Hoardy? Me?

(No, the title is not a reference to The Bearded Iris‘s twittery use of “whorety” for forty, though I love that. Can’t wait to turn whorety next month. But this is about being hoardy. Read on.)

A post at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy had me thinking. She asked how we draw the line between collecting and hoarding. The clinical definition specifies that to be a hoarder you have to collect so much and be so unwilling to shed anything that you can’t maneuver in your house.

No problem. I have lots of space.

I used to be a collector. I treasured bits and pieces of my personal history, my family’s mementos, and objects that held special importance.

But after the fire, I changed. I still like to collect and to cling. But after a few months or years, I call treasures “clutter” and shove them all into the donation bag. I put into the garage sale pile things that should be important to me.

But they’re just things.

I learned what it means to keen for lost belongings and to forget them relatively quickly. I have found small bits of what I thought I lost and mourned as deeply as I thought possible for what I would never get back.

Because what you really lose in catastrophe is a sense of safety. Of permanence. Like nothing else, a home-demolishing fire teaches you nothing is forever. Especially stuff.

And I can tell you: what I cling to now—what I cannot live without—is memories. Even if they’re not permanent, and even if they change before I can document them and certainly each time I replay them, memories serve as a lasting link from who we were to who we are.

I don’t need stuff to remind me. I treasure words, I love photographs. But I need neither to remember who I am and who I’ve been.

I joked at Daily Plate of Crazy that maybe I’m so willing to toss what I collect even while longing to hear the stories behind friends’ collections because the adventures my tchotkes represent aren’t adventuresome enough.

Maybe if I lived large and loud I’ve have bigger memories and a better collection.

But it’s not true. No matter how I live it feels large. And I preserve the memories the best I can.

And I just don’t need to keep the dust-collectors to hang on to what I want to remember.