You’ve Got Mail! This baby boomer hoards the stuff

Here’s something our parents’ generation didn’t have to deal with: email. Too much of it. Scads and scads of it. It was getting to humor writer Lucy Iscaro of White Plains, New York, until she came up with an easy fix: denial.

I watch the hoarding reality show called “Hoarding” from my tidy den in horrified, yet smug, sympathy. Look at that poor unfortunate man trapped in his home with auto body parts and sardine cans stacked willy nilly. Then I turn off the television and open my laptop only to see I have 18,000 emails stuffing my Inbox. Some are from ten years ago. Okay, call an intervention. If “Hoarding” is about the real-life struggles of people who hoard, I guess I’m a hoarder too.

Email becomes like ignored Post-It notes.

But I acknowledge my problem, which is widely known to be the first step to changing. In the morning I start fresh at the computer with a mug of hot tea and good intentions to skim and then purge the deadwood. It’s not easy though. It all looks so compelling. Various correspondences compete for my attention by appealing to my emotions with the liberal use of exclamation points, asterisks, and symbols.

****Today!! Don’t miss it!! Two days left!****

Smiley emojis indicate that the folks at Groupon really mean it when they say I’m great. An icon of an old-fashioned alarm clock convinces me that time is running out and I’d better act fast before I miss out.

Martha Stewart has some recipes she says I must have. She is very persuasive. Two cruise lines both promise to take me somewhere warm and provide me with all I can drink, martini icon and smiley emoji combined, while I have the adventure of a lifetime. As I sit in my furry slippers and fleece pullover, I can hear the wind sending the trash can down the icy road. I just can’t erase a chance to escape winter.

Scrolling farther there are two dull statements from the bank. I delete those immediately without reading them. Here’s progress! I’m clearing things out.

I see a note about a friend’s new puppy along with a blurry image from her phone. A decade ago she would’ve sent me a card and a glossy photo that I’d tape to the kitchen door and look at until it curled at the edges. I do the equivalent by saving the email.

Lucy Iscaro checking her laptop.

I’m still gamely grappling with the inbox, my finger hovering over the delete button, when my dog’s high-pitched bark signals that the mailman is outside. I hear the thud when letters, bills, magazines, and catalogs fall through our mail slot. It all sprawls across the foyer creating an impossible to ignore hazard. I should go pick it up before someone trips and falls.

It occurs to me then that all my email will be safely invisible until I allow it to magically appear, or not. Here on the floor I have magazines to read, bills to pay, and paper to recycle immediately. I close the computer, thus abandoning the virtual for the physical mail. I leave e-messages to freely multiply in the ether.

Cancel that intervention, the Inbox is no longer an issue … if I can’t see it.

19 Comments

  1. Love this piece, Lucy! The list of topics you write on is endless. You are quite the “humor writer” as BoomerCafe says. Perhaps the next Erma Bombeck.

  2. What a great piece! At least, as you note, the clutter is silent and unseen! Now I MUST try to clear my own overflowing emails…

  3. This humor writer perfectly captures the virtual stress of our unseen lives. It is such an interesting concept though that it’s really just bits of electronic verbiage that we can take or leave. The problem is: people actually send me real action items and invitations and school bulletins and now those are immediately buried under the avalanche of daily noise and I fall behind in my 3D life!

  4. The piece is extremely enjoyable, it validates my technique for keeping inbox emails at 23 or less; it’s not easy as you attest. Thanks for the good feelings.

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