Wikipedia Says: “Compulsive Hoarding (or pathological hoarding) is the acquisition of and failure to use or discard such a large number of seemingly useless possessions that it causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities.”
The other day, the Today Show interviewed a woman who was a compulsive hoarder. I watched as they showed video footage of her in flip-flops walking through the mounds and pounds of junk she had that carpeted every inch of her home. She showed the camera where mold and mildew reigned supreme and even where a goat (or three) had chewed away at her walls. This wasn’t just collecting a few knick-knack paddy-wacks or saving her little girl’s macaroni necklaces. This was vile. This was superfluous. This was completely avoidable and had been hidden for years. Her co-workers had no idea she wallowed knee-deep in filth daily and called a garbage heap home.
I sat there disgusted as her secret was exposed to the world.
The next day I was thinking about Hoarder Lady and scrunched my face in disgust. That’s when it sucker punched me.
I’ve been Hoarder Lady.
I’ve been one of those people that seemed normal on the outside, but inside had clutter, junk and dirt piling up from years past. Not so long ago, I turned on the attic light of my own heart and began rooting around, shuffling boxes and ripping them open with my X-ACTO knife memory.
I had a cardboard box with “Middle School” written in bubble letters and it was pretty much filled to the brim with all things crappy. There were old cassette tapes of kids calling me names, poking fun and always reminding me that I didn’t fit in.
I found a trunk with “Dad” inscribed on the latch and in it found photographs and VHS tapes of drug-induced visits, prison sentences and weighty words about how my looks weren’t good enough.
I rummaged through a plastic bin full of postcards and ticket stubs reminding me of all the places I had visited and felt my jaw tense as I vaguely recalled places I had been taken without my consent or permission. On the other side of my heart’s attic were stacks of books filled with pages scribbled with regrets written in my own handwriting. Page after page, all written in pen so it wouldn’t easily fade or be erased.
E-manda Says: “Emotional Hoarding is the acquisition of and failure to use or discard emotions, expectations and experiences from or about one’s past, present or future which can cause significant clutter and impairment to one’s life.”
I’ve collected experiences, regrets, harsh words and guilt. I’ve avoided throwing out mistakes and broken shards of my heart. I’ve held tight to the apprehension of my future. I piled all those boxes on top of one another, keeping them ‘just in case’ and too afraid to let anyone sort through the mounds to help get rid of what I didn’t need.
In the past couple of years, I can honestly say that I don’t feel like a hoarder anymore. I feel free, open and light. There were no televised interventions or sweet-talking hosts to guide me through the de-cluttering of my inner self. I can only attribute this type of freedom to one word: forgiveness.
I’ve learned that the most powerful action I can take in my life is to forgive others and myself.
Forgiveness isn’t an option; it’s a freeing obligation.
Forgiveness isn’t always easy and it doesn’t always happen instantaneously. But the outcome, is worth the investment. A life no longer cluttered with boxes of bitterness, regret, anger and sadness leaves room for light and fresh air to move in and out of freely. It may be that we only have the strength to move one box out at a time, and that’s OK, after all, we didn’t fill up our heart’s attic overnight. But, if you feel weighted, cluttered and bound up, give it a try. I firmly believe that forgiveness is the cleansing agent of the heart, soul and mind.
What have you been hoarding/holding onto that you can honestly say is affecting you today?
Originally published on 12/2/09