By Stephen Thompson
In the constant battle to keep our homes clean and orderly, everyone struggles with what to keep, what to donate, and what to throw away. Those who lose that struggle become hoarders – people who compulsively stuff their homes with many, many items that have little to no value.
An estimated one in 20 people are hoarders, which is approximately 15 million Americans. This month the hoarding disorder is even getting its own category in the newest edition of the DSM-5, the bible of psychiatric diagnoses.
So, what is known about hoarding? Well, you are probably a hoarder …
• If you can’t pass up a sale. It doesn’t matter whether you need the item or not. It’s cheap, so now is the time to buy, just in case you’ll ever need it.
• If your closets are full but you keep on buying and jamming stuff into any space possible. Eventually there isn’t a nook, tabletop, chair, bathtub, bed, floor or surface that isn’t covered.
• If you find pleasure in taking home store bought, garage sale or flea market items, but you are racked with fear at the mere thought of parting with anything. What normally would be considered trash – say paper tags or cardboard boxes – becomes painfully precious and personal to you.
• If you have broken, spoiled or unusable belongings sitting around the house, but keep them anyway. The fact that you watch a TV that sits on top of two more broken TVs means nothing – you might need them someday.
• If you are ashamed to have people into your home. You won’t allow anyone to come over because there are high piles of stuff stacked everywhere.
• If your adult children no longer come home to visit, because literally there is no place left for them to walk, sit, sleep or stay.
• If you realize that if you lived as long as Methuselah, you’d never be able to read all the books, magazines, and old newspapers you have, nor could you wear out all the clothing you’ve collected.
• If you are an impulsive-acquirer, tending to compulsively buy or get anything that interests you. You get or buy things simply for the thrill it brings you.
• If you are a worrier-keeper, passively acquiring things as a safeguard against a potential future need. You spend time sorting and organizing everything, but are still frustrated with your living space.
• If you file things visually and spatially instead of categorically. Instead of filing an important letter with other important papers, you’re likely put it on top of a handy pile; then when you need it again, you remember where it was in space.
On reality shows, the speed at which on-screen hoarder interventions are accomplished is misleading. Trying to change hoarding behavior is difficult. Ripping off the Band-Aid by throwing things away wholesale, the way television programs often portray a “clean out,” will clear out the space, but often creates an even bigger mess in the mind and heart of the hoarder.
Hoarders don’t throw home parties. They don’t open their doors unless they trust you. When I was young and a co-dependent, I tried to help several hoarders bring beauty back into their lives. Every time I lived to regret it. If an intervention must be done, find someone to help you who has the patience of Job and a willingness to tolerate multiple setbacks, realizing it often takes years to accomplish.
Live in beauty!
Stephen Thompson, Allied ASID has been creating coordinated, beautiful, tasteful interiors since 1975. For questions, comments, or consultations contact Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or firstname.lastname@example.org