Hoarding: Buried Alive & Hoarders

Hoarding Example

Hoarding Example - This is not our house!

I’ve mentioned before that these 2 progams, Hoarders & Hoarding: Buried Alive, are guilty pleasures. I’ve downloaded all 3+ seasons of each of them.

There’s numerous patterns that emerge when watching episodes back to back like I have, and some of them are concerning when I look at my own behavior. I’m not a hoarder. I know that. Hoarding is a serious mental health issue, and certainly not something to be taken lightly.

We all have issues with letting certain things go. Whether it’s because we have attached old emotions or memories to them, someone told us we need to keep things, or we believe that we can see a use for them in some other way.

Those are some of the patterns. Every person on these shows (and myself) takes a look at certain things and build stories around them. One of the things the psychologists & therapists on the shows focus on is that memories are not IN the items. Sure, the items work as triggers to the memories, but there are other ways to access the memories.

One of the most fascinating tests the cognitive behaviorists (I think) use is to randomly pick any item (usually very inconsequential) and ask the hoarder “What if I took this out of the house right now? How would you feel?” Which is usually met with questions about “What will you do with it? Will you bring it back?” To which the answers are “I don’t know and no” and the expressions on the hoarders face is usually shock, horror and sadness. It’s a great test & question, I think.

It’s a lot like the 6 month test. If it’s been packed away in a box for more than 6 months, do you really need it? Usually not.

There are some exceptions. Most people have a lot of childhood memorabilia that they don’t want to part with. I have tons of photos, my first baby shoes, baptism cup etc. and even though these have no real value, there is sentiment attached to them. Do I pull them out and look at them? No.

In part I think I keep these for my parents. Although I’m not sure why. How would I feel if they were taken away? I probably wouldn’t feel anything much after the first 30 seconds. Or maybe I would. (NB: Chris, do not throw this stuff away.)

So, now what? Chris and I have a small storage area in the condo, and it’s full. I don’t mean entirely stuffed to the rafters, no more room. I mean there’s an aisle down the center and shelves full on each side. Some of it’s winter bedding & gear that’s stored seasonally, and some of it is bulk storage for supplies (water, paper products) and that’s fine. The rest is just stuff.

Chris (he’s wonderful) cleans this room about once a month. I have no idea how it gets to be messy again when we hardly use it, but it does. I think this weekend I need to go through my portion of this stuff and make some hard decisions using what I see on the show, and what I wrote about above, as a means of purging some of it.

I’m very good at rationalizing why I need it. Just like the hoarders are. “Oh, I could use it for this” or “It cost a lot of money and I don’t want to just throw it away” and the classic “Let’s donate/give/take it to XCY Agency” which almost never happens.

So – Saturday for a couple of hours, I’m going to go through a TON of stuff and lighten the load. That’s something they haven’t talked about. Everything we own is in our head. If you have a lot of stuff, you figuratively carry it with you all the time. If you have a messy home/workspace, that physical clutter becomes mental clutter.

Gay men can hoard.