The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Hoarders: The Elementary School Edition

What am I doing today, you ask? Oh nothing much. Just staging a goddamn intervention.

My middle son, Gray, has a serious problem and it’s just not getting any better the older he gets. We thought it was just a quirk, that he likes to collect certain things. That he doesn’t really like to throw things away. But it’s time to face facts and take action. The first step is acceptance. I think. Or maybe that’s the last stage of grief. Oh no, wait, I know it; the first step is admitting you have a problem.

My name is Elizabeth and my 7 year old is a hoarder.

It started when he was teeny tiny. He’s always had a love of art supplies. He likes to make collages and 3-D art projects. He adores stickers and pipe cleaners and googly eyes. It progressed quickly from there. He started to see everything as something he could make into something else. Little boxes that jewelry comes in fascinated him. He started asking if he could have empty pill bottles. And little plastic Easter eggs? Please. You’d have to pry them from his cold dead hands.

He started collecting string and rocks and bits of brightly colored paper. He might actually be part bird. It’s sort of like he’s building himself a nest with shiny bits of trash. I found his ‘nest’ this weekend. It was under his bed.

I spent a full four hours straight this morning shimmying under Gray’s bed and pulling out various treasures he’s been saving for some massive insane art project he has living in his head. The stuff I pulled out, sorted and put away/threw away included:

$10 mostly in pennies, scattered all over the floor under his bed ($1.50 of it was stuffed in a dress sock like he was getting ready to meet a mobster in a dark alley)

Roughly 800 crayons (please stop giving my children crayons for gifts, people. Our wax-based writing utensil needs are met for the next 3 lifetimes)

A stack of 50 or so Pokemon cards that apparently went through the wash in someone’s pocket and were fused together into a giant pulpy mass, and yet were deemed worth saving for some reason:

6 billion itty bitty lego pieces.

These paints:

Which I can only assume are the medium he used to create this work of art on the inside wall of his bunkbed:

This trading card from the dog they brought in to see him during his 4 day stay at the hospital a year and a half ago when he was in for Valley Fever (this one made me a little sniffly; I have to admit):

Many feathers in neon colors and one that was obviously picked up off the ground from a pigeon who probably lives nearby.

A sheet of gold star stickers, which when Gray saw I had put away into his sticker drawer he demanded, “Where did you find those? I’ve been looking everywhere for them!”

And a multitude of other bizarre and disgusting things.

When I was done I had the following conversation with Gray.

Me: You’re a hoarder, you know that?

Gray: What’s a hoarder?

Me: Someone who obsessively collects things of little or no value, like trash. Eventually it piles up around him until a tower of jcrew catalogs tips over onto the hoarder and the collection of drink umbrellas balanced on top stabs him in the heart and he dies.

Gray nodded slightly, shrugged his shoulders and wandered off dismissively to dig through the bathroom trash to see if he could find any recent toenail clippings to add to the collection he’s going to eventually use to create portraits of pop stars out of as a commentary on society’s idolatry of useless things.

It’s been an exhausting day. But the bright spot for me was that I also found 21 Bakugans. If you don’t have small boys, you might not know what a Bakugan is, and for that I feel very sorry for you because they are awesome. They’re my favorite boy toy.

They’re these little mostly round things (sometimes square or other shapes) that when you stick them to something metal (like the fridge) they pop open into dragony demon-like creatures.

I like to think of them as my dragon army.

They’re circling up, chanting my name as their leader.

That title lady who said she would call me back in ten minutes and then when she hadn’t an hour and a half later and I called back again and she left me on hold for 28 minutes? They’re coming for you.

5 Responses to Hoarders: The Elementary School Edition

  1. My grandfather always went to farm auctions and came home with horse collars that didn’t fit any of his horses. And gears. My father, upon replacing the decrepit old front screen door with a new metal security door, disassembled the old one into it’s wooden pieces and saved it in his ‘good wood’ stack. He rolled up the screen, tied it with a bit of string, and put it on the shelf.

    Your son sounds comparatively harmless. Let him enjoy his compulsion. In a few years he’ll be grown up and gone and it wlil be something for his wife to deal with 😉

  2. Do you remember that scene in Men In Black 2 when Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith opened the locker and found a tribe of small, hairy, antennaed folk chanting their names? Totally picturing that, but with small plastic demon/dragon things.

  3. Is THAT what those things are? Oh, that’s cool! Now I have to teach Philip how to use them….

  4. My father wasn’t a hoarder, but thank goodness he didn’t turn down “free” stuff and one time when I broke a tail light out of the ’64 Falcon, dad had a replacement. Saved me some money! Thanks for the memory. Oh, and good luck with Gray. Yikes!

  5. My son (almost 13) is a hoarder. His favorite things to hoard most often come from the playground at school. Broken pencils, the ring around a bottle that the lid attaches to, broken hair ties, paper clips, candy wrappers, broken pieces of anything. Oh and the rocks…the entire metal lunchbox full of rocks. When he was younger I use to sort through his room anytime he went to Grandma’s. I could never clean his room with him around because of the inevitable “I was looking for that!” for every piece of junk, I mean treasure, I found. I’d like to think he’ll grow out of this but my husband just found his first ever paycheck stub…from when he was 16…

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