By Julie-Ann Sherlock

I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder…per se…but my parents may have a different opinion. I am writing this sitting in my bedroom in my parents’ house, wondering if the ceiling will collapse due to the weight of my stuff in the attic. 

For over 20 years, I owned my own home, raised two children and collected all the paraphernalia that goes with it. Then, when my youngest went to university just over five years ago, I decided my babies didn’t need a mammy hovering over them, and I made my escape and became a digital nomad. 

But what should a woman do with a lifetime of memories, clothing that is useful for the colder climes of Ireland, kitchen utensils and bedding that I may use one day if I decide to set up home again? Oh, and shoes. I should probably mention the 12 Doc Marten-style boots, the 15 pairs of Converse and the four pairs of Rocket Dog sneakers amongst the plethora of heels (I never wear heels since I broke my ankle 12 years ago), flats, flip flops…etc…etc. 

Ok, I have a problem. But it’s mostly with shoes. Oh and handbags. And clothes. Help!

Am I A Hoarder?

I do have a lot of stuff, and some of it is of no real use. I can only wear one pair of shoes at a time. But there is an emotional attachment to some of it, and I hate getting rid of things that I feel can be useful someday. 

That said, I don’t think I have the psychological disorder associated with hoarding. I’m not tripping over boxes of used newspapers or empty packaging to go about my daily business. My hoarding is mostly stuff that may come in handy one day or holds deep sentimental value. 

I think I was very good for only keeping one outfit from each of my sons’ baby days and my eldest’s first pair of shoes—an adorable pair of brown leather Doc Marten boots. I have kept their baby books, thousands of photos and a small selection of their art and crafts “masterpieces”, certificates they have received throughout their education and sporting lives and a programme or two from shows and events they have been in. I wouldn’t consider that excessive, would you? 

These items tell their lives’ story—a small snapshot of my young babies growing into men. Precious moments in a life that was not easy. Perhaps the big bag of towels and bed linen could go, but who knows when I might decide to return to Ireland full time and require these things? I have invited my sons to take anything from our stockpile for their own homes, but apart from a knife set, some saucepans and crockery, most of our equipment remains in storage above my head. 

Does anyone want a purple blender? There may be a matching kettle too. My boys don’t like purple, but it’s my favourite colour. 

Life On The Road

When I began my journey as a digital nomad, I packed everything I was taking with me into a massive backpack and a smaller knapsack. I felt free. Still, I had pretty much the same amount of stuff as my sister and her boyfriend (now husband) combined, who were also travelling. 

Over the months, clothes and shoes wore out (or got boring) and were replaced. I picked up small gifts for those back home. So then I needed to buy a bigger bag. I was at it again. To lighten my load somewhat, I posted home some items, including my favourite, well-worn converse and a handbag I bought in Mumbai but the strap broke—for safekeeping, you see. 

I fell in love with Kuala Lumpur and decided to set up a home base there. I rented an apartment, which meant that I had to buy new bedding, towels, and kitchen utensils… Yup, I started hoarding there too. I moved to a two-bed apartment—more bedding was needed. It’s not really my fault that life makes me buy stuff, is it?

When I returned to Ireland in November, I gave up my apartment in Malaysia as I don’t know when I will make it back. I am going back, though. Leigh, my lovely Kiwi friend who lives in the same building as me, kindly said she would store my stuff. I think she is regretting it now as boxes sit piled up under her breakfast bar. My Christmas tree and decorations got a temporary home in my friends’ Steve and Sabreena’s Spa. 

Despite the above, I do get great satisfaction out of decluttering. I throw out stuff with great excitement at least twice a year. I’m excited because getting rid of things means…I get to buy more! So perhaps, I am not so much of a hoarder after all, and more a retailer’s dream and a sucker for consumerism.