Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I believe Collyeritus is an inherited disease. Otherwise known as hoarding [now classified under the Obesessive Compulsive Disorder of Hoarding], someone who obsessively saves everything in her possession is a "collyerite."

The name "Collyerite" is what I would call a person whose behavior resembles that of the infamous Collyer brothers of New York during the early twentieth century. These rather well-to-do brothers lived in Harlem where they managed to save everything that ever entered their apartment. The story is a disturbing one, no matter what your disposition to saving stuff, but moreso if you know of someone who saves damn near everthing.

Eventually, after the first brother dies, the remaining man is accidently killed when he trips over one of his own boobytraps and becomes trapped under the debris in his apartment. I can relate to this scenario. Actually, I am related to this scenario. My father, my mother, my aunt, and maybe my own children have suffered at one time or another from varying degrees of collyeritus. Like a virus, collyeritus is always trying to get the best of me. Its a daily struggle to resist the urge to tuck things away, start a new pile, or begin another collection.

I am as big a spendthrift, recycle, freecycle nut as anyone, and my junk drawer, craft shelf, and recycle bins are filled to the brim. I do attempt to discard all paper, magazines, cans, bottles, plastic, newspaper, and cloth that are not of immediate use, or for which there is no immediate plan for use. There are a number of recycling centers in St.Louis that welcome these items. Happily, I take all my stuff to Kirkwood's recycling center, and, then, I take myself out to lunch. It is the least I can do to reward myself for trying to save the planet.

The Collyer brothers had OCD/Hoarding worse than most people I know who have collyeritus. My father, who filled the basement with no end of things he might need one day, apologized on his death bed for the state of the junk he was unable to take with him. Everyone is familiar with the "can't take it with you" adage. And there's the joke about never seeing a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. But people with collyeritus don't believe it. Until they face death's door and finally realize it's narrow. What does scripture say? Easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Perhaps the authors of the synoptic gospels were not thinking about how much of the earth we'd like to bring with us to heaven when they wrote these words, but I'll wager they'd agree it's better to let go sooner than later to those things that encumber us on earth.

The OCD Foundation is plain spoken about the traits of hoarders:
"They seem to have difficulty discriminating between what is or will be useful, and what is not. Some hoarders can freely admit that the things they are saving are currently broken or damaged and unusable. They will stubbornly insist, however, that they will someday repair or refurbish the items and either make use of them or give them away.

Another reason for hoarding resembles the type of thinking seen in hyper-responsible obsessions. It is the idea that each thing they save and/or repair might be useful to others (rather than themselves), and that the hoarder would be responsible (and therefore blameful and guilty) for another person not having this vital item should the need arise. They may also rationalize that what they are doing is actually "recycling," and are performing a community service by conserving resources. Throwing away something that could possibly be reused is seen as being highly irresponsible. In actuality, there really is no need for what they have saved, there is no one to give the items to, and the only result is that the hoarder is burdened with a house full of junk.

Some of the things most commonly saved include newspapers, magazines, lists, pens, pencils, empty boxes, pamphlets, old greeting cards, junk mail, old appliances, outdated books and even assorted labels, string, rubber bands, plastic containers, bottles, and bottle caps. In the most extreme cases, people have been known to save such things as empty matchbooks, used tissues, old cigarette butts, bird feathers, old cars, discarded paper cups, used aluminum foil, paper towels, lint, and hairs. Some of these sufferers will even rummage through other people's trash, and bring home obvious junk that to them, seems quite useful or repairable."

Not long ago, I heard a story that perported to explain why California is sinking into the ocean. Seems too many people with National Geographic magazine collections were moving to the ocean-view state. I once moved my collection of NG to California. I moved it to Kentucky when I left CA, and to Ohio, and to Indiana, and now it resides in St. Louis with me. This is worrisome. I am looking into purchasing the CD collection of NG, but I have no idea what to do with the 1936-2006 magazines. Why do I need all those magazines in any form? Now, that's a good question.

I wonder how long it will take to dispose of all the things I've saved for no good reason. Not as long as it will take to dispose of my mother's collection, or heaven knows my aunt's collections. I'm starting now to UNcollyerize my house and garage. I do not want my parting words to my loved ones to be "sorry for the mess I'm leaving behind." And I don't want them to have to deal with what to do with National Geo's, old socks, Christmas decorations from the 1980's, and glasses, plates, and teapots. If it won't fit in the casket, it must go.

This brings me to another topic--buying a casket now and using it for a bed, so you get more use out of it--more bang for the buck, you see. When you die, you really can't enjoy the coffin. But....we must save this idea for another day's blog.

May 9, 2006
or should that be HERstory

"It was on this day in 1960 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the world's first birth control pill.

It was one of the first times a drug had ever been approved by the FDA for a purpose other than to cure an illness or relieve pain. It was also the first time that a new medication was known not by its official name, Enovid-10, but simply as "the pill."

Some people hoped it would end unwanted pregnancies but today about 50 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned." from Writer's Almanac

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