Hoarding is real. And hoarding is a disease that affects all members of the family. Today we look at hoarding, compulsive spending, mental health and how to change your relationship with stuff.
“Is it possible to clean my space with obsessive-compulsive disorder? I don’t want to be a clean freak or hire a house cleaner. I just want to live in a clean house not consumed by OCD, compulsive behavior or filth.”
Listen: Hoarding: How to Change Your Relationship with Stuff
Watch: Hoarding: How to Change Your Relationship with Stuff
Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.
Question: Hoarding: How to Change Your Relationship with Stuff
“Angela, I’m wondering is there some type of mental condition that a hoarder has? Because sometimes I become so overwhelmed with shopping. Or overwhelmed with doing something or not doing something that I should be. I can’t even think myself through to the right solution or option.”
Great question. I’m not a licensed therapist, I have not been through the psychosomatics of hoarding, and so I don’t know the medical terms. But what I do know is this. There are a lot of fine people that I know who have hoarding tendencies. Maybe you’re not a full blown hoarder, but maybe you hoard certain things.
Answer: Hoarding Can Be Inherited From Family
Now, for example, I have a true confession. I come from a hoarding background. My grandparents were hoarders, my parents were hoarders. And there’s nothing wrong with the things that they hoarded.
I hoard books. My house is immaculate but I hoard books. There was one time I woke up and I realized I had over 10,000 books in my personal library.
I’ve always been an avid reader and I love books. But I realized with the advent of Kindle, I don’t need 10,000 books. Even though I paid good money for them. So, I changed my view on why I had those books.
Change Your Stance on Hoarding
Now, as a hoarder, you can do this, too. You can ask yourself why do you have these tendencies? Where did this come from? It may come from something innocent. Like maybe your parents didn’t have enough of something when you were growing up.
Or maybe they stored things and saved things and hung on to things.
This way they could reuse those or get the most value out of them or whatever. And you have brought those values with you into your adult life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just a state of mind.
Don’t Think if Hoarding as Being a Failure
Don’t think “Oh my gosh, I’m a hoarder. My life is shameful. I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate.” Don’t beat yourself up.
Just pick one item and change how you interact with it. For me, it was my books. I said, “Okay, I don’t need 10,000 books.” Some of them I’ve read and I love those books, and so I hung onto those books. Those go in my reference library. All the rest of them, I rated on a scale of 1 to 10. If it’s not a 9 or a 10, it goes in the other pile.
The other pile, I put labels on the inside of the books, they said: “Hey, this is a complimentary book from Angela Oberer.” (Oberer is my married name.) “Enjoy this book or pass it on to a friend.”
Stop Hoarding. Sell, Trash or Donate Your One Thing
What I did is every time I go church, there’s a little bookshelf out in the front of the church and I would take books from home. They were like self-help books or books on families or books on getting along with people. I would take those books and I would leave them at the church.
Then I would go to the gym in the morning and there’s also a bookshelf at my gym where people can share and borrow books. I donated a bunch of books to my gym. So, every morning when I would go to the gym, I would take stacks of books.
Again, these are all self-help books. Or books on how to better yourself, or books on ways to make your life easier, or declutter your home, or whatever.
Where Do People Who Use This Item Hang Out?
Then every time that I would go to a coffee shop, I would take a couple of books. I would slip them in there and I would leave them on the table for other readers to drop by as they were having a cup of coffee.
I started leaving books all around. Giving myself permission to toss or donate the books was freeing. Then what happened is I started running into people and they’re like, “Oh my goodness. You’re the person that gave me the book.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. Thanks. I glad you got some good use out of it.”
The good news is this. You can start with one item and start giving it away. As you give it away, you’re freeing up space in your life.
To Stop Hoarding: Change The Way You Spend
Now, for me, I had a tendency to buy cheap things. I love cheap things. And discounts. I love bargains. I love deals. A lot of hoarders do as well.
When you go into a store and you see cheap stuff, walk away. True confession, one time I bought six pairs of water shoes. Okay, we all need a good pair of water shoes for the beach because we all go to the beach all the time, right? So, when they are on sale for $2 a pair, we need to buy six pairs of those water shoes, right? They’re in our size and they’re only $2 a piece. Because we spend so much time at the beach, not, we need six pairs, right? Not.
I Got a Great Deal On Something I Didn’t Need or Want = Hoarding
Okay, so I ended up with six pairs of water shoes that have now lasted me over 20 years. Because they never wear out because I never go to the beach. But I saved these six pairs of shoes for this reason. It was a symbol to me that I had a problem. I realized that “Wait a second, I bought these because they were on sale. I don’t need water shoes. And I don’t use the water shoes. So, unless I’m running through the sprinkler in my yard and I need a quick pair of water shoes for some strange reason, I don’t use them.” For me, I had to change the way that I think. I voluntarily removed my need to store stuff. And I made Walmart my new storage unit. Here’s how it works.
Make Up a Story of Absurdities to Stop Hoarding
Walmart stores all my stuff. I own all the stuff at Walmart. (Not really, but in my story of absurdities.) I own all the stuff at Walmart, and it’s my storage unit. And Walmart pays people to display everything for me.
Without buying anything, I can go and I can walk up and down all the aisles, and I can look at all the stuff that I own. (Not really. I don’t really own it. I’m just pretending here.) I don’t have to move anything around. I don’t have to trip over anything. Or, pick anything up. I don’t have to pay taxes on the storage unit. There’s no cost to me whatsoever. What a bargain.
Only, only when I take something out of the storage unit do I pay the price. Oh, wow, I don’t have to warehouse all that stuff myself. Walmart does that for me. I can go, and there are times, believe it or not, I’ve gone into Walmart, I’ve gone up and down all the aisles and I’ve walked out with nothing but one thing.
Hoarding is Buying Baskets of Stuff When You Need One Thing
It’s not a basket of things. It’s not six pairs of shoes that are on sale for $2 a piece. Even if they are on sale, and they’re only $2 a piece, when I need them, or when I’m going to the beach, then I will buy that one item. I will pay the fee for it at that time and I will take that one item home.
My absurd story changed the way that I shop. It changed the way that I bargain shop. It changed the way that I started thinking about my stuff.
As a house cleaner, I think about stuff in terms of dust. I must dust everything. If I have clothes, that means I need to hang them up and there must be closet space.
Don’t Accept Hoarding as Your Way of Life
As you start thinking of things in a different way, you’re changing your relationship to stuff.
I used to save these plastic containers that prepackaged food would come in. I saved them and rinsed them out and kept them because they had nice plastic snap-on lids. They were great for air-tight food storage or refrigeration and freezing. But after I got like 200 of these little tubs, I was like, “holy cow. What am I doing with 200 empty tubs?” I’m not going to use these 200 tubs. I ended up donating them all and saying, “Okay, now no more tubs.” I also got rid of prepackaged food that I don’t eat anymore. But it changed my thinking and my relationship to the stuff.
Just Start with One Item, Then Two
So, pick one item at a time. It might be kitchen storage containers, and it might be water shoes, and it might be books. I don’t know what it is for you, but like I say, there are some really fine people who have some hoarding tendencies, and they may only hoard one or two things.
But if hoarding is consuming your life and you can’t function because you can’t find anything, then there’s a problem.
There Are Inexpensive Resources To Change Your Hoarding Beliefs
If that’s you, now’s a time to pick up a good book or two on hoarding. Don’t do anything until you’ve read through it and you’ve implemented the things that are inside that book because there is a cure.
There’s a cure for hoarding. Once you find the cure for you, and once you start changing your relationship to things, it frees up this huge load of junk and weight. So, make today be the day for you just to change your relationship with stuff.