It was over two years ago that I moved out of my parent’s house, and earlier this year, just before I sold my car, I was still collecting stuff from my old room – my car was packed to the roof. Most of it was just boxes for computer parts that I still have, that I will keep until I part with their corresponding part (either because it fails or I’m ready to sell it). Some other stuff I realised was just stuff; the type that I know I’ve managed without for two years so I really don’t need it. And I still had one more trip to make; a few more boxes and a futon to collect. Ironically, months later while I was getting my roof redone and was sleeping on my sofa because my bedroom was full of dust, I had totally forgotten I even had that futon, and suffered aching knees because of it.
There were two reasons I collected that car load of stuff that time; 1) because I was out in my car anyway (for the first time in a month) and 2) my mum let on that she was starting to put more and more stuff in my old room, so I knew if I didn’t get the last of my stuff out now, it wouldn’t remain accessible for long.
With this little exercise I got thinking again about why people hoard.
Some of the stuff can genuinely still useful, even after two years, although I do like the “One year rule”, and I sometimes foresee a problem if I throw it out – like the boxes for computer parts; the parts will sell for less without their boxes, and the boxes aid posting. Perhaps this type of stuff isn’t really hoarding, but is just… stuff; either way, when you see it all it just looks like clutter, at least to anyone else.
When I was at high school I began to hoard old computers. It wasn’t until some years later that I acknowledged that I did this because of the time I wanted a computer but couldn’t afford one; so when old ones found their way to me it was hard for me to let any of them go. I often see this strange link with a lack of money and hoarding; we can have a room full of stuff that is really worthless but deep within our minds it is there to try and make up for the money we lack – if we let go of our hoard we would be faced with the stark reality of how little we have. (Of course this is all just materialism).
I see how we can hoard to fill an emptiness. So an empty bank account might be one cause for hoarding, but also an empty house might be another; when siblings move out of their family home, or if a spouse dies, we might cling on to stuff or hoard more to fill the “empty space”. A lack of close friends can also lead us to hoard; to surround ourselves with stuff to keep us company.
One hurdle is recognising and accepting the reasons we hoard, the next hurdle is to the deal with it and here I see further issues. In addition to busying ourselves with so much stuff, we may well busy ourselves with other commitments rather than tackling our problem – we might even take on other people’s problems without first addressing our own. Every day I give myself a list of things I want to do, but quite often I find I will avoid those certain chores such as “clearing out the junk room” by tiring myself out with too much cycling, spending hours in Second Life, or reading that library book I really shouldn’t have borrowed. I see how others take on other commitments that get them out of the house, away from their hoarding, rather than staying home to deal with it.
And so, months later, even though I think I acquire little new stuff, I suppose I am still dehoarding; does anyone need a futon?!