Confessions of a Hoarder

February 12, 2010

My life feels like this sometimes

I take it at least a few of you have seen “Hoarders,” the hit A&E reality show that looks inside the lives of people “whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.” I had not seen an episode until reading this Rob Walker NY Times Magazine column — pointing out that the show’s season premiere back in November drew 400,000 more viewers than the premiere of “Mad Men.” This I had to see. How can people be so smitten with a show about people who are overly smitten with their possessions?

I struggled to get through one episode and found it very unsettling. In one scene, there was a woman who was brought to tears over letting a filthy teddy bear go. As much as I wanted to yell “It’s disgusting, just throw it away for god’s sake,” there was no denying it struck a chord with me. I went and looked in my closet and saw a pair of Nikes that I hadn’t worn in five years but wouldn’t even consider throwing out. Hell, they’re the original Air Force II’s – collector’s items! But how different is that excuse than the woman’s with the stuffed animal? That’s when I started to examine another heap of clutter that I have been accumulating for some time – my list of things to read, listen to or view online. And then it hit me – I’m a web hoarder, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

If “Hoarders,” as Walker says, “in a sense, can be read as a metaphor for an entire culture that has lost perspective on the relative importance of things and desperately needs help,” then web hoarding is part of that — and part a result of our information-crazed society. Walker writes that “while most hoarders have trouble controlling the urge to acquire, the more severe problems involve an irrational reluctance to let go.” Consider that while I list a few things that caught my eye the last couple days.

  • Lil’ Wayne’s jail sentence got postponed because of a dentist appointment? This I have to read.
  • John Mayer said something crazy to Playboy? Bookmark it.
  • A podcast about how to best use Google Buzz? I’ll surely find time to listen to that later.
  • A discussion thread about how Toyota’s PR team can save the day? Got to chime in tonight.
  • A blog post about the new Twitter lists? Add it to the Google Reader.
  • Rollerblading babies? I’ll watch it eventually.
  • Movie marketing blogger who wrote about “The Dark Knight?” Subscribe to this dude’s blog.
  • A vlog about how Obama won the election due to being social media savvy? Yup.

You may have noticed that the last few bullets were rather outdated. Yet, somewhere on my laptop, probably thousands of similar links are saved from weeks, months, maybe even years ago. Do I ever actually follow through and click on these? Rarely. Will I delete them? Never. Why? Because I’m convinced there will be a time in the future when the link’s topic will come up and it makes me queasy thinking that I might not know about it. Compared to my list of links, the lady’s house with the gross teddy bear looks kind of tidy.

Yes, it’s just my computer. There isn’t trash up to my waist when I walk through my living room. I probably don’t need psychiatric help. But in 10 years? Who knows. Twitter is atwitter all the time. Info is flying at us on our smart phones and mobile devices. Media outlets are trying desperately to give us news quicker than their competitors and everyone is a media outlet all of a sudden. There’s already an Internet Addiction Rehab Center in Washington. I can say with all honesty that I have neglected more important things in life from time to time to click on some analysis of a relatively meaningless pop culture happening. Will we see “Web Hoarders” on A&E in the 2010’s? If so, I hope I’m not the first subject.

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