I have watched some of the TV news and TV reality shows about hoarders with disgust. How could anyone allow themselves to get into that kind of a muddle, I ask myself. Is it a physical problem? Maybe they don’t have the time, energy or ability to take care of this stuff. Perhaps, but I’m guessing that time, energy and ability are only small pieces of this puzzle. Well then, I think, maybe it’s something genetic? Hmm, maybe, but if it were you’d think their children would be exhibiting the same symptoms instead of turning the public spotlight of television on them. No, it must be something psychological, an addition perhaps?

Well, I came to a hard realization this weekend. I went to my office to work and could not find a flat surface. I made excuses: I’ve been working lots of overtime lately, I’ve had lots of family stuff going on, etc. etc. I moved stuff around, all I needed was a little space. I sat down to work, looked around my office, and that’s when it hit me: I am a hoarder.

No, I don’t hoard animals. (Though some would say three dogs are two too many). And I don’t have piles and piles of plastic bins full of stuff. (I don’t consider two or three a pile, do you?) No, nothing so exotic.

My desk is piled high with paper, books, things I was going to put away and somehow found their way in here. But the worst pile of all is the paper. Full sized notebook paper, typing paper, post-it notes, pieces of napkins, receipts, scraps of envelopes, and I don’t know what else. They’ve got notes on them – lists of things to do, ideas for stories, snippets of overheard conversations, goals, shopping lists, pieces of code that are useful. Sigh.

I hoard paper.  It piles up to the point of being near avalanche proportions as you can see (please, don’t judge):I hate to throw stuff out, especially if it has something written on it! I might need it someday. (Now, now.  I asked you not to judge!)

I have tried to conquer this addiction habit many times.  I’ve read ‘how to organize yourself-style books ad nauseum. The only piece of advice that has stuck in my head is “handle each paper only once.” Only once?! Come on now, I’m a writer. I write the first draft on the computer, but I edit on paper.  Not only that, my manuscript pages go through multiple revisions, meaning multiple print outs.  And since the manuscript is first priority, all those bills and receipts and lists that are in that pile get shuffled multiple times.

I decided to address my problem.  I spent a good portion of Sunday going through papers, trying to reduce the avalanche to a foot hill. I did a pretty good job of it. But I know fear that that in three or four weeks I’ll have more stacks of paper.

I won’t allow myself to get to the unhealthy proportions that we see on TV, but I need to nip this in the bud. I am confessing to you, part of my twelve-step self-assigned program to overcome my hoarding of paper. And I feel so much better now that I’ve gone public. I’m sure I’ll be able to overcome this.

Well, I was sure until I went to the basement to start laundry. No, no – really it’s not as cluttered and disorganized as it looks. I don’t have an hoarder’s addiction. It’s not my fault. Really. It’s — it’s genetic!

Tell me I’m not alone. What hoarding gene do you have?