garden I have a new raised bed made from window lintels, I have an Earth oven built on an old oil drum, I have grand plans for the innards of an old piano; they shall become a trellis for my climbers. Not to mention my boat-flower-bed. They all needed a purpose, so I found it, with love.
No matter how much I love things, clutter makes me unhappy. It fills me with thoughts and variables and agitations. The choices spiral and fishnet and catch me up in their tangled web. Sticky as sap, they cling to me. Weigh me down. Make the world a little heavier to trudge through.
There is a lightness in letting things go to the right places. There is a lightness in saying goodbye at the right time. Knowing I have the choice. Knowing it is me choosing.
My philosophy in life has always been that when things or people leave it, for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean they are gone. No one can take away their past presence from you.
I still remember objects fondly; my Chinese-dragon-patterned coat with duffle-coat buttons that I had when I was four, my Blues Brothers t-shirt that went into the wash and never returned when I was twelve, my collection of periwinkle shells that I glued to my bedpost when I was thirteen, these were my delights. I did not bond with bears or dolls, or other personifications of toys. I loved things. I loved people. I did not need to people-my-things to make them loveable, I was already connected to the world.