Confessions of a Sentimental Hoarder



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“There is no greater sin than desire, No greater curse than discontent, No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself. Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” – Lao Tzu

I am a sentimental hoarder. Our house in the states is packed with my grandma’s china, grandpa’s oil paintings, my great grandma’s quilts, and ‘things’ passed down throughout generations. In addition, I saved all my travel mementos such as Japanese Saki cups, Brazilian hammocks,  Portuguese dolls, Moroccan rugs, German cuckoo clocks, and Peruvian Alpaca sweaters. We never bought new furniture; instead, we roamed the aisles of the Goodwill stores in search of cheap chic. Before we moved to Ometepe Island, the only new piece of furniture we ever bought in our 36 years of marriage was a big overstuffed couch, which our new puppy shredded the first night we ‘trusted’ her out of her sleeping crate.

The dilemma, of which I have no answer, is what do I do with a lifetime of sentimental possessions? They are an anchor in my life, which I need to alter, or at least start thinking of altering. We had yard sales and culled most of our unsentimental possessions, like hundreds of Tupperware containers, wobbly old furniture, and an assortment of holiday decorations. I made a website and tried to sell my collections of tins, pottery, and assorted knickknacks. Then, the recession hit and the competition was outrageous. I refused to sell my things dirt cheap.

That left us with a three-story house, all of my sentimental possessions stored in every closet and nook available, and trusted friends living in our house rent free. It has been two years now and it’s time to decide what to do with our house and my sentimental hoard. I honestly don’t miss any of my possessions from my earlier life. But, it wears me out just thinking about how to sell everything, including the house. And should we sell out?

There are some advantages to keeping our house. I can store our collections for free. We can buy things on Amazon, have them delivered to our house, and anyone coming to Ometepe can bring them to us. We still have a U.S. mailing address enabling us to keep our stateside credit card. Our friends open our important mail and tell us if something is amiss. Last week, we received a notice from the IRS that we owe more taxes for our 2010 year. We were expecting it because we forgot to include a Schedule D form for our investments. With a little creative ingenuity, they took photos of the forms, emailed them to us, and we printed them. Then, we corrected our errors and met a friend on the island, who is returning to the states and will mail our corrections for us.

Most importantly, our house in the states means security. Should the volcano or political turmoil erupt, or serious health issues arise, which would require a quick exit from Nicaragua, we have a mortgage-free place to live. Our son still has all of his stuff stored in our house, too. He inherited our wanderlust, never settling down in one spot. I tell him, “Someday, when we are gone, this all will be yours…BAAAAAH,” I repeat with an evil laugh. At least his hoarding tendencies are mostly digital. He has thousands of digital movies, books, photos, and music. Too bad I wasn’t born into the digital age. It would have eased my anxiety and stress about collecting sentimental stuff.

I am content and very happy living in Nicaragua with much less. Possessions have never defined who I am, only where I came from. They are shards of memories left behind…tangible pieces of my heritage and other world cultures. I’m beginning to believe that once a sentimental hoarder, always a sentimental hoarder.  Now, I look around my house in Nicaragua and the truth is everywhere…in the hundreds of Pre-Columbian pottery shards piled on shelves…in my collections of Nicaraguan art and sculptures….in my handmade furniture…my collections of maps and guide books…it’s everywhere. Marina sums it up well, ” You have so many chanches ( I think it’s a word for knickknacks), but you’re not pinche” (cheap). Coming from my closest neighbor, that’s a huge complement. 🙂




4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Sentimental Hoarder

  1. The word is “chunches” pronounced CHOON’-chays. The first time someone in Nicaragua said that to me: “Are those chunches yours? ” as she pointed to my suitcase and a few items I traveled with, I was totally put off by a word I had never heard. Not breaking a beat, I said, “Cuales chunches?” (Which chunches?), hoping that the word would clarify itself in the process of repetition. She said “esos chunches,’ pointing to everything as a group. I realized that chunches meant “things,” “odd and ends,” and can also be “knick knacks” or “chotchkies,” those household decorative items with no useful purpose to anyone other than their owner (sometimes of no use to even the owner.)

    I like these organic moments of learning another language, with no dictionary to just compare words in one language to another; learning like a child learns with expereince and intuition.

    Thanks for your blog,

    Melissa in Miami, soon retiring to Nicaragua with Nica husband of 22 years

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