The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

A writer hoards words

My name is John Byrne, and I am a hoarder.  A hoarder of magazines.  And newspaper articles.  And random catalogs.  Even a few words and phrases.

I can’t help myself.  In my house and office, newspapers collect dust.  Magazines stack up waist high.  Catalogs sit unthumbed.  There is a pathology at work here, I’m sure.  But I don’t care.  I come across too many things interesting to me.  Being the eternal optimist that I am, I set things aside in the fervent hope that I will someday soon get back and read what I found to be soooo interesting.

Except I don’t, usually.  So many things to read and look at, so little time.  It drives my wife more than a little nuts.  She has made up a not-very-nice descriptor of my “piles” of unread reading materials, and I won’t repeat it here for the sake of the children.  (But it rhymes, appropriately so, with “fit.”)

I like to think that since I’m a writer, editor and communications consultant, that this hoarding just comes with the territory.  Mind you, I don’t have stacks of National Geographic issues from the 1960s in my garage or anything.  (But they would be really cool to look through, wouldn’t they?)  Probably not worth anything anymore, though, if they ever were.  And I’m not trying to make light of people who have a serious problem with hoarding.

I just want to catch up on my reading, and there are times I actually can make a small dent in it.  Spent a few hours this weekend looking through stuff, in fact.  OK, I was just resorting it into new piles, but it’s progress, right?  Actually read some fascinating articles, finally, and threw out some others that were clearly outdated (5 tips on getting your taxes filed by April 15, anyone?).  There was a bit of a catharsis, and not a little dust, but it was ultimately unsatisfying because I wasn’t able to catch up.

I guess I never will catch up, and I’m fine with that.  There is a certain level of comfort knowing that I will always have something to read or look at if I were ever to get bored.  Worst case, all those crisp, but aging, business magazines staring back at me in my office are evidence that I still have much to learn.  And, boy, did they cost a lot of money…  I wonder if I slept with them under my pillow at night, a little osmosis would occur and make me smarter?  No?

Sometimes the worst hoarding isn’t immediately apparent from the dusty piles on the floor.  No matter how hard you might try, you can’t see the hoarding that’s gone on my brain.  Of clever turns of phrases and great additions to my vocabulary.  Here’s an example:  a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a blog that was dedicated to criticizing another blog — ain’t social media great? — and the author used “angry thesaurus soup” to describe the other blogger’s writing style.  That’s just awesome, I thought.  I want to remember that.  Boop!  Boop!  Boop!  Warning!  Hoarding alert!

Eh, so what?  Plenty of space in my big old noggin… And room for this great word I read today:  “tootling” (and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with bodily functions).

The neat freaks of the world may come after you and your treasures, and harass you to throw them away.  Some, like my wife, may surrender and try to enable my addition: “Honey, I bought you this very nice magazine rack for your office.  Now use it!”   Your kids may even complain they can’t see you behind all that stuff on your desk or the kitchen table.  Wait, no, that’s a dream I had; my teenagers wouldn’t notice.  And I’m always a fan of repeating the old saw, “If a messy desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what’s an empty desk a sign of?”  Wiser words never written, right?  (If you’re a hoarder, too, fess up in the comments and let me know what you like to keep around.)

So, my fellow hoarders, feel free to surround yourselves with as many newspapers, magazines and other printed materials as you think you might get to read — someday.  The only thing we have to fear is… the fire marshal.



10 thoughts on “Confessions of an Unrepentant Hoarder

  1. Jon says:

    I have a collector’s impulse; since I was a kid I’ve loved collecting. But any traces of hoarding were broken some years ago at a vacation cottage with a (nutty) girlfriend. I put the resort brochures on the table, and she picked them up to throw them out. I asked her why not keep them, and she told me it was impossible to be organized unless you quickly throw away things you don’t need. Although she was a nut, this advice seemed sound, and I’ve stuck with it for many years after!

    First time to your blog — you linked to me for ‘under my pillow’ – and it’s a cool format here at the Byrne Blog. I look forward to exploring it further —
    (In the meantime i have 5 articles in open tabs from your links here, and am being pulled into your expansive cognitive style!)

    1. John Byrne says:

      Thanks for the comment! I guess it all comes down to how you define “need” in terms of what you keep and don’t. I’m guessing your ex-girlfriend wasn’t much of a scrapbooker. 🙂

    2. LOL Jon, was that when she “quickly” became an ex-girlfriend?

      1. Jon says:

        No, actually that was one of the very rare times when she gave me reasonable advice.

  2. John, excellent post. This was entertaining and totally struck a chord (and I’m one of the organized “neat freaks”)! I totally hoard mags because I just don’t have time to more than flip and desperately want to take a stack out on my porch with coffee and “peruse.” It rarely happens though. Thanks for letting me know I’m normal (in this regard at least).

    1. John Byrne says:

      The magazine hoarders are a vast, quiet underground of people who are (not-so-singlehandedly) making sure that print magazines never cease to exist despite the digital onslaught! 🙂

      1. HA! Coincidence that my company is “Underground” Creative Group? Perhaps… I mention that same thing in my post this morning actually (about the print mags and my heart breaking). There’s something about the paper. I have an ipad, kindle, iphone, macbook… (it’s disgusting) and plenty of ebooks, yet I still buy the damn hardbacks, paperbacks… (I’m the same with books as I am with mags). But at least they’re categorized. My husband hates it.

  3. jennylanctot says:

    Seriously. It’s like you were in my head when you wrote this, John (don’t worry, there’s plenty of room, right?)

    I’ve started scanning articles that I need to read, just so they aren’t on my desk (or floor, or bookcase, or coffee table, or …) It has helped immensely, if for no other reason than keeping me from feeling overwhelmed by the fact that I STILL haven’t read them.

    Looking forward to reading more!

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