By Diane Ako
I come from a long, stubborn line of hoarders. Oh, they would never acknowledge it, but they all know it deep down.
It's my Chinese side. My mom's relatives. Lots of them. It's the kind where you have to walk sideways through their house and two people cannot be in the aisle at the same time.
On the plus side, it encourages weight-control, because those lanes can get pretty tight.
I remember one aunt, who everyone called Popo Nellie, had boxes piled to the ceiling in her apartment. Floor to ceiling!
She no longer cooked, and there was so little light getting in the kitchen, and so much grime, a little plant started growing out of the sink muck around the back of the faucet.
None of those relatives ever had dead kittens in their piles of junk (did you see that episode of Hoarders?) but it was still quite enough for me.
As long as I can remember, when I walk into a room that's really cluttered (note: not dirty, cluttered) , I feel a strong desire to clean it.
My dad's side, the Hawaiian side, is normal. There are varying degrees of mess, but I can't think of anyone who has out of control issues.
Thankfully, I got the clean gene from my paternal lineage. I like to throw stuff away. I like to clean my house; throwing away clutter makes me feel lighter.
My mom's house isn't as bad as Popo Nellie's - yet?- but you know, habits only ingrain with age.
I used to try to clean her house when I was younger but, to her delight, I'm way, way, way too busy now that I have a child, a husband, and a career. All her carefully washed and dried milk cartons and twisters are safe now.
Growing up in mild hoarding conditions reinforced my vow to to myself to never, ever be a saver.
That is, until I had a child. I have started saving things that I think she will need down the road for school projects.
I saved the plastic jar from the time we had the chameleon, Rango. It's in the attic. I save empty blowing-bubble wands and containers in case I have a group of kids and I need to split up the bubble solution for everyone to have one. I saved an ugly plastic lei in case we need it for some school craft project.
I also started saving empty containers, like after you buy poke, or after you use up the pre-mixed salad. It's for when I bake cupcakes or make food that I want to share with other people. It does tie into having a child; I'm just so much more domestic now.
I find myself bringing baked goods a lot of places. I had to meet a friend and I wanted to bring him soup for dinner.
About the soup friend - I did not have a large container for soup, so I had to ask my mom if she had a disposable container that could be given away.
"What for?" she asked. When I explained why, she sniffed, "Hmm. So you're saving containers now? I thought you love to throw everything away."
"Yes, well. It's different now," I mumbled. I had to eat crow. Decades of crow.
She riffled around her kitchen and presented something. "Will this do?"
"Yes, Mom. Thanks, Mom. Yes, you are right to save some stuff. When you need a one gallon plastic container for soup, then you'll have a one gallon plastic container for soup," I admitted, as I placed the humble pie inside the plastic jar.
I still vow I will never walk sideways in my own house.
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