Don’t Let Stuff Control Your Life – Hoarding and Pack-rat Syndrome

Cluttered DrawerMost of us own a variety of possessions, but for some, their possessions own them. As evidenced by the popularity of the Hoarders TV show and its spinoffs, hoarding is a problem many are facing, and more are noticing.

I wrote an article some time back about hoarding, but it’s a topic worth revisiting. It seems that hoarding is a bigger issue than most people might think. It also seems that the reasons behind hoarding are things that could be worked through to prevent the problem in the first place.

For many people, hoarding is a result of emotional trauma. They have lost someone or something in their lives, so they try to fill the void with things. They keep getting more stuff, and they refuse to get rid of any of the stuff they already have. That fear of further loss is so strong that they begin to hoard, and it can eventually take over their lives.

If people were not made to feel so ashamed of their emotions, if we weren’t taught to be strong and not cry, just internalize it all, and if we had more real friends, these kind of things might never happen. I believe a lot of it begins with people feeling that they have no one to turn to in their times of need, and that they have to hide their “weakness” from others, and that internalization of their problems is the seat of the hoarding habits that they develop. Their things will never look at them funny, never judge them, and never turn away when times get tough.

One of the saddest things about hoarding is the fact that by the time other people realize that it’s a real problem, it’s such a deep-seated habit and way of life for the hoarder that it can be even more traumatic for them to deal with the hoarding than it would have been for them to deal with the root issue. It’s also sad that people will stand up and take notice and step in to “help” when they see the hoarding behavior, but you have to wonder where these people were when the person was in need to begin with, and why they didn’t help them then.

As I mentioned in my previous article, I was once a hoarder and have people in my family with those tendencies. As they say, prevention is the best medicine, and I believe that can be true of hoarding as well. When something happens in your life that causes emotional trauma, find a way to deal with it. Talk to friends or family, talk to a professional if you have to. Write in a diary, write poetry, do art, do anything you can to help yourself heal before you develop issues as a result of holding your pain and emotions inside.

It’s also a good idea to take a hard look at your life and see if you’re already in the early (or advanced) stages of hoarding. If you see signs of it, take care of it now, not later. Start weeding through your things and decide what you really need. If it doesn’t have significant use or meaning, get rid of it. If possible, donate things to GoodWill or a similar service. By donating you not only rid yourself of unwanted items and their emotional baggage, you’re also doing something good for another person somewhere.

I highly recommend doing a yearly evaluation of all the stuff in your house, and clear out anything you don’t need or use anymore. It’s actually quite liberating and can help you maintain control of your life. If you can’t be happy without holding on to all kinds of stuff, it’s a sure sign that there is something seriously wrong in your life. And don’t think hoarding is limited to the poor as you typically see on TV. Rich people hoard too! There are plenty of wealthy people that buy and keep as much as they can, and it’s for the same reasons, either some trauma in their life, or they’re trying to fill a void from not having the right people in their life.

Live a simple life, and try to get by on as little stuff as you can. You’ll be happier in the end. Hoarding takes control of your life, it can impede your relationships with other people, and it can even affect your health. Nip it in the bud as soon as possible, and you’ll be glad you did. If your a friend or family member of someone you think might be in the early stages of hoarding, sit down and have a good talk with them, and even have a talk while you help them clean house. Sometimes it’s hard for an individual to be aware of their own issues, but as an outside view you may be able to help someone you care for before they develop a serious problem.

Image: Public Domain, Morguefile


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