Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.

You can read the start of my journey here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, but who's the Mother of Necessity?

You've probably all heard the adage, "Waste not. Want not," right?

It's an awesome saying, and a wonderful way to live. That is, if you're not me. From the time I could remember, I have felt a moral obligation to not waste stuff - to find a use for anything that had any use left in it. I think I can squeeze use out of things that really have none left, and seeing the potential for practically everything is really cluttering to the mind.

I'm sure part of it came from growing up in a large family with not a lot of extra to go around. And I'm sure the fact that we've always been a single income family has played a role as well. But I think it's deeper than that. I think it's part of who I am to the core. Part of where I came from...

My grandparents raised their family during the Great Depression. Times were so incredibly tough then. At a time in history when women just didn't work outside the home, my grandmother cleaned the schoolhouse after hours to help make ends meet. I've heard stories all my life about how ingenuous she was. She absolutely amazed me my entire life. I adored her.

One of the things Mom has told me many times, is how Grammy would pick up left over construction paper off the floors when she was cleaning. Because this was during the Great Depression,every inch of available paper was used by someone. Nothing went to waste. The pieces of construction paper were often just slivers, but no piece was too small. She gathered them religiously.

Money was so incredibly tight during the Great Depression, that Mom and her brothers and sisters got one new pair of shoes a year. By the time the school year was over, the shoes no longer fit or had huge holes in them. They were all but abandoned, but that never seemed to be too much of a problem, for summer had arrived, and the kids would run around barefoot. 

Shoes weren't the only luxury for my mom's during the Great Depression. Clothes were, too. Grammy made most of the clothes for the entire family. Socks were darned until they were so well used they were literally falling apart. Clothes were handed down from the older kids to the younger until some clothes were worn by every child in the family, regardless of their gender. Like many women raising families during the Great Depression, my grandmother used feed sacks and flour and sugar sacks for fabric to make dresses for the girls and dress shirts for the boys.

But that wasn't enough for Grammy. She wanted to take away the sting of poverty. In spite of the fact that the girls knew their dresses were made from feed and flour sacks, Grammy wanted to make them special. She wanted her girls to know how much they meant to her. To know that they were more than their current economic status. So she got creative. 

When it was time to make dresses for her daughters, she would painstakingly separate the colors of construction paper and put them in a large vat of boiling water on the stove. She would then add the flour sacks that she'd thoroughly washed beforehand to the water.  Once the sacks, which had been opened at the seams to make a flat piece of fabric, had boiled long enough, she would rinse them and hang them to dry. Then she would get busy cutting out dress patterns on beautifully colored fabric and start sewing.

By the time Grammy was done, the girls would each have a beautiful new dress. Mom said it made her feel so incredibly special, that Grammy would go to all that trouble for them. It would be apt to say in this case that necessity truly was the mother of invention!

However, things have changed. Drastically. Overall, Americans today don't know what it truly means to need something. I know it's not the steadfast rule, but even in these rough economic times, the vast majority of homes have at least one computer, one cell phone and one car, if not two or more of each, plus cable or satellite television. We just have access to an overabundance of stuff - especially clothing. We can buy at thrift stores, garage sales or from the clearance racks for just pennies on the dollar, and that doesn't even count the bags and bags of clothing people give away every day on Craigslist or the different online free groups that are out there.

Unfortunately, hoarding and overabundance go hand in hand. Sort of like the Titanic and icebergs. It definitely makes the waters a little rougher for me to navigate. It doesn't mean I can't or won't be able to keep my head above water.

It just means I have to learn how to swim.


  1. Wow - your grandmother really does sound like an amazing woman! And it's interesting how, even as rough as things are today, you're right - a lot of families still have at least one computer, one car, etc. In a way it's good, but, yes, hoarding and overabundance do go hand-in-hand.

    Just keep at it, Judy - you can totally keep your head above water!

  2. Ahhh the stories you tell and how they parallel to my life! I swear I think we were raised in the same family. :)

    You are doing great, girl! You keep treading that water. You will be diving before you know it! Hugs..

  3. No wonder you loved your grammy so much! What an amazing person she was!

    I need a few swimming lessons, too.

  4. How creative. I would have never thought of using the dye of the paper for the sacks.

    My grandparents also went through the depression... nine kids... one married a hoarder, one is a horder (she can barely fit in her home~literally) and one is an animal hoarder. The others, hoard specific things. Children's schoolwork (they are 25 and 22 now) others hoard food (canned and within the expiration date)

    It's alot more common in the 45-60 age bracket than one would think. And I think it has a lot to do with being raised by "products" of the depression.

    All that to say... it's great that you have such wonderful memories of your grandmother. So neat!

  5. Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman, clearly passed on to you!

  6. You tell such great stories! Sounds like the ladies of your family are marvelous!

  7. Thank you, Crystal. There are days I feel I'm not getting anywhere at all, and I just have to remember where I started. I seriously don't know where I'd be without the support I've received from those who read my blog and have encouraged me so much!

    Carolyn...Are you my sister from another mister? ;O)

    Ami - Jump on in. The water's fine! :)

    Julianna, I do think it's much more common than a lot of people realize. And I'm so very thankful for the memories I have of my grandmother and grandfather. I'm thankful for my mom's memories of them as well. I feel like I know them even better as a result of her memories! :)

    Awww, Thank you Fern and Mrs B. :)


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