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Voice: Confessions of a kluttermaniac

August 16, 2001

"The Incurable Collector" is one of my favorite TV sitcoms. I am addicted to collectivitis, but in my case it's junk-ivitis.

Years ago an essayist coined a name for us human pack rats who hold other people's throw-aways in such high regard: He called us kluttermaniacs. Since he was one of us, we accepted the designation.

Hot weather has forced me to terminate my treasure hunting safaris for a while, but I'm already compiling a list of collectibles I hope to find come cool weather.

Before the Salvation Army Thrift Shop on Main Street burned, it had on sale a monkey (or maybe it was a gorilla) in Rodin's "The Thinker" pose, with a book on his knee. I didn't find him until after I had spent all of my "mad money," so I planned to buy him on my next safari. But of course he melted into a blob during the fire.

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I don't dare hope I'll ever find another like him. But he tops my treasure-hunting list. I think he may have been one of a pair of bookends at one time.

Another treasure always on my list is Elbert Hubbard books. Other books I like to buy are college literature texts, underlined and with notes in the margins.

I love to find scrapbooks and diaries, though I seldom find the latter. Anything that gives me insight into other people's lives or thoughts is high on my treasure-hunting list.

I can't resist other people's castoff crafts, finished or unfinished. One of my favorite keepsakes is a comical-looking cat made up of small pieces of glass — an unusual mosaic that someone lovingly spent hours in creating. That cat is framed and hangs on my wall. It brings smiles to me whenever I look at it.

I have a one-dimensional papier-mâché rendition of Snoopy. Young visitors always fall in love with him, but I refuse to give him away. He is on the wall opposite the recliner in which I am forced to live, move and have my being. He, too, brings smiles.

By now you must realize that my quest for other people's throwaways is largely limited to the whimsical Norman Cousins had his slapstick comedies to use for healing, laughter truly being the best medicine.

My illnesses can't be healed. But I can control my attitude toward them by remaining cheerful and positive. The more whimsical things I collect to smile about, the easier it will be to survive onslaughts of pain and illness.

How I wish I had added "the Thinker" ape to my whimsical menagerie! But I have internalized him — I think of him and smile.

My husband wishes I would internalize all of my tawdry treasures and not clutter up the house with them.

But I am an incurable collector. I can't give up my treasure-hunting safaris. A kluttermaniac is obsessive — so is an incurable collector. I am both, and cannot be rehabilitated or saved.

Hard is the life of the incurable collector, for eventually he or she will be buried alive beneath "collectibles."

MERRY HARRIS

El Centro

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