For some of you it's no secret I tease my roommate about being a hoarder, I've often have tried to figure out why he buys, collects, and saves so much STUFF. My mother used to have some hoarding tendencies herself. I noticed it years before she died and I would encourage her to get rid of some of the crap she was holding onto. After she died I found out what the main item she hoarded was...paperwork. Every receipt, every note, every calendar. Items of major importance, some of no importance at all, some of this "paperwork" as she always called it was up to 30 years old. A to-do list from 1983 was nothing that needed to be held onto as far as I could tell.
Sentimental items, memories photos, etc. are all things I can understand holding onto. Many of the sentimental items Mom was holding onto I have kept myself, even after her death. My dad used to write her cute notes on napkins and just pieces of paper. It was very sweet.
This morning I felt like I was beginning to understand the "hoarding" thing a little bit myself. I was going through one of my email accounts deciding what email went in which folder, what to delete or keep. I got to some emails regarding my friend Dave's memorial dinner that was held in the beginning of July. My first thought was I CANT DELETE THESE. Then I realized, holding onto these emails was like holding onto Dave. They were just financial quotes from the venue, and the florist. That sort of thing, nothing worth keeping really. So I deleted them. You might also remember I created a photo book for Dave's Dad and his close friends. I had a folder with dozens of photos that I had to choose from for that book, and now I can’t find it anywhere. The completed photo books will be delivered soon, but all those other pictures are gone. You know the pics that weren't good enough to make it into the book. So why do I want to hold onto them so badly? I wondered the same thing when I was going all the printed photos that Mom had that were out of focus or an accidental picture of the inside of her purse, or the sky. Why did she keep those?
There are so many different levels of hoarding and so many different reasons why people save insignificant things. So being the inquisitive person that I am, I decided to do some light research on the topic.
2% to 5% of Americans may meet the criteria for being hoarders.
In most cases, hoarding may not have much impact on your life, while in other cases it seriously affects your functioning on a daily basis. Reasons for hoarding are countless, but some of the main reasons are.
- Persistent inability to part with any possession, regardless of its value
- Excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow them or distress at the idea of letting an item go
- Cluttered living spaces, making areas of the home unusable for the intended purpose, such as not being able to cook in the kitchen or use the bathroom to bathe
- Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
- Letting food or trash build up to unusually excessive, unsanitary levels
- Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, such as trash or napkins from a restaurant
- Difficulty managing daily activities because of procrastination and trouble making decisions
- Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
- Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter
- Shame or embarrassment
- Limited or no social interactions
People with hoarding disorder typically save items because:
- They believe these items will be needed or have value in the future
- The items have important emotional significance - serving as a reminder of happier times or representing beloved people or pets
- They feel safer when surrounded by the things they save
When you put people in touch with their goals, then you have something to work with. Then you can say [to the hoarder], ‘I thought we were working toward this goal,' when [the hoarder] objected to saying, 'Are you sure you need to hang onto that? It’s a comb without teeth. Does keeping it help you toward your goal?’ The same goes with broken appliances, items you forgot you already have. You may have 2 or 3 of the same thing because you keep buying it, not remembering you already have that very thing at home.
It's not clear what causes hoarding disorder. Genetics, brain chemistry and stressful life events are being studied as possible causes. There is also the causes of pure laziness or lack of motivation, age, mobility, etc.
I now realize my mother was not a hoarder. She kept all of her “stuff” hidden away. Her home was very minimalist compared to what she had packed away in boxes hidden in closets. My roommate could definitely be a hoarder if he was left on his own. Having people outside of immediate family living with him kind of keeps him in check with having piles of stuff laying around in common areas of the house. Ive tried sticking to the rule "if you haven't used it in a year or more get rid of it" well that works in some situations but not all the time. One thing that has been helpful for me to purge items is moving. When you see all the crap you have to move sometimes things suddenly become less important. Do I regret not holding onto my Superhero action figures from my childhood? ABSOLUTELY! But would they serve any purpose?
My friend Dave had kept his electronic game "Merlin" along with the instruction manual and power cord. Although I think that may be put in the category of "collecting". He probably thought it would be worth something someday. He also held on to some crap the we were shaking our heads at, wondering WTF?
We all have crap we hold onto for no reason. Something I would always tell my mom, is something I read in one of those inspirational quotes I'm always sharing. Live by this and you will always feel free of physical and emotional burden.