Monday, April 9, 2012

Obsessed with Hoarders

I'm a little obsessed with the show Hoarders.  It's kind of cathartic for me.  I've had to deal with a few friends and family members who I would say are hoarders or at least have characteristics of hoarding.  I had a friend who saved tags off clothing who couldn't seem to get herself organized enough to keep her children in a clean/safe environment.  I admit that I struggle too, but she also had two older children and one toddler.  I have a three month old and a two year old.  My struggle lies in keeping what I've worked on clean for an hour.  Her's was more than that.  I've had family members who when I helped clean would look through the trash and save half used notebooks because in their mind it was still useful (even though in my mind I know Walmart sells them for a dollar during the back-to-school sales).

I think it has to do with several things in each of their cases.  My friend is a perfectionist.  If it can't be perfectly done, she can't even start.  She gets locked up so to speak.  It's not about the stuff per se.  My family is from the south and it's normal that people who grew up with little tend to get fixated on saving as a habit even though they aren't in financial straits now.  One of my mom's friends said that after her mom died she found tons of money stuffed throughout the house.  No reason to do this.  But she grew up during the Depression and people who did or whose parents did have that kind of need to save thinking.

So what does this have to do with me?  Am I a hoarder?  No.  But I have an unnatural thing with stuff too.  I can't loose anything.  Not a cup.  Not a shoe.  Not an article of clothing.  A child's puzzle piece.  It all must be accounted for.  It's a struggle.

I don't have a problem with throwing out a cracked cup.  It's not useful.  No sentimental value to it.  Goodbye.  I don't have a problem donating things either.  My kids don't play with it.  It doesn't fit.  It's been sitting in the back of a closet for over a year.  I hope it finds a good home where someone else can use it.  I also don't have a problem getting rid of things that we passively acquire.  Too many toothbrushes from the dentist.  Here take one.  That's not it.  It's different than hoarding.  But it's similar enough.

I can tear my entire house apart looking for some mundane thing.  I go into panic mode about it.  I obsess over where it could be until it's found.  It's taking the Parable about the woman and the lost coin to the nth degree.  And what's worse is I accuse my husband of moving it.  He can't move things in my house.  Ever.  Because if I don't know where something is, I kind of loose it (alright I really loose it).

A few months ago I lost my keys.  I made my husband call the office, the church, etc but they never showed up.  Now an ordinary person would do that too, but they wouldn't have to tell themselves that loosing their keys is okay.  They won't die without their keys.  New keys can be made.  It's not the end of the world.  But for me it is.

It's not the stuff.  It's the loosing it that bugs me.  I leave a location say the pew and I find myself looking in the Bible-holder thingy and underneath it and in the seat before heading out to the car because to loose my son's book would cause me chaos. 

There are moments when I miss church because I can't find something before we leave and it sends me into a depressive tailspin.  I don't know why this sends me over the edge.  I have childhood memories of loosing things and feeling horrible.  But my parents didn't do anything inappropriate (other naturally get mad) about it.  Perhaps I felt a sense of guilt when I loose things.  Perhaps I'm like my friend.  I feel that I need to be perfect that I can't make a mistake and loose something.

And it's in this perfectionism that I worry.  What if my children learn this behavior?  They've seen me loose it.  And that's not good for them.  What if they develop this feeling of guilt or like the hoarders assigning value to things that aren't valuable?

I'm not sure that I'm too the point of seeking out professional help for what can be an anxiety disorder (which runs in my family too hence the hoarding).  But I can see it continually getting worse especially the more stress I put myself under.  Lately though Hubby has been good at recognizing the signs and calling me on it.  "Your starting again.  You need to calm down."  And once someone points it out, I start with the reality thinking "It's okay.  You're fine.  If it's gone, it's not the end of the world.  It's replaceable."  And that helps.  But again, it's not fair to scream at one's husband for their own hang up nor is it good for their children to see.  So I sit on the fence about it.  Should I go see someone now?  Or wait until it gets worse?  Can I manage it or not?

1 comment:

  1. I help people all over the world declutter and create homes they love and I think you're right to link the difficulty you have in accepting misplacing something with the attachment hoarders have to their stuff. It's not the same, but I suspect it arises from a related psychological process. It's great that your husband is spotting the triggers and that, with his help, you're working on reprogramming your thinking. Whether you seek professional help can only be your call. Good luck.

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