Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter

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Are You Lying To Yourself About Hoarding?

Hoarders on Oprah

Oprah has yet another show about hoarders this week. It got me thinking about the lies we tell ourselves to avoid letting go of the stuff that fills up our homes and lives.

Of course extreme hoarding can be associated with psychiatric disorders. More commonly, though, we justify mounting mounds of matter with the little lies we tell ourselves.

Here are 7 of the most common self-delusions I hear, along with a decent dose of reality.

1. I don’t have time

I have no doubt you’re time-poor – nearly everyone today is.

But how much time do you lose each day to:

  • feeling frustrated
  • shopping for things you already have, but can’t find
  • feeling bad about your home and inventing excuses to stop people coming over
  • searching the rubble for papers, sunglasses, your youngest child
  • being unproductive because your office is a mess

Think about all the time you lose over a year. You could gain more than that back with just a little daily decluttering.

Take 10 minutes to get rid of stuff you’ve been hoarding today. Don’t be surprised if you gain 30 or more minutes in productivity right away.

2. It will be awful, horrible, painful; did I mention awful?

The pain of taking action is over quickly, but the pain of living in clutter can be yours to love and cherish for the rest of your life.

The truth is, the anticipation of decluttering is far, far worse that the decluttering itself.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at these comments from people who, like you, dreaded the deed. They sound happy, don’t they? Hmmm…

3. It’s too hard

If you’re talking about organizing your entire home, car, and office all at once then yes, it is. You wouldn’t catch me doing it, no matter how much chocolate you offered me. (Just how much chocolate are we talking about?)

Don’t even try to organize everything or tackle a lifetime of hoarding all at once. Start with something small – a drawer, a paper pile, a mound that’s starting to evolve its own ecosystem. Do a little each day. It might take you a month, or three months, or a year. But it won’t be too hard at all.

4. I’ll do it later

Um, no you won’t. You know it, I know it, your husband/wife/best friend knows it. Let’s move on.

5. I like it this way

If I had a dollar for every But-I’m-happy-this-way person who, after finally getting rid of things they’d been hoarding, admitted they’d been kidding themselves big time – well, I’d have a lot of dollars.

This is the mother of all clutter self-delusions. Bust yourself on it, start releasing things that don’t enhance your life, and enjoy denial-free happiness.

6. It’s not that bad

It could be worse, that’s true. But please, dear reader, don’t choose that as a yardstick for your life.

If excessive stuff is costing you serious time, money and peace of mind, it is that bad. Start letting go of things you don’t need or love today.

7. I can keep it if I want

This is a completely reasonable assertion – if you’re 4. Otherwise, a more helpful one might be ‘I can be happy and feel good about my space if I want’.

Yes, you certainly can – and all it will take is big dose of reality and a little time most days to chip away at your clutter.

Be happy and feel good about your space. That’s my wish for you.

Your say

What lies have you been telling yourself to justify hoarding stuff that doesn’t enhance your life? And are you ready to bust yourself on it? Share your story in the comments.

[Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/62904109@N00/ / CC BY 2.0]

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@Steve, there is professional help available. I suggest you talk to your medical professional for a referral. It’s not an easy thing to deal with. Good luck my friend!

steve says:

Whis is all great , but what do you do when you live with a MAJOR HOARDER ?
One who fills every available space with junk, has junk in storage and won’t or can’t throw out or give away anything ! I need help !!! If you care about someone you can’t just throw them out of your house,..is there ANY professional help available?

@Bev: You’re a wise woman to realize your partner’s habits today come from a difficult past. Is it something you could talk to him about, in a way that makes him feel safe to explore the possibility of change?

For instance, something like:
“I understand that it’s hard for you to let go of things, and I think I get why. I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to help you feel OK about letting go of some things. It would be wonderful to have more space and enjoy our home more as a family…”

Starting a conversation without sounding like you’re accusing or criticizing might open up some possibilities. Good luck! M :)

Bev says:

My partner comes from lack. He was very poor as a child. Today, this manifests in his keeping obsolete computers, broken TV’s, white goods, broken things he never gets around to fixing and also he passively takes stuff his friends give him. We have four rusting hulks of cars on the property. It’s almost like he’s barricading us all in. Some places in the house (I won’t call it a home) is like an obstacle course. He knows it drives me mad but he chooses to live in squalor. Problem is, his family has to live in this hovel with him. He’s so selfish. He gets angry if I try to clean or tidy it. I’m a house-proud woman and it embarrasses me and consequently, we hardly ever have people over. I think that’s his plan.

Chris Grasse says:

It took me forever to get into the “letting go” mindset. But you know, when you give away things you are not using, your generosity in so doing is an indication of your gratitude for all the blessings you have in your life. The giving away is a way of saying Thank You. It creates posiive karma.

Letting go of things… you have to sit down and think it through. Sometimes, all you need is sufficient motivation. I was giving away a load of VHS tapes on our local Freecycle. Someone came and picked them up. Then someone contacted me on behalf of his wife, who was about to undergo surgery for cancer she had, and he said having some movies would make the time pass quicker during her healing time back home afterward. Well, talk about motivation! I went back into my movies and found over eighty of them which I neatly packed into four large bags, twenty to each bag. He was overjoyed to be able to help his wife this way and I was delighted to let go of more movies for such a worthwhile cause and help with such gesture of caring… to improve her quality of life during the healing process. So sometimes, the right motivation will help you let go more easily. We caretake all our stuff, and for me, if I can find someone who will take good care of what I want to give away, I can let go of it much, much easier – and quicker. I was able to dive into my LPs from the 60s and 70s and come up with about 150 of them to give away, and the person I gave them to clearly went through them – but I have to laugh. I was down at our local Goodwill store, one day later, here in South Portland, Maine, and guess what I spotted – ? My own former recordings, all priced and people going through them grabbing armloads of them to bring to the front of the store to ring up and take home with them. Talk about a win/win situation. He had been very thoughtful and brought what he did not want for himself to Goodwill so others could go through them.

So Good Luck, everyone, with the art of letting go. It seems like it’s about the clutter and things, but it is really about being able to let go of all those things you aren’t using anyway, of finding worthy destinations and moving everything forward out of your life and back into the world again.

Nothing bad will happen to you when you give things away. I was waiting for it to happen, and then I broke out laughing out loud because the only thing that happened was I felt a million times better, free of all that stuff that had been just sitting and sitting all those years. You feel so proud of yourself when you truly let go. It is very healing to the psyche. Trust me.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope I have helped you to let go a little easier. Submitted by Chris Grasse in South Portland, Maine, U.S.A. on 9 March 2010.

Chris Grasse says:

It took me forever to get into the “letting go” mindset. But you know, when you give away things you are not using, your generosity in so doing is an indication of your gratitude for all the blessings you have in your life. The giving away is a way of saying Thank You. It creates posiive karma.

Letting go of things… you have to sit down and think it through. Sometimes, all you need is sufficient motivation. I was giving away a load of VHS tapes on our local Freecycle. Someone came and picked them up. Then someone contacted me on behalf of his wife, who was about to undergo surgery for cancer she had, and he said having some movies would make the time pass quicker during her healing time back home afterward. Well, talk about motivation! I went back into my movies and found over eighty of them which I neatly packed into four large bags, twenty to each bag. He was overjoyed to be able to help his wife this way and I was delighted to let go of more movies for such a worthwhile cause and help with such gesture of caring… to improve her quality of life during the healing process. So sometimes, the right motivation will help you let go more easily. We caretake all our stuff, and for me, if I can find someone who will take good care of what I want to give away, I can let go of it much, much easier – and quicker. I was able to dive into my LPs from the 60s and 70s and come up with about 150 of them to give away, and the person I gave them to clearly went through them – but I have to laugh. I was down at our local Goodwill store, one day later, here in South Portland, Maine, and guess what I spotted – ? My own former recordings, all priced and people going through them grabbing armloads of them to bring to the front of the store to ring up and take home with them. Talk about a win/win situation. He had been very thoughtful and brought what he did not want for himself to Goodwill so others could go through them.

So Good Luck, everyone, with the art of letting go. It seems like it’s about the clutter and things, but it is really about being able to let go of all those things you aren’t using anyway, of finding worthy destinations and moving everything forward out of your life and back into the world again.

Nothing bad will happen to you when you give things away. I was waiting for it to happen, and then I broke out laughing out loud because the only thing that happened was I felt a million times better, free of all that stuff that had been just sitting and sitting all those years. You feel so proud of yourself when you truly let go. It is very healing to the psyche. Trust me.

Thank you for reading my post and I hope I have helped you to let go a little easier. Submitted by Chris Grasse in South Portland, Maine, U.S.A. on 9 March 2010.

Kathryn Brooke says:

Wow, some really great comments and ideas here! I’m a contrast, because the things I use all the time are really well organised, but my clutter comes from things I think I might need or want to use in the future. Truth is, I don’t often need or want most of it, but I do sometimes find that I need that thing I just made myself get rid of after years of saving it! Or Simon will say, “If only I had….” and I say, “But I’m sure I do….” And instead of getting rid of all my little scraps of fabric, wadding, card, embroidery thread and knitting wool and other crafty stuff, I’ve started doing a better job of organising it, which makes me more likely to use it, as well.

Kathryn Brooke says:

Wow, some really great comments and ideas here! I’m a contrast, because the things I use all the time are really well organised, but my clutter comes from things I think I might need or want to use in the future. Truth is, I don’t often need or want most of it, but I do sometimes find that I need that thing I just made myself get rid of after years of saving it! Or Simon will say, “If only I had….” and I say, “But I’m sure I do….” And instead of getting rid of all my little scraps of fabric, wadding, card, embroidery thread and knitting wool and other crafty stuff, I’ve started doing a better job of organising it, which makes me more likely to use it, as well.

Donna NaQuin says:

Stephanie
Your idea about the quilt is awesome. My mom did that for all us grandchildren with my grandmothers dresses we saw her wear all the time. She gave each 1 of us one @ Easter. Sat us down gave each of us a pkg. had us open it all @ the same time.
It was VERY emotional and very loving of my mom.

RT @mylovablelabels: RT @ConfidentMom: RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

RT @mylovablelabels: RT @ConfidentMom: RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

Great post Michele! I love your “don’t hold back” approach.

There is often an emotional component when we hold on to things. If you find that you are keeping items and don’t know why, take time to sit back and really ask yourself what the items or memories mean to you. Often, once we figure out our emotional ties to an item it is often easier to let go.

Also, another alternative for @JoeTaxpayer and all of the TShirts — If you find that as you go through them you cannot get rid of specific shirts, find someone that quilts and turn your absolute favorites into a quilt. You use the items in a new way, it is a conversation piece and they are not collecting dust in the basement.

To your success!
Stephanie
Productive & Organized – We’ll help you find your way! ™

Great post Michele! I love your “don’t hold back” approach.

There is often an emotional component when we hold on to things. If you find that you are keeping items and don’t know why, take time to sit back and really ask yourself what the items or memories mean to you. Often, once we figure out our emotional ties to an item it is often easier to let go.

Also, another alternative for @JoeTaxpayer and all of the TShirts — If you find that as you go through them you cannot get rid of specific shirts, find someone that quilts and turn your absolute favorites into a quilt. You use the items in a new way, it is a conversation piece and they are not collecting dust in the basement.

To your success!
Stephanie
Productive & Organized – We’ll help you find your way! ™

RT @ConfidentMom: RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

RT @ConfidentMom: RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

Susan Heid says:

RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

Susan Heid says:

RT @micheleconnolly Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bt.io/Inj

@JoeTaxpayer,

Your 7 yo sounds like a real treasure!
Keep that little voice in your head when you’re wondering whether to hold on to stuff you don’t need or love.

M :-)

@JoeTaxpayer,

Your 7 yo sounds like a real treasure!
Keep that little voice in your head when you’re wondering whether to hold on to stuff you don’t need or love.

M :-)

★New Post★ Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bit.ly/18XGO3

★New Post★ Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter http://bit.ly/18XGO3

Lisa says:

My sister is hoarding and I believe that she is psychologically ill. She cannot get rid of stuff that belongs to her childhood and that are broken. It is very depressive to see. I have stopped visiting her because there is no place to sit and have a good time. It saddens me a lot.

Lisa says:

My sister is hoarding and I believe that she is psychologically ill. She cannot get rid of stuff that belongs to her childhood and that are broken. It is very depressive to see. I have stopped visiting her because there is no place to sit and have a good time. It saddens me a lot.

JoeTaxpayer says:

Holly, your idea is great.
I am in my 40′s, and have t-shirts that have sentimental value to me, but they don’t fit after 25 years. Boxes of shirts are now a few MBs of memory as digital snapshots on my Mac. I’m slowly going through boxes of stuff and reducing the mess.
2 old computers I loved? Well, if they can’t even browse at good speed, why am I keeping them? Out they go. Along with all the peripherals that only work with them. Remember SCSI? It was before USB and Firewire. A 3GB drive? The drive uses more power every month than the memory is even worth. Out it goes.
After seeing the stuff her grandparents accumulated and helping to throw things out after her gramps died, my (then) 7 year old told me “dad, please clean up that mess in the basement, Mom and I don’t want to have to throw it all out when you die.” hmmm…..

JoeTaxpayer says:

Holly, your idea is great.
I am in my 40′s, and have t-shirts that have sentimental value to me, but they don’t fit after 25 years. Boxes of shirts are now a few MBs of memory as digital snapshots on my Mac. I’m slowly going through boxes of stuff and reducing the mess.
2 old computers I loved? Well, if they can’t even browse at good speed, why am I keeping them? Out they go. Along with all the peripherals that only work with them. Remember SCSI? It was before USB and Firewire. A 3GB drive? The drive uses more power every month than the memory is even worth. Out it goes.
After seeing the stuff her grandparents accumulated and helping to throw things out after her gramps died, my (then) 7 year old told me “dad, please clean up that mess in the basement, Mom and I don’t want to have to throw it all out when you die.” hmmm…..

Get Organized Blog | Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter: Hoarders on Oprah Op.. http://tinyurl.com/ycjjs7q

Get Organized Blog | Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter: Hoarders on Oprah Op.. http://tinyurl.com/ycjjs7q

Holly says:

Dee,

Another thing that might be useful for your mom – take pictures or videos of things that have memories attached before giving them away. Seeing the pictures or videos can help her remember but not take up space.

Holly says:

Dee,

Another thing that might be useful for your mom – take pictures or videos of things that have memories attached before giving them away. Seeing the pictures or videos can help her remember but not take up space.

Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter – http://bit.ly/18XGO3 via @MicheleConnolly)

Hoarding: 7 Lies That Keep You Caught In Clutter – http://bit.ly/18XGO3 via @MicheleConnolly)

Dee says:

I am going though this with my mother. She is moving to a smaller home and we have been sorting through her things for months in preparation for the move. She is attached to her possessions b/c of memories and for a woman who has lost all but one of her children as well as her husband, memories are really important to her. It helps that I am not attached to many of her things, making it easier to persuade her to let go of them. The tip here is to enlist a friend to help you see your things differently. For instance, it’s time to give away the electric wok that has not been used in 5 years and how many mugs from all those vacation spots does one need?

Since my mother is from the war era, when one needed to reuse and recycle, throwing away perfectly good things is not a part of her reality. So, donating them eases the pain – knowing they will be put to use by someone else.