For those in poverty, excessively stockpiling possessions can act as a link to a more prosperous past or insurance for a difficult future.
Fear meets Sarah Wolff in the elevator.
It’s standing beside her as she rides to her third-floor apartment. Taunting her. Tapping her shoulder and whispering in her ear.
“When I get off the elevator up here, I panic,” she says. She can’t see her apartment door from the elevator. “Is there a note saying ‘You’re evicted, you can’t live here anymore?’ I have that panic every time I leave the apartment … I’m like, ‘Oh please don’t let there be anything on the door. Dear God. Please.’”
Wolff, a 29-year-old formerly homeless mother, is haunted by that fear. She thinks about loss constantly. Losing her apartment. Losing her things. Losing Aiden, her 9-year-old son, again.
Sometimes those fears are so great, she doesn’t leave her apartment at all. Safe in her home, she surrounds herself with the things she loves: balls of yarn for knitting blankets and scarves, books, movies. There are toys and books for Aiden, too.
“I’ve always been one to hold onto stuff,” she says. She thinks that’s because she lost so many people in her life when she was young. Now she holds everyone, and everything, close.