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Sunday, 17 April 2011


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where is the list?
My wife is at an Arts Fair and I havent bought a camera on E-Bay for four years! This may be my chance!

It's interesting that people usually find in themselves the symptoms of the illness they read about, isn't it? :)

This last time I moved, I gave away ten boxes of books. (Fiction only, though.)

Okay, that got my attention! I've seen Hoarders as well, and I've always found it profoundly unsettling. I wish you the best of luck Mike. (I also have a similar visual memory, though with far less scope than yours, and cooresponding lack of success with physical organization, though some of that is due to starting and abandoning organizational systems.)

And, um, I guess I'll be stalking your virtual yard sale. Because there are some things I 'need' :)


Two things to offer:

One is a worthwhile blog called appropriately enough "Unclutterer". http://unclutterer.com/

Second: One of the suggestions from that blog (I think!) is if the object is sentimental, but not serving a useful purpose, take a picture of it and then get it out of the house.

Also, where's the For Sale list? Not showing up for me.

"Twelve hundred years ago in China a middle aged man named P'ang Yün loaded everything he owned onto a boat and sank it all in the Tung-t'ing Lake. After that, we are told, "he lived like a single leaf."
See him there in the early morning, treading water in the middle of the lake, watching the last bubbles rise from the depths. The air crisp and quiet. The lake misty and as still as sky. Then turning, stroking toward the shore.
(...) We take delight in things; we take delight in being loosed from things. Between these two delights, we must dance our lives." (Gary Snyder)

The contemporary version of living "like a single leaf"? Ordering a Leica M9 and a 35mm Summicron on Amazon - after selling your DSLR and zoom lenses on ebay.

@erlik... indeed.

But I'm not sure pseudo-hoarding is any less dysfunctional than over organizing and cleaning. It's like quitting smoking to become an alcoholic.

Haa, the contemporary version of living "like a single leaf" is rather buying an M9 and turning to pinhole photography ever since :-)

weeping, WEEPING...for that SPII

I'm about the same as you; my place is a 1 to 3. I have friends who are a 5.

I, too have a visual memory. When working for the local council I might be asked about one of the hundred plus schools in the area. I would just give a blank look, but if given a plan of the school I would come up with a wealth of information right down to where every fuseboard could be found and what make it was.

Semi-related, I found the first part of this Chicago Tribune article interesting: Photos of stuff keep memories alive (and storage areas clear): “Whenever I'm tempted to hang on to a familiar object that's lost its usefulness, taking a ‘Gone But Not Forgotten’ photo makes it easy to toss the object in the trash.”

A few weeks ago, I saw a documentary [by Michel Lamothe] on the Montreal photographer John Max ["John Max, a portrait"]. This man is a forgotten genius, but definitively... a hoarder.

John Max was a very interesting photographer. You can see many of his photos here: http://www.voxphoto.com/recherche.php?cmd=getavanceeB&lng=en&page=1&pageaff=0&debug=1&artistes=66&anneemin=0&anneemax=2010&proceder=0&pratique=0&theme=0&textes=%23. We see, in this film, how his hoarding is creating a whole lot of problems. I was also very impressed by how his many friends tried to help him. One of his friends is the excellent Gabor Szilasi, a well-known photographer. If you have a chance to see that documentary, go for it. It is touching and very troubling.

You can see the trailer here: http://youtu.be/0YodsTcJ0u0 (though, I think it doesn't do justice to the whole film) and an excellent article published in the Montreal Gazette: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Review+John+Portrait/4498979/story.html.

Thank God you don't have one step.....I'd be a goner.
Keep saying to myself...."Just keep moving. Nothing to see here."

Dear Mike;

It seems we have suffer or enjoy exactly the same visual memory, quite amazing. I used to work driving a van round a city delivering parcels and I usually worked by imagining visually the location and not by the street name.

I feel you pain. I tend to collect, fill several cupboards, use sell and then wonder why I sold it? Regrets..Mamiya 7II and 65mm lens. Black Rollei 35s in superb condition. A super looking black Nikon FM3a. Sometimes I loose $ and once in a while I'll make a $ or two. Biggest win? A Leica 90mm Tel-Elmarit 2.8 which I paid $400+ for. Just sold for $870. Not bad.

I suspect hoarding behavior is a continuum, just like many others. I'm also sure many of your readers exhibit some of the behaviors, as I certainly do. I've found it's good not to have too much space available, as I tend to accumulate things to match the space available.

Three years ago we moved to Toronto and went from owning a 2500 square foot house with a basement to renting a 700 square foot condo. We've bought a somewhat larger townhouse since then, but it was a good exercise to clean up everything that had accumulated in the old house. I've learned to curb my book buying, and I've been much less ambitious with some of my other hobbies.

I did win a contest for Toronto's messiest office a few years ago. I just did a better job of photographing my upstairs office the day before the deadline than some of the other entrants. I've got it half-way organized now. Some day I might get to three-quarters organized.

Damn you, Mike! I want ALL THAT STUFF. ALL OF IT!! My wife would say "no" however :(

Good luck!

Dang - I'd just love that Rolleicord. Australia is the 51st State, isn't it?

Ouch! This feels close to home, Mike. My own accumulation of books and photo equipment has reached the point where serious storage strategy revisions and deaccessioning decisions are urgently needed.

But you've showed us how to turn painful deaccessioning into a delightful tabletop photography project, Mike! (Where do you store the satin sheets?)

Ouch... I just had a look at some Hoarders promo videos on YouTube, and they look engrossing -- I sympathise with how you have reacted to those clips because I recognise that behaviour in myself as well!

For me the tipping point was moving country. I had to get rid of about 15 years of collected papers, books, and gear -- in about the space of a month. It was really liberating and painful at the same time.

Recently, in France with less living space, I gave away my Pentax DSLR to my brother in law and as painful as it was, he's using it to support his new recording studio here -- so I do see him post photos of his clients from time to time. My wife tells me that my stuff is spreading so I've gotta keep a tab on this... (mind you, I wouldn't mind those pair of pentax lenses)...

In the end, I managed to find a good home for most of my books, alcohol (wine and spirits), and computers. I also ended up just throwing things out. Here's a picture which I took during the packing process which really evoked some feeling those Hoarders clips (note: I normally don't live like this!!).


Good luck with the cleanup!


My father's rules were ...

1. If you don't plan to use it in the next six months, throw (or give) it away.

2. Items not covered in number one are sealed in a box. Date the box and if it hasn't been opened after six months, throw (or give)it away.

"when I want to remember a person, for instance, I can instantly call up the face ... but I struggle—sometimes to an almost absurd degree—to come up with the name"

Next time you meet a person, add an image of his/her name printed on a cue card above or below the face, or on a name tag pinned to the lapel. In theory, at least, that should work. Instead of trying to retrieve the memory from your auditory or conceptual files, you would just read it off the visual image. If it does work, you could also do the same but to the remembered face, each time you manage to recall both face and name.

On the other hand, this may be a test. With the funds acquired from pending sales, minus the taxman deduction, one might be tempted to order a few new books that have been calling out.

i knew, knew i should have checked your page earlier. Now both sad and grateful that the Bronica is sold; it's one of my 'Unicorn' cameras that I've always wanted but never gotten close to.

But, looking at my camera stash....maybe a goodwill trip is in order....

By the way, does the "Rodenstock Hosanna Hosanna Sironar-S 135mm ƒ/5.6" have a 35mm-equivalent field of view on 4x5?

Will (Who can't afford that, but is curious because he's trying to figure out what a 35mm-equivalent field of view on 4x5 is.)

It's not exact, because the aspect ratio is different. I tend to be sensitive to equivalents in the long dimension because that's how I see; others like comparing the diagonal. Here's a useful chart:



Thank goodness someone got the Bronica before I could be tempted . . . if there's one thing I don't need it's learning a new system that costs money and won't make me any.

And yeah, I should probably go clean out that closet. Good idea.

Wow, I wouldn't worry about being messy. I am a naturally messy person, every now and then I clean up, and put most things in a place, or at least hidden away, but usually for someone else, not for myself; and there are always those few awkward things that you don't want to throw away, but you have no idea where the hell to put them.

I also locate things by remembering where I put them, and have done similar things to you with my clothes (I once put my jacket in a wardrobe which I never use and couldn't fine it for 6 months). I have now learnt to look in this wardrobe as my step-father (who I live with) has a habit of tidying my room and putting things in it, which I often don't find until weeks later. It is somewhat ironic that the only time I ever lose things is when they have been tidied.

I don't think it is a bad thing to be messy, I think it is a state of mind and a way of being. One where you mix and combine the things in your mind and your life, and don't separate things out into distinct sections. There is a reason that creative people are known for being messy - inspiration more often than not come for seeing the patterns in other things and applying them to your current task. This is much easier when everything is lying around and visible.

As to being a "hoarder", that, like so many other things, is simply a label which is applied to a certain level of a completely normal spectrum of behaviours. If it is negatively affecting your life then worry about it, but if you are aware of it and monitoring it then I doubt it will get to that stage.

- Nico

I'd suggest you hold on to the Rollei -- it could be a good way to meet women. I go to a huge local flea market to look at stuff, and there are usually a couple or three young women wandering around with Rolleis. I live close to two art schools, so I suspect that's where it's coming from -- I'm told it's known as the "Diane Arbus" syndrome.

As for clutter...there's a woman here in LA who runs a business called mylaorganizer. (That's the website name.) She comes over and organizes your house.

I think a lot of people who are afflicted by clutter (not the pathological clutter, but routine clutter) are simply too busy to declutter. I sometimes feel like I don't have time to sit down. Take taxes. Like you, I have to file five times a year (each quarter, plus April 15) for both state and federal.That's ten separate filings. And, I made the mistake of legally hiring a house cleaning lady, who comes three times a week. But because I chose to hire her legally, instead of just giving her cash, I now have to file quarterly employment reports, plus an end-of-year report, and in addition, every time I pay her, I have to made duplicate copies of her pay slips, filing one for myself and giving one to her, which I believe she immediately throws away. I mean, this is insane; I spend many, many hours a year just doing taxes. I don't mind paying them, but preparing them is a nightmare. Between working and bureaucratic requirements, when it comes to decluttering...I just have better things to do. Like sitting on the couch, trying to relax.

That 85mm Pentax is a beautiful lens. Someone will be very happy.

"I mean, this is insane; I spend many, many hours a year just doing taxes. I don't mind paying them, but preparing them is a nightmare."

I can't recall who it was (maybe someone knows?) but I just heard a standup comedian riffing on this subject...something to the effect that if they want to be paid, they should just send you a bill like everyone else who wants to be paid. Nobody else in your life insists on being paid AND makes you puzzle out what they want to charge you. As it is, we have this horrible math test (with all kinds of de facto trick questions and hidden snares and riddles in it) to do IN ADDITION to paying all that money.

I just go to H&R Block and pay the nice ladies hundreds of dollars to do the puzzle for me. It's another expense around tax time.


Going by your ability to recall images so accurately, you are in the wrong profession. You should have been an artist, not a photographer. Anyway, I wish I could do that, (recall images that is).

Mike, I remember the first roll of film I ever took in Venice Beach, CA when I was 16 with my nasty Argus C-3 using Pan X, and every roll there after. Especially the shots I blew. I blame my inability to remembering names on my dad who suffered the same affliction. Nelson Rockefeller just called everybody 'buddy.'

"Nelson Rockefeller just called everybody 'buddy.'"

Heh. There was a teacher at my son's elementary school who called all the boys "Henry" and all the girls "Henrietta." Funny thing is, all the kids remember *him*. [g]


You do realize you're going to have to buy back all those cameras, don't you?

Ooh, your descriptions resonate with me in an oddly familiar manner - I think I need to watch that show...

Hoarders are collectors in disguise.

Or are preservationists who know the eventual value of the object preserved.

Aw, man, Mike. I don't even shoot 4x5" and I'm still tempted by the Rodenstock. I'm a landscape guy; surely I should try it out at some point, right? Add a Chamonix and a 90mm and a 300-ish...

I don't know about moving. I've moved a five times in the last five years (the job, unfortunately) and all I seem to do is get a bigger truck... It doesn't help when I've got a little spending money (the job, again, good this time) and people keep offering neat toys at good prices! At least camera gear is usually smaller than bikes and backpacking gear.

Wow, that got a lot of response. Nice stuff but I'm saving for an E-PL2 and a bunch of adapters. I gave up on fixing my clutter problem 22 years ago when I married a smart wife who just goes through my camera junk once a year and puts everything in a sort of organized way. I'm always making things and save all kinds of stuff I might need. As a for instance shortly after getting a LTM 90mm f4 Elmar for my M4 I discovered the lens head would screw into series V threads and was able to cobble together a bellows mounted rig with the Elmar that will focus from infinity to 1:1 on my Olympus Pen F, so now the lens can do double duty working with two cameras. I love to dream up and construct camera related contraptions more than than using them, go figure.

What a pose!!

Decluttering, whilst it may seem like a good idea at the time, is never the thing to do.
About 15 years ago I off-loaded a lot of my punk vinyl records from the late 70's. Who wanted vinyl 15 years ago? I needed money, so accepted a decent offer. About a year later I was looking at some WTB lists in Record Collector, and sure enough, what I'd accepted for the whole lot, had turned into offers for just one of the titles. The Japanese collector's market had turned a corner and was now interested in all things spikey.
It probably explains why the pathway to my desk is steadily becoming a narrow alley shaded by books, records, cds, and cameras.

I'm glad that:

i. I live in Australia, and am ineligble for the sale

ii. that someone's already grabbed the OM-4. I need another system like I need another hole in my head.


The Rollei, the Nikkormat and the Rodenstock 135 have me itching to move across the Pacific, even if only for a week or so. Despite all my best intentions, I know I'll never use them, so I'm glad (again) that I live were I do.

I once purchased a book called, "Use Less Stuff" and never read it. It sat on my shelf mocking me for ten years and last Fall I donated it to our local library, finally. I will have to read this book though, maybe someday...

I read "Stuff" on my Kindle, and I liked it well enough that I was tempted to buy a hardcover copy, just so I'd "have" it....



MJFerron, I have a Mamiya 7 ll with a 65/4.0, a polaroid back, and the panorama adapter. It is missing the cushion around the eyepiece, and the sunshade (I use a rubber one).

The lens and body are in excellent shape: the lens is as clear as the day I bought it, but the body has a bit of wear on the film advance lever.

It sat dormant until recently but I may be inclined to sell it for the right price. I can be reached at [email protected] if you are interested.


I didn't know about the Bronica RF645. Maybe should have had one; I had a Fuji GS645 for a while, but my particular one developed bellows pinholes whenever I attempted to use it, so in the end it ruined more opportunities than it created. Finally sold it on ebay (disclosing the pinhole problem of course). The model was relatively prone to pinholes anyway.

I sold a pair of OM-4Ts back in the mid 1990s. I'm surprised the 40/2 is worth so much; didn't seem to be much regarded by people when I was using OM gear.

Finding things you don't use homes where they'll be appreciated is generally a good thing.


Your description of how you remember things visually is a masterpiece of concise, intimate writing.

It also resonates with me, to a frightening degree. Your illustrations - such as filing things means they are essentially 'gone', or if packaging changes you can't find a product - are very, very familiar.

I have spent too much time trying to 'fix' this, rather than working to harness it and realize the inherent advantages.

Great piece. very cool.

I too watched the hoarder shows and freaked myself out. I cleared out a lot of stuff in my current apartment (huge job); closed my house in another city and sold it (3 dumpsters of junk). I limit myself to 3 magazines (BW, Color, and Lenswork) - I threw out piles and piles of wonderful past issues of various other titles, - and I bought a Kindle. I still have 1600 books on the shelf, but all are cataloged in a software program I bought online that has a smaller program for my iPhone. I am free of duplicate buying and now avoid hoarder shows.

Brother, this has got me going. . .

I've saved papers (all the letters from a few friends, news clippings, notes of ideas and dreams) for decades. Every few/many, years I may look at the envelopes holding them or perhaps glance at a few sentences from one or another letter, but, really, they're there for some feeling of security; that I lived, that I made contact with another, that I had an idea. Every so often I contemplate throwing them out. Maybe just one box. If I throw out just one box, that'll leave a hole in my history; so it has to be all or nothing, because holes would cripple the continuity of my history. For who? For somebody else? Nobody knows my history but me. If I throw out papers, why not negatives I've never printed, the defective prints?

I feel poised on the edge of a wholesale clearing of my paper archive. I hesitate for the regret that may, or may not, come if I do this impulsively. . . but I've never been any good at predicting the future.

Well, if it's not one funny thing, it's another.

I don't think most of us actually set out with the goal of buying and hoarding. It just happens. My collection of music CDs is approaching 300 in number which I realize isn't that many but it's due to the things pretty much lasting forever if you provide reasonable care. Listening to the CDs I purchased during the late-1980s is fun. It's tragic that it's now 23 years since I bought my CD player. Time happens.

I used my Nikkormat FT3 just this past weekend. Nice camera what with its build quality and ability to shoot with my modern AF primes but I wouldn't describe it as svelte. I do appreciate the FT3's smoother rewind knob compared to the one on an FT2 I borrowed once - a person could slice a finger on the machined edges of that rewind knob.

"You do realize you're going to have to buy back all those cameras, don't you?"

LOL! SO effin' true!

I have to admit this week has been hard on me too.


Barb Smith said,

"I still have 1600 books on the shelf, but all are cataloged in a software program I bought online that has a smaller program for my iPhone."

Could you tell us the name of the program? I have four copies of quite an expensive art book...

Hi Mike
Here's an idea for those hundreds of items too small to list. Grab Bag by brand, size, age, type, or whatever fits in a bag. $10 or whatever... plus shipping. Donate proceeds to your fav charity. Or buy more stuff!

The only things I've ever REALLY regretted throwing out were personal papers -- letters to and from people, and that kind of thing. I have badly organized collections, and older well-organized collections.

It's true that no university library will want my papers when I die.

My wife and I are agreed (read - she has beaten me down) on neatness in the house. But, and here's the real dirty secret, we both of us maintain a single room for our "junk" from when we were single. We have two roughly equally sized brick outbuildings that keep the weather and dampness out, and we have one each.

Mine is full of precious memorabilia organised in an efficient way which means I can find things rapidly in as little as 4 hours of heavy sifting. Her's is full of junk (I mean there are 100s of vinyl records in there, some of them so unpopular that they only ever came in pressings of the low hundreds, and we don't have a record player) that in only a couple of hours I could have loaded into a panel van for the trip to the landfill site. Unfortunately, she knows me too well and I do not know where she has hidden the key to her room of junk. I do not dare tell her where my key is, in case future heirlooms are thrown out in the cause of a spring clean.

Live and let live, we say.


Here are the rules of our household - (my wife and I).

No new book unless you give one up. (Like you, we had thousands.) No magazine kept for more than one month.

No new camera, lens or accessory unless you give one up.(eBay). Three systems has to be enough!

No more extensions to the house, grandchildren notwithstanding.

Wotks for us and will make my heirs job much easier...


Mike, isn't that the Minolta 35mm lens you bought in prep for a Sony A850 you hadn't gotten yet? And the RF645 you teased for quite some time before revealing? I feel like there's a fair amount of blog history up there. Glad to see they'll continue life on the blog.

Well, it's good that you cleaned house and sold some stuff that you aren't using, but it's worth remembering that our personalities are largely expressed by the time we are 8-9 years old. I don't think you 'nipped a problem in they bud', you are not a hoarder because along the continuum of personality types, you aren't.

If one is not well organized by inclination, then it takes a lot of effort to achieve and maintain that state and the recidivism rate is high - because one is working against one's basic hardwiring. So don't beat yourself up too much if you relapse to some extent. You have shown that you can declutter. You will probably have to force yourself to do this from time to time. Because it doesn't come naturally unless you are already wired that way.

An extremely nice Rollei Rolleicord Va with case in Ex++.......................... $595 for all + shipping. SOLD

I don't doubt that it is worth the price but it does make the £34 I paid for my Rolleicord V look like quite a bargain!

Indeed. Rolleis are going up again in value; there was a short time when there were some real bargains about. I *do* wish I'd had the wherewithal and the space (and been in my 20s or 30s) to make a collection of film cameras in about 2000-2008...there were a lot of bargains out there and such things are going to get more and more valuable over the next half century. There are still things going begging that future collectors will be amazed at.


I'm looking at the Rodenstock 135mm and twitching. I consider that a sign of hoarding. I've got a 125mm Fujinon that I have zero complaints about. I usually prefer longer lenses for 4x5. I just switched out the 135mm Raptar on my Speed Graphic for a 150mm G-Claron. I've got enough large format lenses in that range. Just say no Mike, just say no. (Mike me, not Mike J.)


That's one of the most useful focal length guides I've seen! That's really helpful. I also am sensitive to the long dimension; it lets me know how many people I can fit into a group shot! Also, 98% of the photography I've done for the last two years* has been 4/3's, so I'm used to getting a little bonus height. In fact, I find the 3:2 ratio rather constricting now, and I'm looking forward to a shade more breathing room with 5:4.


*95% with 1 lens. A zoom, sadly, so no direct comparison to a Leica-for-a-year. I did learn a lot, though.

I *do* wish I'd had the wherewithal and the space (and been in my 20s or 30s) to make a collection of film cameras in about 2000-2008...there were a lot of bargains out there

My father and myself both bought about thirty cameras each during that era. I have stopped now as prices are going up and I don't need any more (I have started giving some away). My father passed away a couple of years ago which seriously curtailed his camera buying activities! His collection, which is a lot better than mine, is actually mine now by inheritence but is currently kept neatly in display cabinets at my mother's house. Mine are littered about all over the place!

The book (and CD and DVD and game) management program is probably "Delicious Library". It can work with an iSight or built-in camera to read barcodes and automatically look things up on Amazon. I have it too, and it is very helpful, also for generating lists for insurance, and so on. The difficult part is to keep it up as you buy new stuff, or remember which things you bought last, when you next go to update it.

I read this piece on hoarding and was struck by how I have a visual memory like Mike and I always thought it was a brain anomaly peculiar to me. I also realized that I have my uncle's Rolleicord III which he purchased in 1952 and I think it's better to find it another good home rather than keep it for sentimental reasons. It's in very fine condition and I have a bunch of accessories for it, including leather case. If you're interested, email me at [email protected] and we can discuss the particulars.

Mike, I've owned that Pentax K 28 3.5 and currently own the M 85 f/2 - someone got a pretty good deal, IMO. Those two optics shine on the modern Pentax DSLRS, and that M 85 f/2 has a more than a little bit of magic in it. If Pentax came out with an AF version of that little baby, a new generation of Pentaxians would fall in love. It's my favorite MF lens.

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