Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Filipinos and Hoarding

What do you admit to hoarding?  Me?  Gift bags.
     As the weather cools, my mind often drifts to fixing up the house because it is finally comfortable enough to work outside.  In Texas, the one hundred degree August heat was so unbearable, there was no need to move to break a sweat.  Air conditioners were breaking down everywhere.  There came a point where I was looking for excuses to go shopping because the stores were cooled to frigid temperatures for temporary relief.  Thus, my shopping habit increased due to some survival motivation to find a cool area to combine two things that bring me joy:  buying something I did not need and free air-conditioning.
     This brings me to my topic of hoarding.  I ask myself if hoarding is an individual thing or should I stereotype my own culture?  If I frame my culture as my familial experience, then I think I can truthfully make this argument without surveying all the Filipinos I know.  I cannot help but think that culture has something to do with it combined with some sort of experience to stir the pot of dysfunction.
     When I was in high school, I was so embarrassed of my home that I really did not invite many friends over.  Our house was a full house with five kids, parents, and a grandma.  Who would want to bring friends to such a crowded place?  Misguided youth needs space to do nothing in.  With many people comes many things.
     My room was perfectly organized.  It was not necessarily militantly organized like a model home or a room in an IKEA catalog, but it was my own personal kingdom and just the way I liked it.  I often turned my nose up to the rooms of my brothers and sisters.  After all, I got my own room and they were younger and had to share.  There were only so many rooms to go around for so many siblings.  Being born the oldest did have its perk.  Prior to moving into the suburbs, we lived in a house with three bedrooms.  All the children in one room, grandma in the second room and my parents in the third.  When I finally got my own room, I relished in the space and design.  I picked my own light blue curtains with lace trim.  I remember making pretty bows to tie around them.
     My room was located in the far end of a hallway on the second floor.  If I invited friends over,  one can imagine the obstacle course that would have to be conquered to get to my room.  Until this day, if we did not have a party or an inevitable guest, we probably would not have been able to coordinate the house to align for the united mission of cleaning the house.
    I have seen the show Hoarders and my experience really is not that bad compared to that show.  With all the emotions I am having unfolding on to this story of our junky house growing up, I can only imagine the even more deeper levels of denial that feed the ocean of stuff in a hoarder's life.
     My father hoards.  My mother hoards.  The intentions are good.  For a while, we had five microwave ovens in the garage because my dad would pick them up on the side of the street and fix them.  He did this for us.  He never said so, but I know he did.  We often moved in and out of the house due to the various phases in our lives growing up and every now and then, we needed something.  Sometimes, it was a microwave.
     My grandmother always said, "When your father was growing up, he always had his eyes on the ground."  Pause.  "Because he was always looking for something!"  I joke now, this is my coping mechanism.  My father loves free things.  This is why I think fishing appeals to him, it is free food.       When I look at the pile of things my father has in his garage, the height of the pile has now surpassed me.
     Now I look at my retired father hanging out in his garage daily - not cleaning it mind you.  He is fixing up his fishing rod collection next to his three refrigerators full of frozen fish.   I ask him, "Dad, do you know where everything is in this garage?"  He says to me, "I can find everything I need," and he continues stringing his rod and reel.  I think for my dad, it is perfect, just the way he likes it.
     In the end, the reason my family hoards originates in our family history, which is part of Filipino history.  My father grew up during the post WWII era, a time of rebuilding after the provinces had been devastated by war.  My grandfather even became an engineer, an occupation to rebuild his country.  I can imagine when my father was a little boy, he found his value by providing to the household the treasures he found for free by keeping his eye out for lost things.  He hoards things for the rainy day that is yet to come, that war that may once again devastate his home.  Perhaps when there is a time of need, he will have just what you need.  Just look in the garage.

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