THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HOARDING

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“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
– Lao Tzu

I don’t know where I got my constant need to purge possessions from. I know that it comes less from knowing what I wanted, than knowing what I didn’t want. Growing up, I knew that I didn’t want to live as my sister lived. The floor of her bedroom, across the hall, was piled so high with random mess that the mountain flowed downward and onto her bed. Every surface space was covered to the corner with meaningless things. Themeless collections of Avon bottles, stamps, stuffed animals, I think even coins at one point. Her door needed to be pressed firmly against the stuff, from the outside, to get it wide enough to squeeze inside. And there wasn’t an inch of visible floor-space.

My mother has the same gene. She is, however, more orderly in her accumulation. She may have 17 hammers, but they’re all together in one box. I suppose she’s saving them for when she builds something and has 16 helpers. Meanwhile, somewhere out there in the lonely streets, 16 people are going to bed tonight without any hammers.

Maybe it comes from my dad. He had a healthy detachment from things. And what he did own he took good care of. He loved his golf clubs and he loved his car – both, fittingly, symbols of freedom. But otherwise, with the bulk of the things around him, he could take it or leave it. Though, I was never as close to my father as I would have liked to be, this is one area where he and I were rather similar.

The Good Old Days
I’ve always been of the belief that in order to free up your life and make room for something new and exciting, you had to get rid of the old things and bury the past. I suspect that much of the hoarding that we hear about is an effect of clinging to “the good old days”. Times were better once, and these relics are proof. But living in the past not only keeps our future at bay, it blocks out the present. We go to the basement to work on a project, find an old box of photographs, and spend the afternoon reminiscing and neglecting the project at hand. A present moment, once rich with possibility, eliminated by a dead past.

Symbols of Poverty
Hoarding one’s possessions could also be related to fear. One day you might be hard-pressed to have to use these forgotten items again. These things, in effect, become symbols of poverty in your subconscious. The ideas that they represent occupy more space in your mind than the actual items occupy in your home. Preserving them very likely jeopardizes your chances of attaining wealth.

Some might think it’s wasteful to get rid of these things. But, this is simply muddled thought. It is more wasteful holding onto them. Maybe the items can be turned into money, or given away to someone who needs them, and can make better use of them.

For many, the acquisition of possessions represents success. These types attach their worth as human beings to this process of acquisition. They become their possessions, which leads to suffering when they find themselves unable to acquire more. Sadly, the idea that one lacks value without things leads not only to the endless pursuit of more, but also to ceaseless comparisons to the accumulations of others.

You can learn to be happy with what you have
Making the best out of one’s present situation isn’t a concession to poverty – it is cultivating a more responsible relationship to stuff. Buried near the root of the need for more stuff is discontentment with one’s current stuff. Though, when you make the discovery that you can be content with less, you will likely find that your life becomes abundant with more – more of the intangible, deeper qualities in life. More time, more space, more energy. More experiences, more solitude, more nature. More creativity, more passion, more drive. More love.

Pssst… Pass it on. Click the green button.

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3 responses to “THE PSYCHOLOGY OF HOARDING

  1. Hey there. From the looks of it, you’ve moved on to bigger and better things, but I just wanted to tell you that I dig your thoughtful writing style. And I’m still giggling over your line about the poor people going to bed without any hammers! Ah, good stuff!

    thanks! amy

    • Aw, thank you Amy!

      Bigger and better things? Well, not exactly. After relocating back to BC from Ontario in May, I felt like I had gotten “the writing” out of my system, and found it hard to drum up the necessary interest to continue with it. When I started writing about minimalism in January, I had high aspirations to monetize my blog and create a passive revenue stream blah blah blah Everett Bogue blah blah location independence.com, etc.

      Well, I found that I couldn’t retain any passion for such an endeavor. It just wasn’t me. I was more driven by the actual process of scaling down my possessions and living simply than writing about it. And, over time, I had taken it to a somewhat primal level, living currently with 3 or 4 changes of clothes, a pay-as-you-go phone, a loaded mp3 player, and hair clippers. That’s right, not even a laptop (for the time being). Nonetheless, I may post the odd thing in the future should I feel I have something worthwhile to share.

      At any rate, your lovely comment means a lot to me. And thanks to you I have discovered a great blog over at The Jackalope Report. Your beautifully written post on impermanence nearly made me wet my pupils. I’m definitely going to spend some more time there.

      Cheers,
      Marty

      • Future posts or not, I’m just glad that what you did write was still floating around on the interwebs to find. It seems like getting things out of your system (whether writing or anything else), is just part of the process of minimalism. Maybe the deeper into it you get, the less there is to endlessly discuss. Maybe that’s why Everett lost it and fell off the radar. 🙂

        Thanks for reading my post. My blog is dinky (most of the time I feel like I’m writing to myself), but knowing that it’s possible for someone like yourself to get something out of it (saline?!), well, it’s just very cool.

        Good luck on your current adventures. Way to travel crazy-light!
        amy

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