My name is Petal and I am a hoarder.
I think that, deep down (very deep down), I’ve known I’ve had a hoarding problem for a while. I’ve not yet been ready to accept it or face it.
Step 1: Acknowledgement of the issues.
Acknowledging anything with a negative connotation is hard and this even goes for something as seemingly harmless as hoarding. We humans have a fragile ego, rely heavily on self-esteem, so to accept a “flaw” or a “fault” is tough. “Flaw” – an imperfection, something which damages the reputation or aesthetic of a person or object. “Fault” – broken, not good enough. Look around your room – be honest with yourself – are you a bit of a “collector” or “hoarder”? Accepting it is the first step.
Step 2: Apologise to those you’ve hurt.
You may think that your hoarding isn’t hurting anyone but it is. It is hurting the most important person of all: yourself. In extreme cases, it can pose a serious threat to your physical well-being. It is also detrimental to your mental health as well – are you relying on these inanimate objects as a crutch, to prop up your self-esteem and make you feel safe and secure?
Aside from hurting yourself, it also hurts others around you, sometimes quite literally. If I didn’t have so much stuff, the rockingchair wouldn’t keep migrating towards the centre of the room and my DH wouldn’t have tripped over it, causing his entire foot to bruise black and purple in the process. Emotionally, having so much “stuff” can cause stress. It can make it very difficult to relax. My DH wouldn’t ask me to get rid of my things but it is taking its toll on him.
Can you have friends round? Do you have to create space for them to sit? If you wanted to make them a cup of tea, do you have to play Buckaroo with the china cabinet to make sure you can extract one without the others becoming cracked or chipped?
Step 3: Take a deep breath and let it go!
It may help you to list the things you want once you’ve decluttered:
“teach yourself yoga”
“a dream home”
What’s pushed me to do this? Well we’ve found a cottage that we’d like to buy. In fact, we’re putting an offer in on Tuesday. The thing is, it really IS a cottage, with the bathroom and one bedroom up in the eaves, storage (and head room) is limited. Add to that the fact that my husband and I are going to try to start a family once we’ve moved in, and there’s a serious urgency about the mission to declutter.
“You know, we’re going to have to have a serious clear out if we go for this place,” DH said to me warily as I practically skipped back to the car after our first viewing.
“I can do it! I promise you, I’ll do it!”
He was being very sweet saying “we” when really, it’s just “me”.
Finding something you want more than you want the clutter that surrounds you is a big motivator. For me this beautiful cottage is it. There is no clutter around the cottage as it stands and it’s a peaceful and restful place yet still cosy. I don’t want to move all my “stuff”in there and ruin it.
My dad is a hoarder – he’s kept files from donkeys years ago. When mum and dad divorced and they had to sell the marital home, I was astounded to realise just how much stuff he’d accumulated over the years. But at the same time I can understand it. There’s a certain comfort to being surrounded by things, and to knowing that you’ve “got one just in case”. But when it encroaches on your enjoyment of your home and your ability to share your life with others, then there’s a problem.
The impact of finding a reward for your decluttering is huge. Just a month ago, I was seriously considering buying another bookcase. Now it’s a different story:
This isn’t a new bookcase. It’s one I already had, that used to be crammed full of books. Now, as you can see, it’s empty. Instead, books are sorted neatly into bags according to where they’re going. Some are in charity bags and there’s a whole collection of bags neatly lined up and labelled with friends’ names.
If you’re prevented from buying a dream home, in a dream location because you need somewhere to store your stuff, then I’d advise you to assess what’s truly more important: the location and lifestyle, or the creation of a museum of your own making?
Hold your goal in your mind, ask yourself, “is this book more important to me than (goal)?” Nine times out of ten, the answer will be “No.” hence my ability to strip another 50 or 60 books from my shelves.
It is hard. On the first night I didn’t sleep and had a pounding headache. I’m lucky to have such a supportive hubby – he made me stop. He said “careful, don’t do too much too soon – we’ve got time” and I was able to go back to it with renewed strength of spirit the next day.
Your body has clutter too – body clutter can be equally debilitating. If you buy extra storage for it, the problem won’t be eased – it will get worse. I’m testament to that. If you’re not confronted with the issue of your body clutter then it ceases to be a problem and you start all over again. It was like that when my size 8 jeans stopped fitting and I purchased a size 10 wardrobe. It’s OK to be size 10, don’t get me wrong, but I had the wrong mental outlook. When my size 10 clothes started to be too tight, I bought size 12 clothes. No longer uncomfortable, I had an extra inch of waistband to fill, and fill it I did. Size 14 clothes made it into my wardrobe. A few months ago, just before starting this blog, the size 14 started to protest as I put them on. Enough’s enough. I had to start taking care of myself.
Decluttering your mind, body and home is about so much more than being tidy. It’s about enjoyment and peace and freedom.
Lesson number 1: find your goal and hold on to it. It won’t alleviate the stress and pain of decluttering, but it will make it that little bit easier.