Hoarders: It’s More Than A TV Show

“It’s really a blessing… to let go.”

Am I the only one who loves the A&E show Hoarders?

Surely not, or they wouldn’t have such great ratings! I don’t know if it’s the wonderful extreme cleaning specialist Matt Paxton, or the soft-spoken ways of Dr. Zasio, or the bubbly and sweet energy of Dorothy Brenenger, but I just can’t get enough.

Which is really odd, since I essentially despise hoarding (not the hoarders, just the hoards!) in every way. I actually grew up in a hoarded home (though thankfully, it wasn’t the super dirty kind, just the super cluttered, cant-walk-anywhere kind).

For me, I think it’s the beauty of seeing a situation that’s so far gone it seems hopeless come back and take everyone by surprise with how lovely it can become in the end.

A lot (usually a lot, a lot) of cleaning, organizing, therapy, and enough 1-800-Got-Junk trucks and guys, and an unlivable, unsanitary, hoarded mess can become a livable, healthy, inviting home for the former hoarder and their entire family. It really is something special.

Yet past all the entertainment and drama, there is one universal truth I keep coming back to when watching these stories: though many end with happiness and positive results, in the beginning they can all simply be paired down to one word: heartbreaking.

Beyond the animal feces and unusable bathrooms and stoves that can’t be cooked on are broken individuals with fractured relationships with those who mean the most. Whether it is abuse, dysfunction, death, or fear, these sweet, often sad people live in a created world that only has one goal: to protect them from their pain.

Why does hoarding hold such a grip on so many of us? The reach is farther than we may realize— truly, it affects not only our family members and friends, but our neighbors and community as well.

If you struggle with hoarding, know you are among millions of others who struggle, and you are not alone.

The great news is it is highly manageable with proper treatment and changes, many of which you can start making right now.

Understanding The Tendency To Hoard:

Hoarding is really a physical symptom of an emotional component or condition. Sometimes it is a matter of being triggered by a trauma. It may be a genetic gene or a learned behavior. It might be an attempt to relive a lost childhood or to revert back to when things seemed simpler, before the tragedies of the world came crashing in.

It could even stem from a shopping addiction, a form of self-therapy that exhibits itself in the form of a “deal high” when we find a bargain or yard sale that’s just too good to pass up.

Perhaps it is your escape from reality into a world where the things you love don’t judge you and will never, ever leave . Unlike people, objects don’t abandon, don’t leave, and don’t die.

Most likely, the result of a hoard is a combination of them all. Hoarding seems so safe and harmless compared to the other forms of addiction, like alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse, overeating, and more.

What’s a little retail therapy going to hurt, right? This might be our initial reaction, but truly, hoarding can do so much damage to ourselves, our loved ones, our finances, and our homes that can be irreparable if left untouched for too long.

It can strain our relationships, our wallets, and our sanity. Worst of all, it can rob us of the joy of having items that are truly valuable and cherished in our homes.

So… Where To Begin?

The first step in changing is realizing you need to. So if you have now accepted that maybe you are a hoarder, you may be thinking… where in the world do I begin?

Let’s make it simple! The items that made the list below should be (relatively) easy to say goodbye to and get you started on the path to a new start.

Dwindling Down The Hoard:

1. Trash

Why do we sometimes keep something as literally useless as trash? I believe some of it can be traced back to laziness (“Ill do it later” syndrome) and some of it goes back to innovativeness (“I might be able to use that plastic bag someday!”)

The truth is that no piece of trash will ever be as useful to us as hoarding is detrimental to us.

So anything empty that you are not currently using or that has no purpose needs to go! Old filled trash bags, empty shampoo bottles, used razor blades, boxes from a move long ago, etc. This is a simple step in the right direction (and the right smell!)

2. Expired Items

It can be hard when the items still “look” new and useable, but we must realize that some items simply do not stay good forever.

Clothing, food items, linens, pillows, blankets, makeup and hair products, and medicine, among others, are affected by expiration dates. If the date says it’s time to let it go, let it go. It’s healthy in every way.

3. Duplicates

You only need so many of any given item, no matter how useful it may be, and that is the truth.

No one needs more nail polish than they could use in a lifetime or more pens than they could ever go through. Just because an item is useful to someone, and even useful to you in perspective, doesn’t mean you need so many of them that they no longer serve a use.

For example, it might be wonderful to have an umbrella in the car and one in the house, but you don’t need four in the car and six in the house. You certainly don’t need more clothes than you can wear in a month (there are these neat new inventions called washing machines)!

As great as something may be, only buy the amount you truly need and use and give the rest away to a better home!

4. Items Owned Over 6 Months & Never Used

Oh, the path of good intentions. How often we like to travel down it’s winding, deceiving road. How often do we buy something just knowing we will use it… and never, ever do? Cut your losses now before it steals any more of your time, money, energy, or resources.

Let it go and let someone else use it. Don’t let it steal your space or your sanity.

5. Items That Do Not Fit Any Longer

If an item of clothing doesn’t make you feel confident and beautiful, let it go immediately. “Well, one day, when I lose weight, I’ll wear it again!” Have you ever said it? So many of us have. But the truth is, many of us never lose that weight and for those who do, they usually would like a new wardrobe that fits their current body and is from, you know, this century style wise.

As much as we all love the 80’s shoulder pads, it’s time they were laid to rest (seriously, please)! Besides, clothes that sit and sit and never get used get mothballs and just smell weird. Do you really want to have to worry with that?

Give them to a better home now while they are still useable and be a blessing to someone else.

6. Items That Do Not Function Any Longer

Much like the “items that no longer fit” category, this one is the version for everything that is not clothing related. That VHS player you have from 1994 with a copy of Aladdin still stuck inside? Probably time to go.

The cover for the hot tub that stopped working in 2006? I’m gonna say let that one find a new home. The lawn mower that has a stick stuck inside its main compartment and has already had three guys try to pull it out? Yep.

Some things we love and don’t want to let go of, but it’s time. It’s really, really time.

7. Contaminated Items

This one is pretty straightforward. If it is contaminated (badly stained, poisoned, or polluted in any way), it is simply time to say goodbye. I mean, let’s be honest… is there anything that could possibly be more disgusting than holding on to something like that?

8. Items That Are Unfixable (Or Not Worth The Time, Money, & Effort They Take To Fix)

Ask yourself, “If I had to pay money to keep this right now, would I?”

Because with your time (which is worth more than money), effort, energy, life, space, and emotions- it is costing you to keep it.

9. Huge Unused Items

That never-once-played antique piano that can’t be seen due to the pile of laundry that is always on top of it (not to mention that you don’t play piano)? Time to go. That huge, 1990’s floor TV you once watched the Super Bowl on with your buddies and never touched again? Taking up way too much real estate.

That broken, rusting car mounted on blocks in the backyard that one day (a first cousin to “someday”), you will have the time, energy, and money to fix up?

Send it to the junkyard and reclaim the enjoyment and beauty of your yard once again!

10. Items That Are Not Currently Useful, Beautiful, Or Monumental
What is a monumental item exactly? It is any item that stems from an important moment in life. For example, a high school diploma would be a very monumental item. But those 29 plastic containers you have that you can’t find the lids for? Those don’t exactly make the list.

Remember: no one wants to steal your memories. Rather, let’s honor them appropriately and recognize them as the monumental items that they are and display the ones that really matter. The rest can be let go.

The #1 thing to remember when clearing out a hoard is this: embrace your life. Don’t let it be crowded out by the things that can’t love you back. Take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and in time, you’ll get there. You really will. And I’ll be here to help you.

Until next time, lifers.






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