Fear of running out

Dozens of rolls of tape—Scotch, duct, electrical. A flat of canned creamed corn. Three toolboxes; two heating pads, and enough printer toner cartridges and bars of soap to run a copy shop and a hotel, respectively. And then, there were the flashlights and earthquake kits.

Having an ample stock of supplies at home is a comfort for many a soul. But for an older person, do overstuffed shelves equal a psychic insurance policy against demise?

After helping my friend clean up her 93-year old father’s three-bedroom condo so she could move in with him–and after seeing similar telltale signs of hoarding in the homes of other older people—I believe this may be so.  After all, if you’ve got 48 rolls of toilet paper on the shelves, how could you possibly die tomorrow?

My friend knows I love to throw things away, and could provide a needed Switzerland-like perspective to this division of space to accommodate her. She also knows that I love her, and her charming dad—who enjoys hosting dinner parties for the neighbors in the vibrant adult community where he lives.

Before I arrived, I was aware that my friend’s father had a thing for Costco, despite the fact that he’s been living alone for years, since the death of his second wife. Until we dug in for the sort and re-organize exercise, I did not know the extent to which he loved and was comforted by buying in bulk.

With each opened cabinet and closet, it became clearer. As much as I loved to prune, he loved to collect. A serious clearing and purge would be necessary.

My friend’s father good-naturedly gave us license to trash—within reason.

“Two heating pads,” I said, holding them up. “This one looks kinda worn out.”

“You never know when you’ll need two,” he said.

The community dumpster was a short walk away. Trip after trip left it overflowing. The local dump was a short drive, and in between shredding reams and reams of old papers, my friend’s dad made several trips.

A few neighbors stopped in to marvel at our downsizing and sorting operation, and enlisted my friend for help to cut through their clutter.

Another lady seemed relieved that we weren’t cleaning things out because anyone had died.

“You know there’s a thrift shop in town,” sniffed another nosy neighbor. Under regular circumstances, I’d agree that everything that possibly could be reincarnated should find a new home. But this was not a regular circumstance; time was of the essence to achieve what we needed before my friend’s moving truck was to arrive.

A few days in, a man with a truck was called to haul away the biggest pieces. My friend’s father was out to fetch us lunch. He returned an hour or so later—with a frosty mochachino from Costco in his hand, and a box.  I worried what else might be out in the car.  We’d been making such good progress.

“They raised the price,” he complained, holding up his frosty beverage. Then he plunked down his new purchase–a cordless phone system, with five handsets.  I quickly got to work to undo the old one, which only had three handsets–so we could send it off with the dump truck man.

Maybe it isn’t fear of running out so much as it is joy in shopping.