My name is John Byrne, and I am a hoarder. A hoarder of magazines. And newspaper articles. And random catalogs. Even a few words and phrases.
I can’t help myself. In my house and office, newspapers collect dust. Magazines stack up waist high. Catalogs sit unthumbed. There is a pathology at work here, I’m sure. But I don’t care. I come across too many things interesting to me. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I set things aside in the fervent hope that I will someday soon get back and read what I found to be soooo interesting.
Except I don’t, usually. So many things to read and look at, so little time. It drives my wife more than a little nuts. She has made up a not-very-nice descriptor of my “piles” of unread reading materials, and I won’t repeat it here for the sake of the children. (But it rhymes, appropriately so, with “fit.”)
I like to think that since I’m a writer, editor and communications consultant, that this hoarding just comes with the territory. Mind you, I don’t have stacks of National Geographic issues from the 1960s in my garage or anything. (But they would be really cool to look through, wouldn’t they?) Probably not worth anything anymore, though, if they ever were. And I’m not trying to make light of people who have a serious problem with hoarding.
I just want to catch up on my reading, and there are times I actually can make a small dent in it. Spent a few hours this weekend looking through stuff, in fact. OK, I was just resorting it into new piles, but it’s progress, right? Actually read some fascinating articles, finally, and threw out some others that were clearly outdated (5 tips on getting your taxes filed by April 15, anyone?). There was a bit of a catharsis, and not a little dust, but it was ultimately unsatisfying because I wasn’t able to catch up.
I guess I never will catch up, and I’m fine with that. There is a certain level of comfort knowing that I will always have something to read or look at if I were ever to get bored. Worst case, all those crisp, but aging, business magazines staring back at me in my office are evidence that I still have much to learn. And, boy, did they cost a lot of money… I wonder if I slept with them under my pillow at night, a little osmosis would occur and make me smarter? No?
Sometimes the worst hoarding isn’t immediately apparent from the dusty piles on the floor. No matter how hard you might try, you can’t see the hoarding that’s gone on my brain. Of clever turns of phrases and great additions to my vocabulary. Here’s an example: a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a blog that was dedicated to criticizing another blog — ain’t social media great? — and the author used “angry thesaurus soup” to describe the other blogger’s writing style. That’s just awesome, I thought. I want to remember that. Boop! Boop! Boop! Warning! Hoarding alert!
Eh, so what? Plenty of space in my big old noggin… And room for this great word I read today: “tootling” (and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with bodily functions).
The neat freaks of the world may come after you and your treasures, and harass you to throw them away. Some, like my wife, may surrender and try to enable my addition: “Honey, I bought you this very nice magazine rack for your office. Now use it!” Your kids may even complain they can’t see you behind all that stuff on your desk or the kitchen table. Wait, no, that’s a dream I had; my teenagers wouldn’t notice. And I’m always a fan of repeating the old saw, “If a messy desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what’s an empty desk a sign of?” Wiser words never written, right? (If you’re a hoarder, too, fess up in the comments and let me know what you like to keep around.)
So, my fellow hoarders, feel free to surround yourselves with as many newspapers, magazines and other printed materials as you think you might get to read — someday. The only thing we have to fear is… the fire marshal.