While watching the hoarding shows, I recognized a familiar stress in the participants of the show when they were challenged to get rid of certain items. Sometimes, they were little things like empty cans or jars that could be recycled. Other times, it may have been something that belonged to a loved one who was no longer alive.
The person being asked to make a decision would often look like a deer caught in the headlights. You could see the fight or flight response kick into high gear. They were scared. There is no doubt that they wanted to just run and hide.
I get it. I've been there. I've felt that very thing when I've tried to make decisions about getting rid of stuff over the years. Instead of making a decision, I would just decide to make a decision later. It wasn't logical that I had such battles with myself to get rid of some of these things, but struggle I did.
For example, I really wrestled with getting rid of ketchup packets. I mean, really. Ketchup packets? It made no logical sense, but I was afraid of wasting them. I mean, it's not like the world would come to an end, if I threw them in the trash, but they were good food. Surely someone could use them, but I didn't know who, and I didn't want them taking up space in the refrigerator anymore, but I didn't know what to do with them. As silly as it sounds, I felt a responsibility to be a good steward of the condiments, and I was was terrified of making the wrong decision.
So I just didn't decide.
I didn't decide which of the girls' clothes to get rid of. I didn't decide which toys needed to go. I didn't decide which clothes I no longer needed. I didn't decide which mugs I loved and really wanted to keep.
I kept everything, so that I didn't make the wrong decision.
I remember feeling a panic in my gut when I would see someone throw a newspaper or pop can in the trash instead of putting them aside to be recycled. After all, it was irresponsible to just throw things away that had any use left in them. It was my job to save stuff like that from the landfills. I would get it to it's proper place. It was my responsibility.
Except that it wasn't.
I was miserable. I felt absolutely overwhelmed by stuff. I was carrying the weight of every single pair of pants, every shirt, every toy, every baby blanket, every newspaper, every pop can and every ketchup packet on my shoulders.
I felt mentally paralyzed.
How was I ever going to have the time to find the right home for each piece of clothing that the girls had outgrown? How would I ever find the mates to all of the socks? I couldn't just give a half a pair of socks away. They'd just be tossed in the trash. People need 2 socks. They have 2 feet. I needed to find all of them, so I could match them up and find them the proper homes.
What about the toys and puzzles? I knew that the pieces were all there for each one, but I also knew that some of the pieces were in the garage, some were in their bedroom, and some were downstairs. How was I ever going to reunite the pieces, so the toys would be complete? No child was going to want an incomplete toy, but we spent hard earned money on them, and it would be a total waste to just throw them in the trash. Right?
The more I fought to figure it all out, the more paralyzed I felt.
I knew others could see that same fear in my eyes that I saw in those who appeared on the shows.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.
You can read the start of my journey here.