Confessions of a Hoarder

Compulsive hoarding seems to be the newest intervention/reality TV buzz topic recently. Apparently some people are tired of watching Top Celebrity Designing Jersey Housewives.

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

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10 Comments

  1. This post is more compelling than a Billy Graham alter call. Thank you for articulating this inner turmoil so perfectly. I have gotten rid of some things in my attic, but the deep offenses seem so much more valuble, like antiques… they might be worth more if I hold on to them long enough.
    I have decided to call the trash-man. I don't want to emotioally hoard any longer. no yard sales or giving it back to someone…nope, I say back the truck up! take it to the dump! I'am re-decorating the whole house with love and forgivness, with plenty of grace. Thank you for letting us look in your attic,giving me the courage to re-do mine!

  2. Wow. Thank you for such a compliment and for sharing your heart.

    I love your line "…but the deep offenses seem so much more valuable, like antiques…they might be worth more if I hold on to them long enough." That's powerful and I would say that I have done the same…except I didn't articulate as well as you did.

    I like your redecorating style! Please continue to share as you move forward on your journey.

    Amanda

  3. This was a heart tugger for sure! I think when I read stuff like this it really reminds me that I'm not the only one in so much pain, that others feel and hurt the same way I do. As much as I tell myself I've forgiven, I TRULY believe that some days it's a daily choice to hand it back over to God and let him help me take care of the trash and choose my reactions. Otherwise, I would slip up and collect a little more "rubbage" to pile on. It's so funny, because in my outside life, I HATE clutter. I clean once or twice a year and get rid of ANYTHING that gets in the way – but here, in my heart, I'm not the same way. I think the feeling of being free would be amazing. Thanks for reminding me to forgive, and make it a daily choice to choose God's grace!

  4. Hi there,

    You are so right! It is a decision and I myself had to DAILY forgive someone for their actions against me. It didn't come overnight and it wasn't easy AT ALL. But, to not live with that hurt and anger junking up my heart…was so worth it.

    And like you said…you are not alone. One of the most harmful and isolating things we can believe is that we are alone or the only ones that are struggling with something.

    I'm a big advocate of community!

    Thank you for sharing!
    Amanda

  5. I was just emailed personally a comment from a reader and I had to share it. Such a great perspective…

    "I think we are always moving towards something. I would dare say that this movement might be an expression of the omnipresence of God buried in our ‘God-image’. We can't be everywhere like the Image Maker, so God gives us movement and space. Isolation and clutter are expressions of the image. Of God, we say He is emminent and transcendent. Of us we say ‘here and there’ or ‘isolated and cluttered’. One description that does not express His image is ‘empty’. In one of those odd stories of Jesus’, He tells His disciples that when a demon is expelled from the soul that it will return in greater numbers and severity if it finds the soul in a worse state – empty. As nature feels compelled to fill the vacuums of space, so too I seem to yearn for ‘ful’ ‘fill’ ‘ment’. Fulfillment – that state of being full. Unfortunately, the filling-full-ment of my life is usually junk. But I have realized that this magnetic pull and push is a God-in-me design. It is my choice, no, my responsibility to open myself to the Clutter of God. I am an earthen jar. I am design to be filled. I called to filling-full-ment. With what? Paul tells us: “that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26–27"

  6. Thirteen days later…I have come back to read your post again, like for the nineteenth time. I think I will print it off, frame it, and place it in a very prominent place in my home.
    As I wrote in an earlier comment, I have "backed the truck up" and "cleaned the house"!!!
    I really have! It is so freeing. However, some of those aware of my antique collection and enjoyed admiring them with me were quite upset that I no longer collect them. They could not believe that I would just get rid of somethings so valuble with out calling them first! I have let them know…its not my style any more, antiques are over rated. They are not worth the space they take up for no more satisfation than they bring!
    Did I mention I am re-decorating? It has been so liberating! However, this past week as I was enjoying the fresh, bright, uncluttered joy in my (new to me) abode, and along came a antique dealer, trying to sell me the same old bill of goods. I said, look here mister, I am not into antiques any more and I never will be, "so don't bother stoppin' cause I am not buyin'!
    I have had other peddlers stop by trying to sell cheap imatations of the real thing,retro,shabby chic,eclectic… but I refuse to clutter my new living area. I am finding that love goes well with just about everything. Forgivness is a must. Accented with the flair of mercy and the soft touch of grace. Adorning the room with warmth and a great sense of style. This is my new home, I love living here.
    Thank you Amanda. You have an amazing "gift" of writting. Keep wrapping up these treasures and giving them away as you have. I pray each word comes back to you in the shape of blessing beyond anything you could ever imagine!

  7. Wow. Thank you so much. I'm blown away by your generosity of words and your action for change.

    You just changed a life.

    Thank you…

  8. I really thought I was alone in emotional hoarding so it was nice to hear someone else talk about it. Forgiving someone is truly one of the hardest things to do when you are a hoarder and that is very hard to explain to others that are not.

  9. Thanks for reading and for writing your comment.

    Forgiveness can be extremely hard. It's the subject of what I'm currently writing about. What do you think is stopping you from forgiving the most?

    I'd love to hear more from you.
    E-manda

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