The beginning of a new year causes us to pause and reflect on improvements we can make in our lives. As we toast 2012, many of us make resolutions to get organized. For some this means straightening out a few closets. For others it’s emerging from the gallows of severe clutter. Today’s lifestyle lends itself to accumulation. Materialistic societies place emphasis on things rather than people. Proof lies under Christmas trees as materialism is passed onto our youth. We watch commercials and are falsely convinced material things will bring us joy, comfort, and security on our quest for happiness. It is a blessing to have our basic life necessities met, but having too many things has a negative effect such as hoarding.
The world of hoarding is a dark and lonely place. Hoarders feel ashamed and find it difficult to reach out for help or remain in denial. Those with a propensity toward pathological collecting have suffered through trauma and feel a lack of control. They develop strong emotional attachments to things considered “trash”. Many times the accumulator feels unhappy yet refuses to accept help when encouraged by well meaning family members due to fear, sadness, denial or shame. Something as simple as a disposable plastic cup is difficult to discard. Objects take over as hoarders mentally and emotionally assign value to things that are truly worthless. You may have heard the expression “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In hoarding, junk is a treasure. It is a sensitive subject which needs understanding and compassion. Many people who accumulate feel overwhelmed and depressed. It has negative impact on social life due to fear of embarrassment and rejection. It is commonly a root of family problems. Some hoarders keep their life a secret, allowing only selective people into their home.
Entering the home of a hoarder is shocking to those who live in maintained homes. Piles of clutter are usually found throughout the home. Hallways become narrow due to clutter as bedrooms and even beds are piled high with things. Narrow passages may cause one to trip or fall and present an extreme fire hazard. Many hoarders don’t sleep in their own beds once clutter overcomes the bedroom. A number use their showers for storage and can’t bathe and can’t cook dinner because the counters, sink and oven are filled. When clutter is severe, it is hard for a hoarder to differentiate trash and cleaning becomes a monumental task. They often re-buy things they can’t find and create more accumulation. A severely cluttered home is an economic and sanitary burden. Many homes have mice and bugs. Hoarding doesn’t occur overnight and needs patience and courage to correct. It’s best to begin with the help of a qualified therapist and the assistance of a well educated professional organizer. A therapist will work with the emotional aspects of hoarding and an organizer will deal with the stuff.
Organizing is like learning to walk. Take baby steps by starting with small areas first. Getting rid of clutter is exhausting and emotional, so it’s best to go at a comfortable pace established by the organizer. You’ll learn storage techniques and how to evaluate an objects worth to determine what stays and goes. Once clutter is gone and things are stored properly, locating items becomes easy. The New Year offers an opportunity for change. Since hoarding is detrimental to health and well being, let go of the guilt and shame and seek help immediately. Don’t let clutter be a roadblock to happiness and health. With proper guidance, hoarding tendencies can be corrected and quality of life can be greatly improved.