Yet one more reason to object to Donald Trump. He is giving pack rats like me a bad name.
The former hoarder-in-chief’s attachment to paper is a very familiar one to me. Trump can’t seem to part with his, and neither can I.
I, too, have left a long paper trail.
The only classified documents in my collection are several old junior high school diaries.
Though my stockpile veers less toward state secrets and more toward vintage greeting cards, how-to booklets, third grade book reports, and scribbled notes on old envelopes from 1974, the urge to hold onto paper is a strong one. The only classified documents in my collection are several old junior high school diaries—records of my teenage angst marked for my eyes only.
Unlike the cacophony of cartons oddly stacked in bathrooms and tossed randomly around Mar-a-Lago, my hundreds of boxes are well marked, orderly, and organized by topic on floor-to-ceiling shelves in my climate-controlled basement.
Trump’s love of paper has led to an indictment. My love of paper has led to art exhibits and a writing career. Anyone who has seen my collage work and read my essays understands my love of paper and the history it provides.
Of course, the big difference between Trump’s collection and mine is everything I have is in the public domain—and that is exactly the point.
A Guardian of the Past
I love ephemera. Simply put, ephemera are the collectible pieces of history that document the daily lives of people. The minutia and stuff of everyday life—paper and objects briefly used, deemed useless then discarded.
My house is a home for orphaned paper. It is a loving, well-cared-for repository for discarded paper, and those items produced to be short lived. In fact, the more transitory the paper is, the more it is cherished.
I see myself as both an archeologist and a guardian of our collective past.
I love feeling the history and information that surviving paper holds that often can’t be found anywhere else. They can reveal things we might not otherwise ever learn and offer a fascinating glimpse into history.
Along with the thousands of magazines spanning eight decades, my home is filled with vintage cards, leaflets, booklets, postcards, catalogs, ticket stubs, receipts, used checks, matchbooks, tickets, notes, letters theatre programs, pamphlets, workbooks, and handouts, to name just a few.
Produced to meet the needs of the day, these items reflect the moods and mores of past times in ways that more formal records cannot. They are a valuable primary source of information that offers a unique window into a culture’s past, documenting our daily life.
I see myself as both an archeologist and a guardian of our collective past. Preserving the past gives us information for the present.
A Beautiful Mind?
Like Trump, I have boxes and boxes filled with nuclear-related material but none that jeopardize nuclear security. Relics of the cold war such as home fallout shelter manuals and atomic survival guides that have long reached their expiration date remind us of a not-too-distant past of nuclear jitters.
Trump’s attachment to the contents of the boxes . . . appears to be consistent with a long pattern of behavior.
Trump’s attachment to the contents of the boxes has now left him in serious legal peril, but it appears to be consistent with a long pattern of behavior.
Stowing papers and odds and ends in cartons that he likes to keep close is something others have been aware of. According to a NY Times report, his aides have called it the “beautiful mind paper boxes” material. It turns out he has always been a hoarder, surrounding himself with clutter his whole life. Nothing changed while being president. Top-secret documents were given the same treatment as yellowing vanity clips from Page Six of the NY Post.
The Pack-Rat Gene
This arbitrary, chaotic method of saving is one I know.
I come from a family of die-hard savers, not organizers.
When I closed down my cluttered childhood home a few years ago after my father’s death, it was a challenge but not a revelation. My savings gene is a direct link to my mother and grandmother. My mother Betty loved paper as much as I do. It is because of her that I still have every childhood drawing and elementary school paper I ever wrote.
Our home became the final resting place of my long-deceased extended family’s cherished belongings and papers that no one else wanted, which my mother hadn’t the heart to discard. For 40 or more years, dusty cardboard boxes lie in our cellar untouched, unsealed, from the time when they first landed there with each family member’s death.
It became my job to open and sort through them while paying homage to long-ago family members.
It became my job to open and sort through them while paying homage to long-ago family members. As though they had been in hospice, these boxes came to my home to bide their time in a holding pattern. I sorted through every scrap of paper, giving it its import, and only after I held and read each piece did I make the final call to discard or save.
Decades melded together so that a box of saved 1972 Jell-O box tops once earmarked to redeem an Oster Blender, nestled next to a collection of Limoges hand-painted boxes, that rested beneath a 1930s business ledger from my great grandfather’s multi-million-dollar shoe company. Unopened 1947 Bank of New York City Statements from my mother’s life as a single woman on West End Avenue, co-mingled with telegrams for my Bat Mitzvah. Suffice it to say, all items were saved.
The mundane and the revelatory, the precious and valuable stood toe to toe with kitsch, all co-mingling without rhyme or reason, known only perhaps to my mother who placed these objects together.
Perhaps Trump’s chaos of collecting is known only to him, as is his intent of what he may or may not have done with them.
My mother’s boxes were folded into mine, sorted, and cataloged in a way that would have pleased her.
So yes, I come from a family of savers, though I like to think of us as saviors. Of honoring the past. Trump hoarding is ego driven and self serving. It not only dishonors our laws but our military and the safety of our country.
It also dishonors history and the importance of paper.