It’s called the hoarding mentality, and only in recent times has a name been given to it. The underlying cause of holding on to too many things is possibly (and mainly) the loss of control, which is essentially founded on fear.
Attitude determines environment. Whatever surrounds you right now is a manifestation of who you are or what you have become. A disorganized home clearly indicates that there is also a state of disarray within you. You can deny it, but therapists tend to agree on this matter—what is inside is reflected on the outside. And this reflects on your own external appearance, your persona or self-image.
If you find it impossible or difficult to stop your compulsive behavior to collect in an unstoppable manner, or display behavioral traits that may overstep the boundary of “normal,” it’s time to look out for warning signs.
According to Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Obsessive Compulsive and Related Disorders, Columbia University in New York, anything within the range of normal isn’t any cause for concern.
But the red flags are:
1) Thoughts that you focus on for at least an hour or more a day. Images come to mind, disrupting your normal routine, such as urges, impulses that may cause harm related to sex and violence, or unnecessary worrying over cleanliness and organizing spaces; cooking furiously until early morning.
2) Rituals or behavior you often repeat. These are different from normal habits like brushing your teeth, and are often accompanied by feelings of distress. Examples: the fear of shaking people’s hands; placing a hanky over a door knob before turning it; obsessions over certain patterns of behavior like arranging jars on the kitchen counter or a cabinet in a certain manner and becoming upset if it is out of place.
Also: checking twice or thrice for something you might have overlooked; and cleaning pots and pans, scrubbing floors or rearranging furniture until the wee hours of the morning.
3) Worrisome nature to the point of distress. When you stress over something (anything) and it disrupts your regular routine, chances are you have an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Up to 89 percent of people can harbor an intrusive thought that will compel them to do something unheard of or crazy, like standing on the roof deck of a tall building and having the urge to jump. Believe it or not, this is normal.
However, people with OCD will have recurring thoughts of the same thing. They could also be compulsions that are intense and filled with anxiety. If you have experienced symptoms of 1 to 3, do not panic. See a therapist. There are many ways to assist you through cognitive behavior therapy or medications.
Do you know that what you hold on to says a lot about your inner feelings? Can you identify yourself in any of these?
Clothes—Even if it’s circa 1970s, you still won’t let go of your white-fringed bell-bottom pants. Advice: If it isn’t a perfect fit or is outdated, throw it out.
Arguments for keeping it: The fashion might return, it’s an expensive label. This only means you are in a state of denial. Advice: Just keep the best pieces that are timeless in fashion.
School memorabilia— Apart from your class ring, diploma and school photos, you don’t need to keep the rest.This, meaning papers, dissertations, research books, etc.Get a storage box and assign it to your school memories. And if it doesn’t fit in there, throw out the rest.
Toys—You can be both a child and a parent when it comes to toys. After all, there are some grown-ups who still hold on their favorite pillow or blanket, teddy bear or doll, or miniature car collection. You are entitled to nurture your inner child—but keep the collection at a manageable number.
You need nerves of steel when dealing with your children’s toys. When was the last time they played with these toys? If they haven’t touched them for a year, then it’s time to part with them. This could be a family activity. Together you can decide which orphanage to donate the toys to.
Office stuff—This can be one big headache. Consolidate and organize. Rule of thumb:No more shopping for supplies until you have run out.
Bags and shoes—Be truthful: How many bags and shoes can you use in a year? There are people who compulsively shop and end up not using the item for a year.You say to yourself in dismay, “How come I never wore this?” Worse, “Did I buy this?” If it is still wearable, then keep it. But if your things are bursting from your cabinets, it’s purging time.
Arrange them on the floor on top of an old bedsheet so you can scan them in one glance. Then start eliminating. Give it as a hand-me-down to your younger sister, brother or best friend’s daughter.
Books and magazines—They only gather dust. Therefore, unless you have an enclosed bookshelf, get ready to have dust mites.Send the very best to your nearest public library or village library, or to a company’s book drive campaign. Keep only the most precious books.Have a separate place for them—not in your bedroom!
Cosmetics—Do you know that makeup must be replaced between six months and one year? They can accumulate mold and bacteria. So, if you want healthier skin, start removing the old stuff. If perfumes are exposed to humidity, they can discolor and develop a rancid scent.
There are second-hand items you could keep but can actually consider donating to a parish church relief center, Inquirer’s fund drive or ABS-CBN Foundation. Now is the time, as Christmas nears and relief operations are ongoing for typhoon disaster victims.
Letting go is truly the art of simplifying. If you want to lighten your load from within, you must remove excess baggage from without. Organize a garage sale. I just did, and it felt good to release many things. I kept only a few treasures—my family of stuffed bears and a few precious fans.
This week’s affirmation: “I release the excesses in my life, now and forevermore.”