What Makes Me Qualified To Talk About Hoarding?

In my last post, we established that I am not an expert or certified in any way when it comes to hoarding. I’m not a professional organizer or someone who deals with other people’s hoarding in any way. So, what makes me qualified to write about this illness?

I’m confessing right now (as I often do) that I am a hoarder. That is my qualification. I have struggled for years to acknowledge and deal with my hoard. I’ve gone from having hundreds of stuffed animals and toys as a child to having hundreds of items I can’t even recall. I’ve gone from having floor to ceiling piles and trash everywhere to my current state of chronic messiness followed by purging endlessly. While I am attempting to go a lot more minimalist than how I’ve lived before, I am in no way “cured” of hoarding. It’s an ongoing battle.

I’ve been trying to control my hoard since 2009. That was my breaking point. I was broke, unemployed, and living in a non-functional house. I had little pathways to and from rooms. I didn’t use my kitchen much and I was constantly stepping on things. Now, my house wasn’t packed tight like what you see on any of the hoarders tv shows, but it was pretty bad. The worst part was that I had several animals living with me at the time as well and they were not in a healthy environment. I didn’t tend to have vermin luckily. I think flies were the worst of it.

Since 2009, I’ve moved countless times. I’ve been homeless living in my car. I’ve gotten on my feet as recently as August 2016. All this time my stuff has tied me down. From 2014 it’s been easier to purge. Living in the car made purging easier. I had no job but had to pay for the storage unit all of my stuff was kept. I went from a 10×10 to a 5×5. Then, things changed and a family member needed help. I moved out of my car and we moved into my current residence. I got a job eight months later and here we are. In general, I can afford most things I want. I shop often. Amazon is a great and terrible thing.

I discovered that living in a regular house with a fairly disposable income is a dangerous thing. My belongings have increased and I often lose the floor to my room. It drives me crazy. I often use excuses like the fact that the room I live in doesn’t have a closet, which is a real problem. But I also still have far too much stuff. There is still a lot of stuff I own that I never use and many things I’d like to use but don’t have room for.

Every week my goal is to purge even a few things. Buying things doesn’t help either. I justify the incoming stuff with the excuse that it’s replacing bad quality things with better quality things. This is technically true – when I remember to toss the bad quality things. A lot of things I buy are storage related. For example, I am a dvd collector. I have several thousand. I bought a dvd storage case. It holds about a thousand dvds. Ninety-nine percent of my dvds are now stored in it. There are a few that I have kept in their cases for various reasons. It’s mostly because they are collector’s editions. So, I do see this particular buy as a good investment.

There are other buys that are mostly unnecessary. These are the ones I struggle with most. I try to give myself a week to think about a purchase before committing and hitting the Buy button. Or, I’ll put the item in Amazon’s wishlist and often forget about it. That helps. Though there are still a number of things coming into the house that shouldn’t be. Thus, my hoard of possessions grows.

My ultimate goal is to have just the right amount of stuff that I’m not overwhelmed but also am not deprived of things that make my life easier and enjoyable. It’s a fine line to walk between extreme minimalism and having the right amount. I will probably never be an extreme minimalist. There are far too many of my things that I enjoy having but may not use every week (or even every month). My hobbies are a good example: model kits, crocheting, artwork, my keyboard piano…. I haven’t touched any of these things in two months but I’m not willing to get rid of them and that’s okay. They bring me enjoyment when I use them and that’s the important thing.

So what qualifies me to talk write about hoarding? The fact that I am a struggling hoarder myself. I’m not perfect. I haven’t “beat” hoarding. Every single day is a struggle. Every time I shop I must ask myself how the item I’m buying will affect me if I don’t buy it. Sometimes, I’m able to put that item back. Other times (more often than not), I still purchase that item. I’m not some person who has all of the answers. I’m still searching for the right ones for me. My only goal is to maybe accidentally pass on something that may help you as well.

Hoarding And It’s Problems

Thank you for viewing the first post here at Hoarding Freedom Blog. I had a difficult time deciding exactly where to start as I have all of these wonderful posts I’d like to share with you right away. If I did that, however, we’d run out of posts for a few weeks and that’s not any fun at all. Instead, we will begin with just this one post and have other published on a regular schedule. Or at least that’s the plan. Best laid plans… At any rate, let’s get on with it.

Hoarding is a major problem throughout the developed world. Time and again we hear of poor souls who have died in their hoarded homes not to be found for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years. Hoarding is very much a physical problem. It is also an emotional and financial problem. Not only to we limit our personal spaces by cluttering up rooms and hallways until they become impassable, but we also spend far too much money on items we don’t really need. This tends to cause strains both within ourselves and with those around us – loved ones and friends. Oftentimes, hoarders get onto the wrong side of the law as our possessions put us in danger. An impassable hallways prevents us from escaping in an emergency and piles upon piles of flammable items adds risk to fire. In an apartment building, our hoards can endanger our neighbors by providing “fire fuel” and homes to pests that often go unnoticed.

Children, husbands, wives, parents, and significant others often have to bare our hoards with us. Young children often do not bring friends home or do not allow them to see many parts of the house due to hoarding. Families may be separated during meals which limits time to bond. In many cases, only one person in a relationship is a hoarder while the other must endure the overstuffed home with anxiety and stress. The physical clutter becomes the elephant in the room; that is, if it can be found beneath all the excess stuff.

It has been my personal experience that having a messy home can cause anxiety. A family friend, who is a very marvelous person in her own right, is a hoarder and a messy house keeper. When I stayed with her during one of my times of need, I often felt badly for her struggle to find things she needed within her home. Her keys are a great example. Generally, her keys were put in a specific basket, however if she set them down to grab something before stepping out the door those keys would be swallowed up by the things around it. Every day I watched (and helped) her search frantically for the keys that were put “just there” for but a moment. Minutes were wasted searching for things that melted into piles of other stuff. Those minutes add up. They add up in time and in stress. This family friend is often late to appointments and to work because of all of the excess stuff she holds onto. I know why she hoards. I do not fault her for it. But I ache for her because of the emotional distress her things cause her. She’s a wonderful person. It’s my greatest wish that she find joy in her daily life.

This family friend isn’t the only one to suffer from added strain caused by having too much stuff in the home. I, having struggled all of my life with stuff, still cannot find my floor in my bedroom. Every day I get ready for work, I find myself moving baskets of clothing to search for underwear and socks. I trip over books that I need to find a place for. I wonder where I put my deodorant. Is it in the bathroom or the bedroom? Is it in the hallway? How the heck did it end up on top of the washer? I don’t get dressed in there! I search for my every day items far too often. Most of the time, the items are right under my nose but I cannot immediately see them due to the visual tornado of items. It took me four hours to clean my bathroom yesterday. My bathroom is roughly 4.5×9 feet. That’s 40 square feet. And it took me four hours to find the floor and counter top. Without my messy hoard, that bathroom should have taken me about thirty minutes to clean top to bottom. I wasted three and a half hours of my life digging my way through stuff I’m not even sure I need.

As you can see, one of the major problems with hoarding is that it steals your life from you. It takes your time from you. Whether we like it or not, we each have only so many minutes and then we are gone. That’s blunt, isn’t it? Sorry about that. I’m pretty blunt. So, I will never get my three and a half hours back. I mourn for these minutes. I don’t know what I would have done with them otherwise (yes I do… Probably watching Netflix and doing nothing constructive). But the point is that I could have done something else with that time.

Hoarding often brings feelings of shame and anxiety. I don’t generally bring people into my home. Part of it is because I currently live with my grandmother while I get on my feet again. Part of it is because my friends all have their own lives. And part of it is because I’m a bit ashamed of the condition of my home. I keep my bedroom and bathroom doors shut so that they cannot be seen from the other end of the hallway. I do not invite others to use my bathroom or to see my room. At 27 years old, I feel I should be able to walk proudly into my room instead of cringing every time I open the door. I know many many other hoarders feel the same way. These are emotions we shouldn’t be feeling in our own homes and if we feel them as the hoarders, imagine how our loved ones feel. Now, I’m single without children. I cannot say exactly how a significant other or a child would truly feel being stuck with my hoard. My grandmother voices her opinions and I lash out at her about the fact that she has work clothes she bought in the late 90s that she can neither fit into or use as she’s retired. My grandmother is also a hoarder. The difference between her and I is that she hides hers away and I keep mine out in the open. I’m working on my hoard and seeing it helps. She hides hers away and doesn’t think it’s a problem. That’s for my personal blog however. The point is, my stuff often causes little spats of anger from both sides.

So now we have stolen time, stress, anger, and shame. These are the problems caused by hoarding. The last thing I’ll touch base on for today is the financial problems caused by hoarding. I personally have a shopping problem. I buy things I want, many of them actually things I use now, regardless of whether I can actually afford to buy them. I do not have a credit card. That’s a godsend for me as it controls a lot of my debt. I do, however, have a debit card that I use far too often. I get a paycheck every two weeks. I’ll buy food and stuff for my pets. Then it’s a free for all. Often, by the end of the month, I’m struggling to stretch my last dollars out to pay bills. I find it difficult to pay bills first and then use some of my leftover money to buy one or two things I want. I’m always asking myself if I can pay my cell phone this month or not even though I make enough money to pay my bills in one paycheck and have plenty left over. I also have not saved a dime for my new home. At this point, I keep dooming myself to live with my grandmother forever (that sounded harsh). I keep meaning to save up for a car and my new home, but at the end of the month, I still have less than $20 in savings.

Debt and financial insecurity are what my hoarding tendencies have caused. My freedom and my future. I also realize that my stuff doesn’t even make me happy. It just sits there weighing on my mind every day. I can only wonder, is this the way your hoard makes you feel?