Saturday, 14 November 2015

Junk and Creativity - is there a link?

It’s the time of year in my neighbourhood when nature-strips in every suburb begin to look like the local rubbish depot, or ‘tip’, as we know them. Some people think it looks disgusting, to see these piles of personal belongings, garden tools, broken play equipment and fish tanks, lying around in the public eye.

There are strict rules, too, according to the council. Piles can only be a maximum of two metres in length and one metre in height right across the pile (big red arrows clearly demarcate these dimensions on the brochure that was distributed to residents a few weeks ago). But don’t let those rules fool you, the community have devised their own and no good council could keep up with the not so secret scavenging tours that are happening night and day. I have to admit I have joined forces with my partner and taken a few choice pickings, much to the disgust of my boss who told me I was a complete Bogan for doing so!

It has made me ponder why I get such joy out of this time of year. After all, I have a home to live in, a full time job and enough furniture to sit and sleep on. Admittedly, most of my stuff is second hand, but it does the job just fine. I don’t really need to pick up items from the nature-strip that my neighbours are throwing away. But something in me sees the opportunity and has to seize it. And my mind is full of ideas of what it all could be used for!

So perhaps it comes from being a creative person, I wonder. Thomas Edison once admitted, ‘To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk’. ( As a child, I was just as happy in the corner of my grandmother’s lounge room making things out of discarded match-boxes and meat-trays and a roll of masking tape as I was riding my bike on our bush property, creating treasure maps and burying treasure down near the dam. I didn’t need expensive toys to have fun and often got a lot more joy out of making something myself, like the doll house I made out of cardboard boxes and the detective kit I carried full of little notes and ‘clue lists’ I had created.

Or perhaps, I wonder, my love of collecting things comes from my Grandma and Grandpa, who lived through the depression years. Grandma was thrifty, she didn’t throw things out and she didn’t live with excess. Their home was simple and I only realised how small it was when I returned to it as an adult years later – as a child it felt huge.

Whatever it is, I think I’m always going to be living in a house that’s a little bit eclectic – full of items I’ve found which make me feel happy, whether that’s a piece of artwork I found at the op-shop that has moved me, a little blue-green glass vase that was for sale on Facebook or my piano, a beautiful and useful creation on which I can express myself through my music. And I’ll enjoy these things just as I enjoy other parts of my life, like my children, my partner, my pets and my writing … simply as something to enhance this life I’ve been given. I guess that’s the key, too. The realisation that material things can enhance your life, but once their ability to enhance it is gone, they can be moved on to someone else. Otherwise your surroundings become static, and a hoarding problem results.

According to a recent study, hoarding is twice as common as OCD, and four times as common as bipolar or schizophrenic disorders, and it is said that hoarding impulses come more from emotion than creativity, with those afflicted more likely to be experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety than other people. 

As a social worker, I often come across people who hoard. It can be difficult for them to recognise how the hoarding is affecting their life, and the life of their children, negatively. I find the disorder fascinating and I do wonder if sometimes I’m only a car-load of neighbourhood hard rubbish away to suffering it myself.

In my novel, 'A Justified Desire', Tess’s mother is a hoarder and creatong this character allowed me to explore my feelings about hoarding and to gain a stronger understanding of the psychology which lies beneath the piles. If you’d like to read A Justified Desire it is just a click away to download it onto your Kindle or reading device (the Kindle app is free for phones and I-pads!) and here is the link:   I'd also love to hear your thoughts on collecting junk so please comment below! 

Sue Oaks