Turning Stones ~ George McKale

George McKale George McKale is a practicing archaeologist and Sonoma’s City Historian. He has excavated throughout California ranging from Native American sites thousands of years old to Gold Rush era locations. His passion and specialty in archaeology is the study of human remains.


Confessions of a hoarder

Posted on February 7, 2013 by George McKale

My garage is packed from floor to ceiling with boxes.  The rafters contain heavy suitcases, old furniture, and a variety of oddities I have proudly collected over the last 53 years.  I have two sheds on the side of my house and I am considering purchasing another. There is no limit to what I may collect, but I am particularly fond of rocks, fossils, bones, bird and bee nests, animal parts, swords and knives, coins, stamps, newspapers and artifacts from the distant and not so distant past.

My children enjoy the televised reality show, “Hoarders.”  The series documents the lives of people who suffer from compulsive hoarding.  Each episode focuses on a hoarder and will bring in professional organizers, “extreme cleaning specialists” and both psychiatrists and psychologists to treat the obsessive disorder.  Evidently, some in my family, feel that I meet the definition of a compulsive hoarder.  What they seem to forget is that I am an ARCHAEOLOGIST.  We collect things for the greater good.

My wife has from time to time uttered the word “clutter” as she travels from room to room.  I have tried to explain to her that we don’t live in a house, we live in a museum.  We display masks from Mexico, blow-dart guns from Peru, tapestries from Egypt and beer steins from Germany. When friends come over to our house for visit, they leave with more than they walked in with.  It’s all about cerebral edification.

It’s not hoarding if you share.  Without an arsenal of oddities, my visits to local schools would be simply mundane. Every Thursday morning at 8:15 I visit Ken Brown on the  Mornings in Sonoma show on SUN 91.3 FM. Prior to each show I open drawers throughout my house, always finding something to bring in for show and tell. Can you imagine the ratings if I just came in and spoke from the hip?

Each year, right around this time, I remove everything from the garage, and I will re-assess the artifacts and relics I own, and make a determination regarding what should be discarded.  I take this seriously.  I have to admit that the thought of discarding something significant may lead to a little grief.  I have heard that there are four stages of grief: denial, anger, depression and hope.

My personal character will not allow me to deny any personal defects I may posses.  In fact, while I was sorting through the “cool stuff” in my garage, I realized I am not a hoarder, but simply a little disorganized.  By organizing my collectibles I could free up more room in the garage, creating additional space for more educational material.  The thought of losing some of this material does make me angry and depressed, but as I have just pointed out, by organizing my belongings, there is no need to discard anything. Denial, no. Enlightened, yes.

One of my proudest moments as a father occurred while traveling through the jungles of Peru with my family.  My son, Matthew, was 12 years old at the time, when he stumbled across an extremely venomous snake which was, however, well deceased. I watched him closely as he stooped down, looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was looking, and then placed the snake into a plastic bag.  The snake made its way into his dirty laundry, eventually past airport security, and is now proudly curated in an old cardboard box under his bed. Just writing about this brings tears to my eyes.

Last week I grabbed one of my sons, and we opened a box I hadn’t touched in 30 years.  I was so excited I could barely breathe.  In it were treasures documenting my life.  I had collected dozens of newspapers in my youth, the oldest dated to 1969.  Yes, there it was on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, articles documenting the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

Hoarder, no. Curator, yes. Case closed.