I am married to a piler. We have piles all over the house. They contain bills, junk mail, sticky notes, magazines, little scraps of paper with cryptic notes on them, and other various detritus of daily living. They reside on the kitchen counter, the dining room table, the bedside stand, and any other flat surface in the house. My greatest fear is that left unchecked, these piles will grow forever. I was watching a program on the History Channel or some other similar cable network once about people like her who are “pack-rats”. The documentary told one story of a guy who saved literally everything. His home was littered with years worth of newspapers, magazines, bags of trash, and seemingly every odd piece of junk that had ever come into his domain. He hoarded all of these items for decades until he was eventually found dead in his home. It seems that one of his gargantuan piles of newspapers had fallen over and pinned him underneath. He was trapped for days until finally succumbing to death. This is what I am fighting against--slow death by piles. My job in this symbiotic relationship is to assure that the piles stay under control. I go through them almost daily. In this process, there are some difficult decisions to make. I find notes with phone numbers on them, names of people I don’t recognize, addresses to places I’ve never heard of, directions to exotic locations, and quite frankly -- some pile contents with mysterious ancient looking cryptographs that I can make neither heads nor tails of. Only my wife seems to know the significance of some of these items. Whenever I ask her to sort through her piles, she is “far too busy.” This is number one among the piler’s tactics: Say or do anything to preserve the piles. I began to set the indecipherable stuff aside in folders or special “please go through me” piles. This tactic failed miserably. These new piles of “please go through me” folders in turn grew and grew as she ignored their presence just, like their parent piles. Pilers subscribe to that silly adage, “It looks unorganized, but I know exactly where everything is.” This is a lie. Whenever something gets lost, the piles are ransacked in an attempt to find it. When it can’t be found, I am invariably told “you must have thrown it away.” I finally came to the realization that the piles secret value is not the information locked in them, but rather, the pile itself. For the piler, preserving the piles is a way to extend their own longevity -- a monument to the life of the piles’ creator. It’s their mark left for generations to let the entire world know that they were here and that they existed. Old phone bills, magazines, leaflets, and supermarket fliers stamped with their names prove that they were here. I’ve finally learned to come to grips with my fate. I hide the contents of the piles in drawers, camouflage them in baskets and folders, and ignore their existence until they begin to grow to dangerous levels, which challenge my safety and slowly gnaw at my sanity. One day, well into my 90’s, long after the kids are gone and can no longer help me, I’ll lose the energy to pile-fight any longer. In my weakened state, the piles will grow until they collapse and envelop me like the man on the History Channel. I’ll be gone, but the monolithic pile will live on forever. The piler will finally have her monument and her immortality.
Pilers or anti-pilers can reach Cean at: email@example.com