On a tidy street in a resurgent New England mill town, where the trimmed bushes look like green thimbles mounted in mulch, Melvin’s large Victorian house sticks out. Two bicycles, one missing the front wheel, lean against threadbare front steps; stacks of two-by-fours, rakes, and bicycle tires piled up on a desk surround the front door. Melvin, an erudite lawyer in his late 60s who requested a pseudonym, wears khakis and a pressed blue-and-white shirt with neatly rolled up cuffs, looking a bit like the late Canadian actor Conrad Bain. He speaks fluent French and can get by in Russian. He nimbly chats about Robert Pinsky one minute and Oriana Fallaci the next. The divorced father of two is quick with a joke or a boast about his children. He loves to bake, particularly Linzer tortes.
Melvin hasn’t invited anyone into his home in more than a year; he reveals this while leading me, single file, through piles of possessions on narrow paths, known in hoarder parlance as “goat trails.” Cans, dishes, and mugs blanket kitchen countertops. He hands me a laser pointer so I can ask about his many inaccessible items as we stroll through the house. We encounter roughly 200 musical instruments in various states of repair, scores of VHS tapes, racks of dress shirts, vintage radios, several skis, a dozen or so motorcycle helmets, and countless books—some in barrister bookcases, others in boxes. He owns a valuable watercolor by Whistler as well as a worthless stuffed blue parrot that looks like a carnival prize.
Melvin says he can remember a time before the clutter crept up on him and the house was “light and airy.” He bought his place about 20 years ago after a bitter divorce and soon found a housemate he enjoyed socializing with. He hosted home-cooked dinners and raucous dance parties, but after his housemate moved out, stuff moved in. “Slowly it got filled up floor to ceiling,” he says. Melvin, however, insists that he is not a hoarder. “I don’t think of it as hoarding at all,” he says. “That implies greed, one of the medieval sins. It’s really an accumulation of stuff, and it happens because I have an eye for everything under history.” But, I ask, wouldn’t he admit his collecting has gotten out of hand? He thinks about it and responds, gently, “I have a problem de-acquisitioning things.”
Full article here: “Is it normal to hoard?”