Personal Perspective: Adriana Hazlett

Assistant Editor-in-Chief Adriana Hazlett reflects on her early years as a hoarder and shares her love for collecting memories in tangible form.

At eight years old I knew my future — in the house of my kind elderly neighbor Paul. Staring down his hallway at the racks of memorabilia, the floods of pictures, the stacks of paper — I saw these things for what they were: signs of a hoarder, signs of me.

Maybe I’m a hoarder in utero — my room still hasn’t been completely overrun by my possessions like Paul’s house has — yet. But the fact remains that I feel, and always have felt, a deep, sort of strange attachment to material objects.

In preschool, I liked to shuffle around the playground, looking for trash and nothingness that appealed to me. I collected dirty old confetti, colorful scraps of paper, pipe cleaners, feathers, buttons. My treasures. I would take them home and stress to my mom that she was never to throw them away.

Maybe out of gratitude to my mom for actually keeping garbage, I picked more specifically for her as a birthday present one year. About a month or so before her birthday, I went frequently to the park by my house to look for special trash for my mom. I found a thick ribbon of golden glitter, a charm that had probably fallen off a bracelet, leftover chalk, a tiny toy horse figurine. I put them all in a discarded pack of cigarettes. My mom was still smoking then.

I probably wouldn’t give my mom trash as a birthday present now. But I also think that my younger, rawer self had a stronger sense of something — of the something in nothing. There was sweetness in forgotten toys, my mother in cigarette packs. The mundane — the trash — could be pregnant with meaning, secret meaning. You just had to feel it, to look for it, along the ground.

I have not really grown out of my trash. For the past couple years, I’ve kept a small notebook with little objects taped in. Next to them, I write the date and place they’re from.

I keep seashells from the Oregon coast, concert wristbands, coffee shop receipts, train tickets, Post-it notes and napkins. There’s actually even my Falconer acceptance letter from freshman year taped in. I look at these things, and simply, I really care about them. Because it’s not just paper, it’s everything I love about cities and the color purple and my crystalline desires. It’s not ash, it’s music, and the moon over water. It’s not calcium carbonate, it’s a reminder of my departed and loving uncle.

Distilled spirits, that’s what my trash is. I won’t have ever lost a particular feeling, a moment, a person, an attitude — they’re there, forever and ever, in tangible and textured objects. Vessels for the essence of an hour.

I guess, all in all, it’s not an especially original idea that objects hold significance. There’s the Betsy Ross flag, the Rosetta Stone. You hear of prehistoric and archaic and medieval people believing in the cryptic power of a sword or a jug. Families pass down jewelry and silverware. Museums take root everywhere.

Nevertheless, I think really treasuring objects is a dying sensibility. In our current world, when we have so much surrounding us already, so much to be bought, to be discarded — in this state, the importance of our items is stripped away. They become soulless things, and hoarders are clinging to ancient impulses, unable to shake off the sense of how important each object is supposed to be.

Now as I prepare to move to college, I can only take so much, and some of my possessions and the meaning I’ve attached to them will have to be left behind. But I can see my dorm room now, filling up with my hoards — new hoards and new meaning. So I know there’s my past in the glitter trash, and my now, and my future in an old hoarder’s hallway.

Photo by Anna Opalsky/Falconer

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