Photo by: dcjohn
It is incredible the amount of "stuff" that one can accumulate over time. I recently talked about my move and the thought that my previous home (a townhouse) would be a place that I could never outgrow. Obviously, I took up the challenge of filling the house, and succeeded. In our haste, we made the decision to pack up EVERYTHING and sort later. I understand our logic at the time, but as I sit surrounded by boxes, this is quite a task.
So how did we become what I consider to be an "everyday hoarder"? The true pathology of those that actually suffer from hoarding is well documented. A&E even has a show called Hoarders and looks more in depth at the symptoms and treatment. When does having a lot of stuff become problematic?
I think that the distinction between those of us that are sentimental with our belongings, or try to be pragmatic in terms of what we save is different from those that cannot part with material goods. For people who demonstrate hoarding behavior, there is an emotional gain to keeping "stuff". For many who hoard, the behavior began during a traumatic or stressful event, perhaps a divorce, a loss or something of the like. Hoarding behavior was also seen in those that grew up during the Great Depression, and had a belief that scarcity would exist again, so stocking up on belongings was a way to guard against this. (My grandfather was famous for his frozen orange juice supply, which was one reaction of protecting his family from the calamity of another Depression).
Hoarding is considered to be on the anxiety disorder spectrum, hence the idea of giving away, throwing away, or otherwise parting with objects can be so difficult. Treatment tends to include mitigating the anxiety reaction and processing the initial event in a more emotionally healthy manner. Approximately 1 million Americans could be diagnosed with Anxiety that results in hoarding behavior.
Here is how I draw the line so that you are able to let go of items that are no longer needed:
*Set up a time line (For us, clothing can be kept for 1 year. If it isn't worn in that time period, it goes)
*Set aside items you are considering getting rid of. If you don't think about them within a period of time, you can safely feel that you won't need them.
*Take pictures of sentimental items that you might not need to hold on to.
*Be creative: create works of art, quilts, etc (One friend made a quilt using old T-shirts that she couldn't quite part with)
*Donate (This way, you get a tax deduction!)
If you find that your space is cluttered to the point of health hazards or you are unable to move around freely (and it's not because you JUST moved), you might want to consider a professional consultation to assess if something else is getting in the way from you moving on.