This morning as I was checking my Facebook account, I saw a post about compulsive hoarding that was published by the AARP. Now, like many crafters, I have a stash. You can see part of it in the picture of my teenage son above. The picture shows my yarn, a shelf full of craft pattern books and magazines, and out in the hallway, you can see some of my beads. Yes, a whole section of the hallway covered in beads. It’s a wonderful thing.
But am I just a crafter with a stash or a compulsive hoarder? If all of my craft supplies were confined to what you can see in the picture, I would certainly be justified in calling it a stash. After all, everything is neat and organized, I can find it easily, and I really will use it someday. At least some of it.
But there is more. The clear, labeled boxes on the shelves in my room contain more craft supplies, unfinished projects, and even completed items. Now, I have tried to sell the completed items, and I might try again someday. But if I were honest with myself, I would admit that I am hoarding many of those completed items, such as the first rings I made, because I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. If someone bought them, I could let them go. But to throw them away? I’m not sure I can even give them away.
The craft supplies, the ones that are organized that is, will probably get used someday. But what about the three large totes of miscellaneous supplies that are stacked along the wall because I ran out of space to organize things? And what about the other stuff? You know, the books I will never read again but can’t part with and the clothes that are several sizes too small? What about the four bags of plastic grocery bags in the hallway? My closet is packed so full that I can’t fit anything more into it. Yes, the Christmas tree and decorations are in there. They are at the front so that I can get them out once each year. The rest of the stuff in that closet has been in there since I first put it in there. And it has started to expand and take over the rest of the house.
I have a hard time getting rid of things, so it is hard to clean. What do you do with something you probably don’t need but can’t bring yourself to throw away? What I do is I put it in a box, and when the box gets full I put it in the closet. When the closet got full, I started putting boxes in my bedroom. They are stacked up against the wall along with those three big totes of craft supplies. At least I know which boxes have craft supplies in them. The rest of the boxes are just assorted stuff—miscellaneous items that I am hoarding and will probably never use.
So what do you do if you have a hoarding problem? Is there hoarding help available? According to the article by the AARP, there are therapists who deal with hoarder’s syndrome, but therapy is expensive and rarely works. It seems that those of us who compulsively cling to our possessions have a hard time letting go and decluttering our houses, and if someone else tries to help us declutter, things will start piling up again almost as soon as they are finished.
What are the characteristics of a person who has a hoarding disorder? The AARP article states that they “tend to be paralyzed by indecision, perfectionism and procrastination.” Well, that’s definitely me. In addition to those traits, the whole situation just feels so overwhelming. When your whole house is clutter, you know you need to do something about it, but you look at it and think, “Where do I even start?” Each task requires something else to be done before I can get to it. For example, in order to wash the dishes, I have to clean out the cupboards so I have a place to put them once they are clean.
So how does a hoarder go about getting rid of the clutter? I think it requires a significant shift in the way we think about our stuff. I have been working on this for the past few months, but I am far from cured. However, here are the steps I have taken to beat the hoarding habit.
1) Every time you leave a room, look around for things that are obviously junk. If you see empty envelopes or crumpled up pieces of paper, pick them up and throw them in the trash on the way to wherever you are going. This is a good first step for true hoarders. If you can’t get rid of the obvious trash, you’ll never be able to do step two.
2) Give stuff away. Don’t pack it up and save it for a yard sale. You’ll never sell it all, and you probably won’t get a lot for it anyhow. Just give it away. Get a box and start tossing stuff into it whenever you come across something you don’t need. Did you just wash a load of clothes and find a pair of pants that doesn’t fit anymore? Throw it in the box. Maybe you just realized you have three hammers and you really only need one. Put the extras in the giveaway box. Someone, somewhere can use them. Next time you go to town, throw the box in the car and drop it off at a thrift shop. I’m still working on this part. I have four giveaway boxes stacked in my son’s closet. That way, they won’t get mixed up with the other boxes—the ones in my room that I haven’t gone through yet.
Well, that’s it. Two steps. Did you think this was going to be one of those twelve step programs? Nope, this is all I can handle for now. Throw away the obvious trash and give away anything else I can bring myself to part with.
Now, how do you know if you have a problem with compulsive hoarding? For one thing, if you do, you’ll probably have trouble completing the two steps listed above. There is also a very good chance that you don’t ever let anyone come into your home. You might also “collect” things that are not worth collecting. Do you keep your old toilet paper rolls or the lint from the dryer? Sure, you might find a craft project that requires these items someday, but unless you have a specific use in mind for them, you’re probably just hoarding.