Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I got an email the other day from a television show asking if I might want to be on the program. Apparently she had read one of my columns some time ago and thought I’d be a good interview. The topic: “Are you a hoarder or a clutterer?”

I beg your pardon? I immediately checked to see if the email had come from “The Jerry Springer Show,” or even “60 Minutes,” but no, surprisingly, it was from one of those nature channels. They were offering me an all-expenses-paid trip to the East Coast, just to find out if I was a hoarder or a clutterer.

I’ve done some television segments over the years, for products like sugar-free chewing gum (“Cleans your teeth just like a toothbrush”) and colored plastic wrap (“Make your leftovers look even more appetizing”). I enjoy my occasional fifteen minutes of fame. But I had to laugh at the suggestion that I might be a hoarder or clutterer. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sure, like most normal people without H-C (Hoarder-Clutterer Disorder), I save stuff. Important stuff that I think I’m going to use in the next decade so I don’t have to buy it again and waste money. And sure, while I’m not using all that stuff, I may set it out on a table or mantel or windowsill or empty floor space, so I don’t forget I have it and accidentally buy more. But that hardly makes me a hoarder, let alone a clutterer.

Thinking my kids would get a kick out of the email, I sent it to them. My son-in-law Mike wrote back immediately: “DO IT!!! Go on the show! If there is even the slightest chance you will get rid of the 5,000 fake books, cutesy birdhouses or plastic grapes, it will be worth it!”

I looked up from my son-in-law’s email and glanced around the room. OMG, he was right. There were fake books, cutesy birdhouses and plastic grapes everywhere. Where and how had I accumulated all this crap? Judging by the amount of stuff that filled the wet bar alone, I was not only a pathological hoarder, I was also a chronic clutterer.

I immediately went to the wet bar, the catch-all for anything that I couldn’t find room for elsewhere, and began to remove the first layer of stuff. Out of that tiny hole in the wall came a wicker basket, an armload of fake ivy, candles that look like tomatoes and pinecones, a couple of humorous wine bottles (“Mad Housewife Chardonnay”), some sidewalk chalk, a laptop computer, a picture of my husband dressed as a school cafeteria cook, a pair of socks, somebody’s sunglasses, an empty gift bag, and some old Polaroid film.

It took me most of the day to decide whether to toss out the stuff or move it to another place. By the time I was done, the kids were arriving for dinner. But it was my husband who first noticed the change.

“Where’s all my stuff?” he said, frowning at the wet bar.

My son-in-law’s head jerked up. “You have a WET BAR?!!! Has it been here ALL THIS TIME?”

I nodded proudly at my decluttering skills. “Next I’m going to tackle the fireplace (full of fake candles), the mantel (a showcase for my Smurf collection), and the family room cabinets (more birdhouses and grapes). That should take me the better part of a week. But it’s a start.

And it leaves me plenty of time for my H-C Anonymous meetings.

Penny Warner can be reached at http://www.pennywarner.com


Anonymous marilyn94123@yahoo.com said...

Hi Penny:

I love this, because I am an H-C but I'm not sure how much of this I'm to believe. I mean, I believe you're an H-C, but a laptop in a hole behind the wet bar???
Your point, however, is well taken, and I plan to get at it as soon as possible, room by room, item by item, purse by purse.......
Thanks for starting my day so cheerfully.,
Marilyn Diamond

April 28, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Danna said...

I am laughing so hard! I admit, I have H-C. I believe it's inherited! Whenever my mother wants to confront her H-C, she says: "I'm giving you this valuble "whatever" so I can see the joy it brings you before I die." Then, every week she takes inventory!

May 3, 2009 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Julaina Kleist-Corwin said...

Hi Penny,

I have H-C too. There's a big garage sale involving our whole community on May 23rd and I'm supposed to be sorting stuff to sell. But, here I am on the computer instead. I guess I'll have to do a marathon on May 22nd. My mom does the same thing Danna was describing and she's coming to help me this month. I hope she doesn't bring me more "valuable stuff" of hers.

May 9, 2009 at 5:20 PM  

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