When Scrapbooking Goes Bad

Over 4 years ago I started on a journey toward a family life simply done.

You may have read my story.

Feeling overwhelmed with life, commitments and stuff in general, I knew something had to change.

A very physical demonstration of my state of mind, at that time, was a hoard I had been stockpiling for many years.

As I started to make the transition into adulthood, collecting bits and pieces of paper became a habit. Receipts, flyers, maps, menus. Valueless giveaway items or sources of information.

It didn’t take long for it to spiral out of control. I’d feel anxious if the waiter didn’t return a receipt at a restaurant after we’d paid the bill. If the eating-place had paper place mats I’d remove mine before the meal so that I wouldn’t soil it and could therefore keep it.

Looking back I should have realised this was rather odd behaviour. But I didn’t. It became obsessive.

The paper items had to be chronologically recorded in a scrapbook. Many hours were spent with a glue stick in hand, desperately analysing which event happened first, and peeling off receipts that had been stuck in the wrong date order.

In fact I frequently took holiday from work to scrapbook, and I was sticking and gluing in front of the TV as the devastation of 911 unfolded.

The obsession continued, and the scrapbooks were kept up to date.

That is until I became pregnant. I had amazing plans for the ultimate scrapbook chronicling my first borns life from conception to adulthood. Dramatically presented on Junior’s 18th Birthday.

Then reality, and motherhood hit. No time, sheer exhaustion, a million (and one) things to do 24/7. Scrapbooking went on the back-burner, but collecting items for the scrapbook did not. The arrival of a new person, into the world, increased the collecting. So many precious moments to capture, that if I missed them would be lost forever (I’m also a over-enthusiastic photographer).

There are undoubtedly a multitude of reasons as to why I have this compulsion. I have my own theories of course, but they aren’t relevant to where I am now.

Where I am now – is here;

(This is a much edited version of 4 years ago)


(a pile creates a pile…clothes to go to recycling strewn on the top! Shocking!)

Or at least it was, until last Monday.

I’m now here;


Hoarding and decluttering is bang on trend, to coin Gok Wan’s famous catchphrase,  at the moment. Books, blogs, TV shows, …

Last night I watched Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.

I find this show a little strange. But that may be because I have hoarding tendencies. The show seems to glorify OCD when it manifests itself in cleaning, hygiene and tidiness.

Regardless I watched it with interest and have also poured bleach down the sink today (there was a lot of bleach in last nights episode!), so maybe I learnt something?

Obsessive cleaners (note, not professional cleaners – members of the public who have a diagnosis of OCD) are introduced to cleaning-product-shy people who some of which (coincidentally?) also have some form of hoarding behaviour.

These two extremes make great TV, but as someone who can physically empathise with the anxiety of letting go of certain items, do wonder whether this is the best way in which to help a hoarder?

After all it’s taken me 4 years to get to where I am. Slow and steady wins the race.

There’s still work to be done but I can see where I am headed and have a plan.

“It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop”. Confucius


  1. I can relate to your paper-collecting. I used to collect paper souvenirs of everywhere I went and everything I did, but as with you, it slowed down after having a child. There was also the realization that it is impossible to keep the amount of paper that children produce through artwork, school work and so on. I currently have a pocket-folder for each year (for the last 20) containing tickets to special events and souvenirs from vacations. Lately more events require you to print the ticket yourself or just show it on your phone, so before long, there will be no paper tickets to keep! I am gradually moving to keeping just a day book in which I write the special events I’ve attended, and that is sufficient.

  2. This is a difficult thing to deal with – kudos to you for making progress. I, too, wonder if it’s really helping anyone to make a TV show from their problems. If there is a benefit, perhaps it’s more for the viewers who might recognize themselves with relief that they are not alone, and encourage them to get help if needed. Good luck, Jo. As with anything, practice will help make it easier.

    • We have another show over here “The Hoarder Next Door” and they receive specific therapy for 6 weeks also as they reduce their hoard. That seems far more productive in terms of results. As you say highlighting the issue is useful!

  3. Hi.. I thought I replied to this post yesterday but it never seemed to appear! Your post really struck a chord with me. I am also a hoarder (not quite extreme as the hoarders next door) and I also have a pile (read huge crates) one for each of my three children. I find your blog hugely inspiring and I have been slowly de cluttering over the past two years. I am a lot better than I used to be… But still have a long way to go.

    Than you so much for your blog. It really helps when things seem tough. Xxxx

    • Thank you for commenting Catherine. I am really pleased that my blog is of some help. After all that’s the aim. To share, discuss and connect.
      When I first started decluttering I began with the things which I didn’t have an attachment to. For example I don’t get attached to jewellery – even things like my wedding ring. I have no idea why. I don’t wear my wedding ring – however I have kept it – more due to the reaction of everyone else when I have joked about cashing it in! I do now wear a very simple ring my Hubby bought me after the birth of our first child – but I didn’t wear anything for a long time.
      In the back of my mind I had the ultimate aim of tackling my sentimental hoard. But couldn’t face it. I’d feel totally overwhelmed. I knew that much of it was junk, but I also knew there were gems among it. Things that should I throw them away I would regret it. Scan photos that kind of thing.
      But as I improved my habits – reducing what I kept was my first step, I started to feel more capable of addressing the boxes. I’ve now tackled them a few times over the last 4 years but am still not sorted. Purely time constraints though now – and I’m not saying that to put it off. I can see what I am going to do. I couldn’t before, literally I would feel anxious at the thought of eliminating any item. As though I were disgarding my children.
      Good luck and keep in touch! Jo

  4. Isn’t that interesting? I wouldn’t have called myself a hoarder ‘back in the day’ – but I loved minimalist and decluttering blogs. I used to (in high school) collect ALL receipts. When I moved into my own home 18months ago, I thought ‘sugar, why did I keep a normal bus or train ticket, or a grocery receipt?’. I even used to type up all my text messages (before that was easily automated… but now days, I don’t automate it). It’s like I was in denial that I was hoarding physical representations of memeories. Now, I do, but to a more constained level – one shoe box for a year or two’s tickets/photos/wedding invites. I have two Ikea boxes (like, archive box size) – one for school, one for uni. The uni one (6 years) is only half full. The school one is busting, but that’s cause I’ve also stuffed in my uniform. By setting limits, I have less. And by reading all those blogs before moving last time, I really thinned things out… I wonder if my imminent move will help me thin even more out?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s