My elderly father hoards magazines and newspapers

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company employee in my 40s. My father, who lives with me, said he wants to buy a vacant house near our place. He said he wants to use the house to keep magazines and newspapers he has already read.

He runs a home business that was started by my grandfather. As he is already a little over 70, I think he is at an appropriate age to start making preparations for the end of his life. However, he still subscribes to four weekly magazines and two newspapers, which he stores at home. These magazines and newspapers are untidily piled up and even occupy the space that is set aside to store merchandise for his business. I fear his customers have a negative impression because of all the mess.

When I heard my father’s plan to buy the vacant house, I thought he would use it to store his merchandise or for similar purposes. I was wrong.

My father has insisted old magazines and newspapers contain useful information that is worth keeping, but he has never made cuttings of stories, nor does he have any way to reference them. If he needs a particular piece of information, he can’t find it.

How should I persuade my father to give up on the idea of buying the house and throw away his old weekly magazines and newspapers?

N, Ibaraki Prefecture

Dear Mr. N:

After reading your letter, I initially thought your opinion was very reasonable. At the same time, I found myself looking around my room, where there are many untidy piles of literature associated with my work, including books, source materials and academic journals.

When I moved to a new place some time ago, I threw out many books because I thought I would never read them again. But afterward I felt empty, as if a part of me had disappeared. Learning a lesson from this experience, I decided never to throw away books again.

I think the ideal would be to pick out necessary articles and discard the rest. I also feel any book that is read by someone is meant to stay in the hands of that person, not only for the useful information it can later provide, but also for its role of reminding the reader of a specific period in their life — like a part of their life story. Even if they only look like messy piles to others, it is said that hoarders can roughly remember where things are stored.

I suggest you include these viewpoints in your discussion with your father about what he will do with his old newspapers and magazines.

At a time when our lives are becoming more and more digitized, old newspapers and magazines might be valued as rare items in the not-so-distant future — I’ve just realized this while admiring your father’s zeal to continue reading newspapers and magazines rather than starting to prepare for the end of his life.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from Nov. 12, 2016, issue)Speech

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