Horrors of Hoarding

Originally published in Renaissance

He who binds to himself a Joy,
Does the winged life destroy;
He who kisses the Joy as it flies,
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

Eternity by William Blake

Whilst you may feel it’s perfectly acceptable to hang onto the size 8’s in your wardrobe, (hoping that inspite of your passion for Twinkie bars and good wine, you’ll shrink from size 14’s to fit them again), it’s another matter storing every magazine you’ve ever read since 1981. (And why is that no sooner than we have thrown something away we need it?)

Money is undoubtedly the most popular choice when it comes to hoarding. But we also choose to hoard other items such as, buttons, clothes, elastic bands, or jars. Its not just physical objects we hold onto, we can also hoard emotions from past situations.

Hoarding is an indicator of issues linked to the first charka, where ideally we should have established our right to have and be here. If we were abandoned or neglected when babies, were abused,  had birthing difficulties, parents who may have suffered a lack, either as a result of a war or poverty this could have affected our sense of security. When things feel uncertain or we are unsure of ourselves, having “stuff” helps us retain a feeling of security. Just as “stuffing ourselves” with food compensates, for a lack of love. Its basically a belief in scarcity.

Some of us hoard sentimental items, such as old school reports, baby blankets or just about anything that you can relate to an event, place or person. We fear changing and want to hold onto the past, be it childhood or a relationship. In letting go, the hoarder fears that a part of themselves will be lost.

Then there is the hoarder who is hyper-responsible or hyper-caring hoarder, who believes that whatever they don’t throw away could be useful to another, so they hang onto all these items waiting for the right needy person to appear. In reality most of the things prove to be broken beyond repair or badly damaged and not worth fixing.

Invariably hoarders may find it very hard to make decisions as to what should be kept and what should be thrown away. Holding onto the item avoids having to make a decision about it.

Organization is also a frequently cited problem. The hoarder just can’t fathom out a logical way to file or store objects, so he or she maintains piles of objects all over the place in which paradoxically he/she feels some sense of order.

Some hoarders fear throwing magazines or newspapers away, because some vital article may also get lost. Rather than check everything, which is hugely time-consuming, it becomes easier just to keep it.

When you throw an object away, you no longer have control over what happens to it, consequently hoarding can be seen to be a desire to control. This control may take the form of a fear of forgetting. Keeping the article somewhere gives us the opportunity to re-read it.

Other hoarders “specialize” in making collections of items in order to achieve a deep sense of satisfaction when the collection is complete. However this sense of completion rarely (if ever) occurs.

Hoarding is all about fear, control, holding onto the past and the belief that if thrown away, something “bad”” may occur. We feel whilst we hold onto things, our world will not change and that makes us feel safer. Afraid to let go of the past, we hang onto items that represent it.

Looking for the function of the objects that you are hoarding and it will help you to understand the significance in relation to yourself. If its clothes we hoard, then clothes, (representing old roles we have played,) could allude to us not wanting to step into a new state of being. One woman hoarded sewing patterns – she did not want to get rid of her old patterns. Money represents an exchange of energy, so hoarding it is an attempt to hold onto external energy or power because we feel such a lack of it internally.

When our attitude towards our material possessions is not proper, it can lead to an extreme attachment towards such things as our property, houses and belongings, This can lead to an inability to feel contented. If that happens, then one will always remain in a state of dissatisfaction, always wanting more.

His Holiness the Dalai Lamafrom The Heart of the Buddha's Path (Thorsons 1995)

Most of us have some hoarding habits, when taken to extremes; it verges on being Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, such as Langely Collyer, who between 1933 and 1948 managed to fill a mansion on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with over 120 tons of junk and refuse, which included 11 pianos and the components of an entire Model T Ford. Eventually he was killed when a pile of his refuse fell onto him.

In extreme forms, such as that of Mr Collyer, hoarding can become very result in isolation as a consequence of the clutter that you are embarrassed about, yet unable to clear. Interestingly enough, even when they do require some stored item, hoarders are seldom able to find it amongst the mess.

Typical symptoms that are usually linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder would be:

  • Purchasing large amounts of items to store for future use – a kind of doomsday need
  • Not throwing away useless or broken items
  • Not possibly ever being able to use the amount of items of a particular type one has purchased, such as hundreds of bars of soap
  • Keeping old newspapers and magazines often which may never have been read
  • Not throwing anything away for fear that you may need it one day
  • Going to the dustbin and retrieving items others have discarded

Healing

Physically:
Assisting hoarders to let go may be difficult and require much patience and understanding. They need to be gradually encouraged to part with items. Rules and boundaries need to be established, such as “”if you haven’t used it for at least a year then get rid of it”. The process of releasing may involve four options:

  1. Throw it away
  2. Or recycle it
  3. Or give it away
  4. Or put it away.

For example if you have a 12 year old book on Fondue Cooking. Do you have a fondue pot? No? Well then do you know a friend who has? No. Option b makes no sense, as do c and d therefore option a is the solution.

Emotionally:

Go into nature. Have a look around you at the abundance. Each plant gives forth hundreds, sometimes thousands of seeds. Each tree has many, many leaves. Each river bed many pebbles. Everywhere there is abundance, if you only can recognize it. It is only our fear that cuts off the supply, or gives us the illusion that it is so. Know that you will have enough. Understand that holding onto things from the past, only keeps you stagnant and stops energy flowing. And remember, each time we let go of something we create a space for something new and exciting to arrive – nature abhors a vacuum.

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