First things first: Watch the show Hoarders. It’s entertaining, horrifying, and brilliantly cautionary. You do NOT want to be one of the people that has to be restrained while a hazmat team throws out a two decade old deceased pet you wrapped in pages from expired TV Guide magazines and stowed on top of the refrigerator. It’s not a good look.

Most people watch that show and can’t begin to fathom how that type of situation even comes to be. Are the “hoarders” all crazy? Is it nature or nurture? I don’t have a solid answer, but I do know that these people place a fabricated value on material items that extend beyond the usual worldly idols like cash, jewelry or cars. These people feel a sense of deep loss to the point of mourning over throwing out three-year-old remnants of a half-eaten Egg McMuffin.

Basic hoarding starts unknowingly, or sometimes grows out of noble intent. I have three drawers full of clothes that “I’m totally going to be able to wear if I lose about 30 pounds,” (I tell myself). 5 years have passed. My drawers are still full of cotton garments that my current physique would surely cause to transform into spandex.

The reason I’m writing this letter is two-fold. First, I was making room in the freezer by throwing out a large, mostly empty Costco-sized box of Otter Pops (Why do you guys always eat every flavor but Alexander the Grape?) when I noticed that we had quite a bit of space being taken up by a wholly unnecessary possession- nearly 100 packets of uneaten Toaster Strudel frosting. You see, your mother likes to limit your morning sugar intake when you elect to make these frozen pastry squares your kick-off-the-day snack, so she never uses the suggested one-to-one frosting to strudel ratio. Over time, we have accumulated this enormous collection… which is a good thing if the monetary system collapses and we move to a frosting-based mode of currency, but a very bad thing if we ever want to convince houseguests that we’re not black-market dealers of frozen packets of a substance that strongly resembles bull seed.


Why don’t we throw this stuff out? It’s complicated, but probably has something to do with our parents reminding us that it was a privilege to eat our vegetables, because kids in China didn’t even get to smell green food in their lifetimes. Our parents have scared and scarred us from ever being able to dispose of food items without Vietnam-style dinner table flashbacks.

The second reason I’m telling you all this is that you’ve reached an age where we’re going to have to start throwing out some of your stuff- stuff you love… shoot, stuff that I love. Micah, I look at your copy of Amazing Insects, or that dinosaur book you read so many times that it doesn’t even have a cover or title page to help me remember what it was called, and I see real sentimental value in them. These are material items that helped awaken your curiosity and foster a thirst for knowledge that inspires me every day. Still, they’re just things, and they’re falling apart. It’s time to make room for new books, with new spines that can temporarily hold up to your reading style, which based on the condition of that dinosaur book, seems to take place when you’re inside a paint-mixer.


Things will come and go, and you can’t take any of it with you when you leave the earth. If you’re going to hoard anything, hoard experiences. Hoard positivity. Hoard friendships. Who knows, maybe one of those friends might even want to eat the world’s most over-frosted Toaster Strudel. We can make that happen.




  1. I may have to share this with my dad. He’s the only person I know to have a dining table in his bedroom, because it’s still in working condition, so shouldn’t be thrown out. And my husband who was close to years just because I boxed up his childhood annuals just to make room on the shelves. I wasn’t even throwing them out. The men in my life seriously need to man up.
    I hope your kids learn this lesson better than the adults in my life have.

  2. So good. Great letter. I actually read a book on hoarding a few years ago. It’s interesting that hoarders see equal value in everything they own. This is why they will have their Federal Refund check sitting next to the used bag of cheese puffs. To a hoarder, they are both equally valuable.

  3. I’m sitting watching obsessive compulsive horders while reading this. I try to adopt if in doubt throw it out. Don’t really succeed as much as i should though.

    I do keep a box for each of my kids to keep things in, first lost tooth, first hair cut, books from school, cards, particularly nice or poignant bits of their art work. I’ll pass them on to them when they marry.

  4. I’m a low-key hoarder. (No Hazmat suits coming into my home anytime soon, but there are piles of my stuff in nearly every room of our house.) I can honestly say it starts with an idea, like you said. There’s a reason we get the stuff in the first place. Then we refuse to believe the initial thought is never going to turn into an event (for example, I have boxes and boxes and bags and bins of random “art” stuff, which I’m more than likely never going to turn into art). Then, once we come to terms that it’s never going to happen, we remember that one time ten years ago when we threw something away and needed it the day after. So we still keep everything. At least that’s how I work. I’m convinced one day this stuff will be awesome.

    On another note, would it be creepy having a 26year old woman befriending your son? Because I’ll totally be the friend who wants to eat the overly-iced toaster strudel. Actually, in my house, my son doesn’t even know the icing exists so we never give it to him, but instead give ourselves two (or more). =]

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