What Saved Me From a Spot on Hoarders

I come from a family of hoarders. Okay, not the kind that actually gets you on TV, the kind who leaves dirty dishes, take-out containers, and trash lying about. My parents’ house was always clean. Just crowded. Very crowded.

Both my parents (God rest their souls) were hoarders, which didn’t help, but at least they never argued about it. They both felt perfectly comfortable around stuff. Maybe it was a reaction to the Depression, but I don’t think so. I think hoarding was in their DNA. Which leads to me, of course, but more about that later.

My father, an electronics engineer and inventor was the worst. He accumulated equipment and supplies to use in his laboratory, surplus electronics (mostly left over from the Second World War and therefore useless), and anything going at fire-sale prices. He could never resist a bargain—pens, bars of soap, canned goods without labels, ties, teapots, breadboards. I remember the day a truck pulled up and unloaded a thousand breadboards into our garage. He’d bought them as bases for his experimental circuitry, but somehow the supply never seemed to diminish.

My mother hoarded reading material. Our library overflowed with books, double-shelved and wedged in on top. Stacks of books and magazines were always piled on side tables and on the floor near the sofa and her bed. Her favorite place to shop was the half-price bookstore in our town. I’m sure she single-handedly kept the owner in business. My mother also hoarded dishes—not just sets of fine china (she had at least fifteen), but also anything that held food. Plastic deli containers, old TV dinner trays, melamine bowls, foil dishes for leftovers—microwaveable, biodegradable, oven-ready, hinged, unhinged, lidded or lidless. Her motto was you can never have too many.

Which brings me to my point. In my case, although I inherited a double dose of hoarding DNA, the effect was mercifully watered down. That and a lick of my Danish grandmother’s proclivity for orderliness have saved me from the hoarding hall of fame.

 My hoarding, like my mother’s, is focused mostly on books. (I do have a thing for red lipstick, but that’s another story.) I love books—fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, biographies, essays, the classics. All kinds. Give me your list of favorites, and I’m lost. Ordering online is way too easy.

So what’s saved me from a spot on Hoarders? In a word, Audible.

Fifteen years ago, seeing the handwriting on the wall (or in my case, the piles of accumulating books on the floor), I ruthlessly culled my collection, donating boxes and boxes of books to my local library and to Goodwill, and joined Audible. These days I listen to books online and purchase print copies only when I love them so much I can’t help myself and/or when they’ve been written by a friend.

Which leads to a new problem.

The internal storage on my tablet and phone is full. Fortunately, the solution is purchasing another memory card, not adding onto the house.

What do you hoard? Come on—tell the truth. Confession is good for the soul.

Comment below or on our Facebook page. Book hoarders, listen up: one lucky commenter this month will win copies of Sharon Ward’s wonderful Fin Fleming thrillers, In Deep and Sunken Death. Sadly, I don’t think I’m eligible.


  1. I hoard theology commentaries, Altoid mints, and cookbooks. I need to get rid of the cookbook explosion, most of which was collected in the early 2000’s when I was newly married and looking for recipes. I don’t use them anymore.
    But, I’m not ready to part with the commentaries or mints yet.

  2. Books and cookbooks. I love office supplies but don’t usually hoard. I like orderliness and no clutter so that does help. But I love books. I have begun buying them for my Kindle though.

  3. My mother was a hoarder, and the clutter made me crazy. As a result, my house is very spare, with just a few things I love displayed. My one weakness has always been books, but we moved 4 times in the last 20 years and each time I had a miserable time deciding what to do with the books. I was too cheap to pay for the movers to take them (they are heavy, and you pay movers by the pound) and you literally cannot give them away–even to libraries or hospitals who usually have strict limits on how many they’ll take. So now I mostly only buy ebooks. My ebook libraries overflow, but at least its not an eyesore

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