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Wanting More But Needing Less: Affected by Objects

On June 17th, a new fiction book begins on WRBH.  The title is THE OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION, Jill Smolinski wrote it, the wonderful Allison Freeman reads it, and Amazon describes it this way:

In the humorous, heartfelt new novel by the author of The Next Thing on My List, a personal organizer must somehow convince a reclusive artist to give up her hoarding ways and let go of the stuff she’s hung on to for decades.

Lucy Bloom is broke, freshly dumped by her boyfriend, and forced to sell her house to send her nineteen-year-old son to drug rehab. Although she’s lost it all, she’s determined to start over. So when she’s offered a high-paying gig helping clear the clutter from the home of reclusive and eccentric painter Marva Meier Rios, Lucy grabs it. Armed with the organizing expertise she gained while writing her book, Things Are Not People, and fueled by a burning desire to get her life back on track, Lucy rolls up her sleeves to take on the mess that fills every room of Marva’s huge home. Lucy soon learns that the real challenge may be taking on Marva, who seems to love the objects in her home too much to let go of any of them.

While trying to stay on course toward a strict deadline—and with an ex-boyfriend back in the picture, a new romance on the scene, and her son’s rehab not going as planned—Lucy discovers that Marva isn’t just hoarding, she is also hiding a big secret. The two form an unlikely bond, as each learns from the other that there are those things in life we keep, those we need to let go—but it’s not always easy to know the difference.

Are you a Lucy or are you a Marva?  Are you so sentimentally attached to your belongings that you can’t bear to part with them, or are you ruthless about keeping your home and your life free of clutter?

This is actually the second book we’ve aired that dealt with hoarding.  The first, HOMER AND LANGLEY by E.L. Doctorow and read by Doug Meffert,  was a novelization of the true story of two brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer.  In 1947, police entered the Harlem brownstone and found the body of Homer Collyer, who, blind and paralyzed, had died of starvation while waiting for his brother to bring him food.  After removing 84 tons of detritus from the house, police found the body of younger brother Langley, crushed under the weight of accumulated garbage.  All in all, 130 tons of trash like old umbrellas, rusted bedframes, newspapers, orange crates and old food was carted to the street.  Also in the house was over 25,000 books, which frankly, hits me a little too close to home, because I just can’t seem to part with books.

I always wonder about the point where the line is crossed between “thrifty” and “mentally ill”. After all, during the depression, the tale of the careless grasshopper and the hardworking ant was a lesson for anyone who squandered what little they had and expected others to give them what they needed when they were broke or hungry or had holes in their shoes.  No one had much to share, so things were reused and mended and the motto was “make it do or do without.”  My mother in law, a child of the depression era, carefully rinsed out ziploc bags and dried them inside out on a dishrack.  She also washed and refolded aluminum foil.  Yet, her house was uncluttered and immaculate (except for the typical grandmotherly tchotchkes accumulated over the years) because she just didn’t buy a lot of things.  She really made do with what she had, and retail therapy was never an option–she bought new things when the old thing was over, done, and finished, and shopping was a necessary duty, not entertainment. 

The world we live in now is certainly a different place.  It’s easy to see how the hoarding starts–having it all is the American dream, and acquiring it all is unbelievably easy.  Most shopping is now done in the comfort of your desk chair with a tablet or at your computer, where any item at all can be purchased with a single click of the mouse.  A quest for the “perfect white shirt” can result in the acquisition of 10 white shirts, each perfect in its own, unique way.  Same thing with the perfect pair of black shoes (to wear with your perfect white shirt.) New Orleanians also have an airtight reason not to give away any clothes, because we have Mardi Gras, and who knows when that Knot’s Landing-era polyester jumpsuit will come in handy for a costume?  The hoarding vs. anti-clutter issues even make their presence known at WRBH, where the Psychology Today program will feature articles on consumer guilt and the need to constantly shop to shore up our self esteem, while Good Advice is always filled with tips on how to get rid of all the useless, soul sucking junk we’ve acquired that we just can’t stand anymore.

Honestly, hoarding fascinates me.  I can’t bear to watch the awful A&E series on hoarders because it’s too painful and pathetic to see these sad people clinging so desperately to what others essentially view as garbage.  Yet, I WILL be listening to THE OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION, because I recognize that we all have secret little “trash stashes” that are treasured and cherished and never relinquished for reasons only known to us. I’ll admit it: I’m a little more Marva than Lucy.

Tune in at 11 am and 10 pm on weekdays to hear the best selling fiction book on WRBH, 88.3 FM.


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