The Hoarder’s Apprentice

Allison Tait blog
Posted on May 15, 2012

Mr5 has gone to bed tonight clutching a pair of grey shorts to his heart. These shorts, size 2, are apparently his favourites. He loves them. He told me so.

The fact that said shorts have been languishing in the bottom of his cupboard, sight unseen, for months, if not years, is beside the point. He loves them.

This afternoon I told him that I was going to start cleaning out his wardrobe. The fact that our move from the Fibro is a matter of weeks away has really hit me in the past few days. I look around me at the inordinate amount of stuff that we seem to have and wonder how in Heaven’s name it’s going to go from point A to point B. The Builder pointed out that its down to us to pack it up to ensure its safe and timely travels.

I was kind of depressed for a while after that.

But not as sad as Mr5 who, it has to be said, has inherited the family hoarding gene with a vengeance. This is the boy who collected the foil wrappers from chocolate bars for many months, storing them carefully for the day that he would make Mr8 a shiny cloak from them. True story. When the wrappers inexplicably disappeared during a clean-up one day (I swear I have no idea what happened to them Officer), he was inconsolable.

I cleaned out his stuffed toy basket one morning, while he was at school. Into the charity bag went the pristine stuffed animals he never looks at. Never. The bag went into the back of the car… where I promptly forgot about it and drove around with it in the boot for a week. Imagine my horror when I came out to the car one morning to drive the boys to school, only to discover Mr5 in the boot clutching a stuffed sheep to his breast.

“Mum, how did Sheepie get out here?” he asked, blue eyes wide with horror. “He must be lonely!”

By evening, Sheepie (who had not had a name until that day) was snuggled up with Mr5 in bed. Two weeks later, Sheepie is under the bed, lying amongst the dust bunnies, forgotten. (Note to self: smuggle Sheepie out in the morning and kick him straight to the kerb.)

So when I told Mr5 about the clean out, and how I was only going to throw out things he’d outgrown, he moaned and sighed and threw himself about in true ham fashion before striking a dramatic pose and laying down the law. “Okay,” he said. “But we have to keep my favourite shorts. I love them.”

And which might they be? “You know the ones that are a little bit grey and they’ve got like that stripe along the bottom?”

Er, no. But anything for a quiet life. The first pair of grey shorts I came across were taken to him for inspection. He peered at them closely. “Yes, I think that’s them,” he said, taking them from me and marching back into his room to tuck them in under the blanket.

And so he sleeps tonight, with his Duckie and his shorts on the pillow beside him. I have no doubt that those shorts will soon join Sheepie under the bed, but for now he loves them.

And he won the battle to keep them. His grandfather will be so proud.


  1. Luna

    I’m with Alison, I sneak/smuggle so much toys and clothing, either broken or outgrown. It needs to be done for my sanity and our 3-bedroom house is on the ‘cosy’ side with no built-in storages. Our 8yo son refuses to pass on clothes to his 2yo brother saying, I can still fit it. Sad, but not true.

  2. Megan.K.

    I am a toy and clothes “smuggler” mummy too. Mine cannot bear to part with the most ridiculous things, like your boy : )
    I have bags full of toys and clothes hidden in cupboards, and the boot of my car, waiting for a soon-to-happen garage sale.
    Only glitch is, I will have to get my Mr to take the girls away for the day, otherwise they won’t let me sell anything!

  3. Alison

    I am smuggling boxes of clothes, books and toys down to the storeroom while the boys sleep – to be flogged in a garage sale while the boys play with their Grandma. The rest goes to the op shop. If they spot the boxes, all hell will break loose. My eldest spotted one of his old toys in an op shop once and I had to buy it back and bring it home again. I think all kids must be born with that tendency to hang on and hoard. But, boy, it does feel good to get rid of some stuff!

  4. River

    So many people go for years saying and thinking “I/we haven’t got much stuff, moving will be a breeze”, then they start packing…..

  5. Gillian

    My daughter (now 25) had a slight hoarding tendancy which I discovered when she was quite young. I got around it in a couple of ways – only having SOME toys out at a time and turning them over once a month (it helped her learn to track days, weeks and months via the calendar too as she insisted on ticking off each day at first…sigh). It made clean up much easier and some daggy things could make their way to toy heaven before being put away 🙂

    Just before Christmas and her birthday each year we went through her old toys to determine which would go to charities and the “poor children who didn’t have as much as she did”. She couldn’t bear to throw things out so we talked about people/children less fortunate (not that we were wealthy but we talked about children with even less). She seemed OK with giving the items away, she just couldn’t bear to THROW them away.

    Twenty years on she still goes through this ritual twice a year cleaning out her wardrobe and house of things she no longer uses. She CAN throw things out now but she nearly always gives them to me to dispose of to charities or ebay or whatever. She’s working on her partner to dispose of some of the clothes he’s had since high school…..he’s a personal trainer and body builder and they’ll NEVER fit him again!

  6. Giving Back Girl

    Oh Al, our lives are so aligned at the moment! I’m packing a house too and my husband and I are rubbing our hands in glee at the prospect of a council clean up next week. My husband went through the kids playroom like a tsunami (wasn’t helped by the fact he was grumpy too). The kids didn’t stand a chance, they grabbed madly for stuff, I fought/pleaded in vain, yet the cupboards are empty and the rubbish bags are overflowing. His final words to me were “no more buying toys, they’ve got enough”. Not any more it seems. Good luck, I’m feeling your pain.

  7. Dolores

    I have done the clean out a couple of times but I find it so difficult and even thinking about gives me the guilts!! One of the clean ups resulted in a box of toys going to Nana’s house so that they could play with them when they visit. I seem to have suddenly grown this hoarding gene too, when did this happen? When I was single I happily gave away anything I didn’t want anymore, now I just look at things and see the monetary value of how much I could get from eBay. So is this a hoarding gene or a tightwad gene?

  8. Leanne

    Good luck with the packing! I don’t envy you in that regard. But what a great excuse for a clean out!

  9. Mum on the Run

    Hee hee.
    You’ve got to love the conviction!!
    Too cute.
    Until the authorities have to step in.
    🙂 xx

  10. Mama of 2 boys

    Awww, this is SO cute Allison. Always love your Mr stories, you have the sweetest sounding little boys. My Mr4 is quite similar, in that he will only declare his undying love and devotion to something if it’s about to hit the rag-bag. So, many a secret stealth mission has been performed from my end… because I seriously can’t stand clutter or things lying around that aren’t being used.
    Good luck with the big cleanup/pack-up and relocate xo

  11. Toni

    Dear God! I hope he never marries my daughter. They’ll end up on one of those Horrible Hoarders shows.

  12. Cath

    We have a younger cousin and friends who benefit from the Munchkin’s previously loved stuff… I just have to convince him that he’s “sharing” those things with them, and he ends up feeling all self-righteous. I can assure you that by the end we were both happy to see the back of the ride-on Thomas and the noisy Fisher Price School Bus!

  13. Jo @Country life experiment

    My 7 year old cries if I throw out her old homework sheets, because they are ‘special’. Trying on clothes at the beginning of a season is an epic ordeal, because she ‘needs’ to keep all the clothes (including too small undies and mismatched socks). When we moved house, I made executive decisions while she wasn’t around and threw so much stuff out. My rule was it had to off the premises before she returned. I lied and said that I must have already packed so many things. Funnily enough, she hasn’t actually missed or even asked for anything I threw out. It was just the actual idea of getting rid of it which caused her stress. I expect to see her on extreme hoarders in the future.

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