Confessions of a Former Hoarder

Estelle Erasmus

I used to be a hoarder. By hoarder I  mean someone who would surround herself with paper products. Unless it was used toilet paper (I’m not an animal). And by paper products I mean newspapers and magazines. And by magazines I mean any that featured cover lines like, “200 Fashion Tips for the Fashion Foolish” ,”101 Great Canapes” or “The Sexless Marriage: You Decide“. All of which I was always thisclose to using in my writing and research as a journalist and magazine editor-in-chief, which ultimately ended up being used. Not. At. All.

As a “perk” of my job, along with the seasonal makeup trend items from Chanel and Givenchy, I also received enormous comp piles of crap sent to me (thank you not-to-be-named manufacturer for the disposable “flushing” device, and cheers to the distributor who deemed me worthy of the health drinks made from the rarest of berries found in the rainforests of Costa Rica). I even got daily deliveries of hard-bound books (we’re talking pre-Kindle times). Ever practical, I kept a “goody” bag in my closet, for handing out the fruits of my hard labor to friends, relatives, my cleaning lady, the mailman, random Christmas carollers, and even Steve Martin (a colleague of mine with that name, not that Steve Martin. I was a hoarder, not a celebrity stalker, people).

I wasn’t exactly like the poor souls you see on the eponymously-named show that shared their home with used carbon paper (do not inhale says the warning label), boxes of menthol cigarettes (I don’t smoke), and dozens of rat traps from Costco (their sales can be the bomb), but I came thisclose.

One time, a guy I was dating came over for the first time to my meticulously clean home, and by clean I mean I tossed everything into my closet, even my dirty laundry which hadn’t been washed in days. As we were leaving to go out to dinner, I looked for my keys, and to my horror realized that I must have tossed them in the closet right when I was tossing everything else I own in there (yeh, I did THAT). That’s just how I used to roll. But. As previously mentioned. Not. With. Toilet. Paper.

So, I opened the closet door and everything came tumbling out, bras, panties, blouses, socks, random ripped out newspaper clippings, unopened boxes (I owe my doormen and the UPS man from 2002 many apologies – the packages WERE delivered), books, and of course magazines. Lots and lots of magazines.

Unperturbed, I jumped into the pile with the enthusiasm of a toddler throwing herself into a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, shifted around a few bras, packages, papers and magazines, scrounged around and happily proceeded to hold up the keys like I had won the lottery shouting, “I found them.” He looked at me as if I were holding up Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress and I knew he found me hot (or was it disgusting)? Or both. Because isn’t a Meat Dress both hot and disgusting?

Well, it took another boyfriend, he of the dour disposition coupled with the abilities of Mr. Fix-It to avail me of my habit. One day, as he forlornly watched me go through my piles of crap, his only sullen comment was “Estelle, do you think you’d miss that?” in the tone of Henry Higgins trying to rein in an unruly Eliza Doolittle (without the British accent).My overly defensive response: “Yes, this 1995 Better Home and Gardens recipe for beef lasagna might be useful some day.”

Here is the gist of our conversation, at least what I remember (you know the fumes of that Meat Dress stay with you).

Him: You don’t cook, nor do you write about cooking, or edit a cooking magazine.

Me: I might one day.

Him: You never eat pasta.

Me: I might one day.

Him: Get rid of it.

Me: Um, ok.

And so it went.

Finally, my apartment was clean, about one year before I met my husband in 2003. Today, despite the presence of a very artistic kindergartner, my home is clutter-free, except for one area: the bedroom. It’s the one place my husband and I can indulge our inner hoarders, and pile up our laundry. Have I mentioned we hate doing laundry? But we’re working on it. And by working on it I mean Not. At All.

And my subscriptions to magazines? They’ve all been cancelled. And by cancelled, I mean I  read them, but at the manicure place. In fact I’m reading one now. And Lady Gaga is on the cover. But not in a Meat Dress. That would be messy.


Confessions of a former hoarder

This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media, LLC.

Estelle Erasmus is a journalist, author and former magazine editor. Her writing has been published on Brain, Child, Marie Claire, Purple Clover, The Washington Post's On Parenting, The Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and more. She is a contributor to a new anthology on Hillary Clinton by Joanne Bamburger to be published by SheWrites Press in 2015.