I had an epiphany when reading this article. I have had hoarding tendencies for as long as I can remember. Cleaning my room was fraught with guilt, shame, and terror. I had always known that some cases of hoarding were linked with OCD, but I didn’t really understand what that actually meant. This article broke it down in a way that really made it make sense to me. The OCD aspect is why so many statements about hoarders didn’t work for me. I am extremely aware, ashamed, and embarrassed of my hoarding and the ridiculous thoughts that keep me shackled to these piles of useless things. I am very good at organizing and making decisions— what paralyzes me is the thoughts that go through my head when I consider throwing something away. The broken rice steamer? The broken toaster? That’s a no brainer, right? Throw it away! Except: maybe I can fix it. I should really try to fix it. If I throw it away, I’m filling the landfill and ruining the planet. I’m wasting the hard work of the people who made it. What if I throw it away and then find some magical toaster fixing device and I will have wasted a perfectly good toaster! Let’s not even go through how I have to throw it away the right way. Yes, there is only one right way to throw things away, and getting that wrong leads to guilt, shame, anxiety, and panic.
Throwing it away means freeing myself to get a new one, but there’s so much mass consumption in the world and I don’t want to contribute to slave labor or more junk that will break in a year, forcing me to go through the same process. Going through this is why when I finally got rid of the microwave five years after it broke, I refused to buy another one. And then got one as a gift. The display broke after six months (this was in 2002 or there-abouts) and we have been using it without a display since then because it’s otherwise perfectly good.
Yes, I am overthinking it all, but that’s what OCD does. If I could just stop, I would have when I was a six-year-old hoarder, or a 12-year-old hoarder. I know now my thoughts are broken.
I don’t live in a very enlightened town, but once I move someplace a bit better, I’m going to get cognitive behavioral therapy. I do have depression, but other than the hoarding, I don’t really suffer from a lot of anxiety. I feel optimistic that if I work hard, I can fix this. Now that I understand why the normal characterizations of hoarders (lack organization skills, lack decision-making skills) didn’t apply to me, yet I am still a hoarder. Organization skills don’t apply in my case. Decision-making skills— well, I am deciding to avoid pain. If it hurts to throw something away, I’m going to keep it. It hurts MORE to throw something away than to work around the clutter of broken objects. It hurts more than not being able to have friends over. That is totally messed up.
Here’s something weird, though. Although I am a hoarder (albeit not at the tunnels-and-paths stage, and trying my hardest not to get there), I can park my car in my garage. I feel an absurd amount of pride in that. Yes, it is walled in on one side with boxes that haven’t been gone through in 13 years, but at least I can park my car in the garage.
My son is going to help me in the garage. He is not a hoarder, thank goodness. He is almost old enough to move out on his own and the idea of him never coming back because of my hoard is more terrifying to me than the idea of throwing away a toaster. I’m going to get this under control.
After my yoga, I’m going to set my UFYH timer, throw away the toaster and the rice steamer, and clean my corner of the living room. If I survive, I’m going to find something else ridiculous to get rid of tomorrow. Maybe the six bags of clothing for charity.
In fact, I am setting a goal right now to get rid of one ridiculous thing a day. If I have to come on here and list my thought process just to prove to myself how ridiculous it is, I will.