Hoarding: It runs in the family.

I’m having a bit of writer’s block tonight. It’s probably because I was awoken by a fussy, teething, thrashing 21-month-old 7-8 times during the night last night, and as a result, right now am having difficulty stringing words together to make complete sentences.

So, tonight’s post is an excerpt from an old blog I used to write. As it mentions a time before my wedding, it must have been circa 2009, soon after Liam and I moved here to PA from Boston, where we’d both been living for some time. If you followed the blog then, the story might sound familiar. It features my nephew, Miles, who is eight now. At the time of this post, he was three-and-a-half years old.

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Back story #1: Liam has been a little obsessed with hoarders and hoarding in general, I think. He watched some show on 60 minutes or Dateline, or one of those shows he’s always watching, and he won’t stop making comments about it. If we leave magazines around for too long, he asks: Do you think we’re hoarders? Or if I gently remind him that he needs to get rid of some of his t-shirts since they are taking up three drawers’ worth of space, and he somehow never manages to even touch the ones on the bottom, he replies: I know, I know. I’m a hoarder.

Sometimes I get the hoarder card from him too, especially when it comes to the basement full of crafts that I don’t make use of as often as he thinks I should. Then he starts to go off about the dangers of hoarding and how soon we’ll have our dead cats lying around us, among piles of our picked-off scabs, and pizza boxes full of mounting garbage that we are too lazy to throw away. All of this, never mind the fact that we don’t even own cats.

Back story #2: Liam and I have been saving up our loose change for over a year now. I have to admit, I never much cared for change before I met Liam. But, as I’ve already pointed out, Liam likes to save things. So, we started a coin jar. When it filled up the first time we took it to the grocery store to get bills from the CoinStar machine, the one that charges a small fee per dollar to process the coins. Fifty dollars is no small amount! Instead of spending it, we put it into an envelope.

At some point I decided to start my own coin jar. I kept it separate from the other jar—what would become Liam’s jar. We declared a competition between us to see who could collect the most coins. As a result, we now have quite a little stash of bills in our envelope. We have dubbed it the ‘furniture fund‘ which we plan to use as a down payment for some nice Amish-made table for our yet-to-be-bought new house in our yet-to-be-determined city of settling down.

Real story: A few weeks ago I was over at my parents’ house visiting one evening. (FYI: My mom could quite possibly be a real hoarder. Not dead cats bad, but close. At least, she’s much worse than Liam will ever imagine he is or I am. Love her dearly, I do.) My parents’ house has loose change all over the place and they keep a big jar on their bedroom dresser where a lot of it ends up. I have occasionally been known to go over there and secretly steal the change from that jar, so that my coin jar would fill up faster than Liam’s. I know I should feel ashamed about this, but I don’t.

On this particular evening I let my mom know that I was in real serious need of some coin. I explained that the change-turned-to-bills via CoinStar was going to help pay for my wedding veil, a random item I decided I needed immediately, among other wedding weekend expenses. After hearing this, she was happy to help. Less money she’d have to contribute? Sure! Why not? She showed me several of her secret stashes of change, many of which included quarters, the Big Kahuna of change. These she had to carefully check through though, before giving to me, to make sure they weren’t ones that were of U.S. states of which she hadn’t yet collected seven or eight duplicates. She’s hoarding these, I guess, so she can give each of her children a set some day, although this remains to be seen.

Anyway, she and I were sitting on her bed going through piles of coins when my sister, Melissa, and her young son, Miles, came in. Miles has his own piggy bank at home and my parents will occasionally give him change to put in there. When he saw all of the coins he got very excited and climbed up on the bed to get involved.

Melissa, my mom and I soon each had a huge pile of coins in front of us and we began to sort them into two piles. 1): the pile for Kirstin to take home to change to bills and use to pay for her veil, or whatever else she deemed she needed, and 2): the reserve pile for mom in order for her to one day complete her eight sets of state quarters. Incidentally, I’m not quite sure why she needs eight sets. If you count one set for her and my dad to keep, plus the four kids, that makes five sets. Hoarders need to always have back-up, I guess.

The conversation began like this:

Me: Hawaii?

Mom: Yeah, I need that one.

Melissa: How about Delaware?

Mom: Nope. That was one of the first ones. I have plenty of those.

Me: New Mexico?

Mom: Hmmm…I can’t remember. Put it in my pile just to be safe.

After hearing my mom say ‘yes’ to her pile for Hawaii for about the 13th time, I stood up for my collection and shouted: No! You have enough already. The veil! Think of the veil! That one’s mine! We were starting to get a little hysterical and the mood was becoming intense.

All the while, my nephew Miles was secretly stealing from each of our piles to make his own, his smile growing wider and wider with the addition of each new coin. Eventually I started watching him with more interest and concern. I tried to rationally explain to him that his Aunt Kirstin needed the money more than he did. I would then steal a few dimes from his pile and he’d say angrily, “Hey, that’s mine!”

I mean, he could play the pile game just like everyone else, right? That’s what he justified in his smart little brain. And then I’d yell back, “No, they’re mine!” We’d laugh a little and the game would continue (and yes, I had no problems stealing money from a three-and-a-half-year-old and not giving it back).

Soon, my yelling turned into, “Miles, quit being a hoarder!” Of course, the vocabulary was fresh in my mind from Liam’s constant use of it at home. Then when their piles were dwindling, Melissa and my mom would swipe some coins from Miles too in order to sort them into their rightful places. I mean, this was serious banking business here.

My mom and Melissa soon dumped on him too, “Miles, nobody likes a hoarder.” Or, “Miles, quit hoarding!”

Melissa, my mom and I were having more fun using these big words with him than you can imagine. Miles continued to get frustrated that his pile was shrinking by the minute and his mom, aunt and grandma were yelling nonsense at him left and right. It just wasn’t right. Finally, amidst hands taking from him and words being thrown about, Miles responded to us all in a shouting, desperate whine, “But, I wanna be a hoarder!”

The grown ups looked at each other and began to crack up. This little guy had understood that keeping his money to himself and playing the game with the big girls meant being a hoarder, and that was OK by him even if he didn’t own the word at the time and would likely forget it the next day. In the moment it was completely hysterical.

Eventually Miles lost all his money. Well, I did I let him keep the pennies. What does he know anyway? And, a few hours later, I was $125 richer. Thanks, mom! Hoarding sure does pays off!

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