We went to Le Cafe Crepe for our eighth-grade French club field trip – it was one of the best field trips I took. Some of my best friends went on that trip and it was just so much fun. On that trip, our sponsor, Madame Mattioli, gave us each a Godiva chocolate. It wasn’t special chocolate or anything. But, years later, I still have that very same wrapper in a mason jar. I’ve also got movie stubs, paper wristbands, and other random bits and pieces that my mom insists is all trash. Hoarding became a legit issue since that trip. 

My whole room looks like this – old stuffed animals from 5th grade and crafts that my cousins created for me smear my walls. A design that my little cousin made still sits on the wall next to the polaroids and concert flyers. Old images and painted decorations and bracelets and keychains and lanyards from years ago dot the corkboard in front of my desk. In the corner, I even have a certificate from our 5th grade Valentine’s Day box contest, which I can proudly say that I won. 

The rock that my cousins painted for me via Srilekha Cherukuvada
The rock that my cousins painted for me via Srilekha Cherukuvada

My room is a static memory of my life, filled with all the happy shades of color that I could ever need.

I didn’t realize I was hoarding until last year I think. Up until then, I deemed every object as crucial to my memory. One day my mom came into my room and saw a huge mess. It was exam season, so I really didn’t have time to clean, and it was worse than usual. That was really when I started questioning myself. What do these objects even mean? Do I even remember everything?

And then, I took out my mason jar with all of the movie stubs and little pieces of paper and sifted through them. And I was right. I didn’t remember the sentiment or lessons behind anything. All that was left were the raw memories associated with them. For years, I told myself that keeping a movie stub from 2017 or those Mardi Gras beads from 2016 was essential. I told myself that it would help me remember something I learned from my experiences. Now I look at these things and all I see is a reminder of what happened–a memory, but there is not even a glimmer of what I wanted them to mean.

I wanted them to mean something. I wanted them to teach me a lesson, or to be something to lift me up. But, a wristband to JumpStreet is just a piece of paper, and a painted rock is just a rock. Yet, even if nothing else, these things remind me of a memory. And, that is more meaningful to me than anything, An object doesn’t need to be assigned an initial lesson when the memory attached to it is already more significant.

Image of items that I've hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada
Image of items that I’ve hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada

Although those initial lessons are important, my memories are equally as important.

I’ve also been lying to myself for years. Those lessons I made up each time I kept an object were just covering up my real fears about leaving them behind. Self-improvement doesn’t depend on a couple of objects that I associate with a specific lesson, and I know that. That’s just something I’ve been telling myself.

I’m terrified of throwing them out. I could never bring myself to let go of the past, much less the objects that represent my past. I’m scared of change and I’m scared of losing myself in the process of that change. I think that’s why I’ve invested myself in hoarding so much. My whole body just trembles at the thought of giving away my stuffed animal that one of my best friends gave to me, or even that wristband from JumpStreet two years ago. I know it’s silly, but it just means too much to me.

Image of items that I've hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada
Image of items that I’ve hoarded via Srilekha Cherukuvada

Now, when my mom complains about all the“trash” in my room, I fight back. I guess I’m the only sappy, sentimental one in my family. But that should mean something. Memories should mean something. And having objects to represent those memories is completely reasonable. My hoarding reminds me of my past, and my past is a part of my identity. 

So, is it really all worth it when I’m 50 years old and drowning in candy wrappers from when I was a kid? 

Hell yes.

  • Srilekha Cherukuvada is a passionate writer and designer. Srilekha loves to also edit and participate in marketing strategizing as well as in NGOs and social justice initiatives. She owns a not-for-profit organization, Plannr Consulting, which strives to promote mental health awareness.