Saturday, July 14, 2018

How Hoarders Think and Why Decluttering Is So Hard For Us


A few months ago, I had a kitchen fire in my apartment. At the time, the washer/dryer closet, which I use as a pantry and general hidden hoarding place, couldn't be painted because it was full of
stuff, and I had nowhere to put it. I decided that it was time to remedy that, so today, I pulled everything out of the closet.

But getting it painted wasn't the only reason I wanted to clean out that closet. It had gotten to be a total disaster area, where I couldn't find anything. I had shelves and crates and bins in there to keep it organized, but it had become totally unorganized and I didn't feel like it would be fixed without just  tearing it apart and starting over.

Hoarding Stupid Stuff for No Good Reason

First, I'm a recovering hoarder. I'm much, much better than I used to be, but I have a long way to go to be normal. I tend to hoard things like plastic containers and glass jars. About once a year, I have to go through and recycle a 20-gallon container of plastics and glass. I don't know why I do it, but for an example of how irrational hoarders' thinking processes are, I keep thinking glass jars are going to become obsolete and I have to have as many as possible. In my logical brain, I know that they will never be obsolete, because pickles will always come in glass jars, as will things like salsa and a lot of preserves that have to be heat processed.

Plastics are another thing altogether. I got that from my mother. Once a year, usually at Christmas, my children and I would go through her hoard of plastics and clear out the ones without lids. She kept all plastic containers that anything came in -- margarine, whipped topping, cottage cheese, etc. -- so there were always dozens to clean out. She always got mad when we got rid of the ones without lids, but we did it anyway. Then we went through the refrigerator and threw out all the science experiments, but that's another story. One year, we actually bought her a nice set of Rubbermaid containers for Christmas, but that didn't stop her hoarding the others.

I used to save all those types of plastics, but I don't anymore. My favorite thing to save was yogurt cups. I saved them to grow plants I was going to give away, but I don't give that many plants away now, so I only save the ones I can store food in or use for something else, such as lunch meat containers for leftovers. Oddly enough, today I found about a dozen lids to that type of container, but there is not one container in sight, which is the opposite of how it usually is. I'm torn between saving the lids until I find the containers, or just recycling them all. For hoarders, this is the kind of quandry we face on a daily basis.

Coffee Container & Glass Jar Hell

For some odd reason, when I first moved in here, I thought I needed to save coffee containers. I figured I'd use them somehow in my gardening, but that didn't happen, and I ended up with about a dozen of them, all stacked neatly on the pantry shelves, before I stopped collecting them. One was marked to hold jar lids and caps. I kept that one, and filled it up as I went along so I can match up the glass jars to lids before I give them away. Yes, I said give them away (more about that further down).

When I had my house, glass jars and coffee containers held all sorts of lovely things indoors and out. They were a cheap way to organize my son's collections of tiny things, and in the garage they held everything from plant fertilizer to nails and screws. They had so many uses. Well, I don't live in a house anymore, and my son is grown and on the other side of the country, so why do I need these things now?

I actually use the jars for rooting plant cuttings, because I don't want to mess up my Mason jars - I have three boxes of those -- just sitting. I'll explain that one day too. Still, I don't need as many as I have. I must have recycled dozens over the last 4 years, and still, I keep saving them. I do use them sometimes to store food in the fridge, but how many do you actually need for that? I already have a lot of nice plastic containers I could use. Decisions, decisons.

Helping Crafters or Enabling Other Hoarders?

I mentioned earlier that I was going to try to give all these plastic containers and glass jars away. I keep thinking that someone may have some use for them, someone who has a garage or a kid with lots of little toys. I see Pinterest posts all the time where craft people have painted and decorated coffee cans to store their craft stuff. I thought at one time that I might do crafts again, but now I just want to hit the road in a van, where there is no room for dozens of plastic containers and glass jars.

I have all sizes of these things, from spice jars to crystal light containers to -- well -- coffee containers. Someone is bound to need them, right?

But wait -- am I just enabling other hoarders, or helping someone? Does it matter, as long as they aren't in my house anymore?

And what if I need them down the road? I don't drink coffee anymore, and they might be very nice for keeping things from clanking around in the van. See -- this is how hoarders think. 

To Keep My Sanity...

I have to keep some of them. If I give them all away and need them down the road, I'd be furious with myself.

Actually, the part about them being good in the van is legitimate. I could use them to:

  • stash things like flour, sugar, and cornmeal to keep them safe and dry. 
  • use one to hold used toilet paper until I can get rid of it, or even to hold one roll of toilet paper to keep it dry. 
  • collect a few rocks and crystals from different parts of the country
  • stash any number of other things, like cleaning rags, etc.
They'd be so cute all painted and decorated in my van, wouldn't they? 

Yes, I'll keep the coffee containers, and a few of the glass jars for rooting cuttings, because there is still plenty of time to garden before I leave. I can use the smaller ones to stash seeds to give away or sell.

Wait -- that's all of them! Well, not all. I just recycled all the cottage cheese containers, but I'll have more once I clean out the fridge.

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Does This Sound Familiar?

THIS is how hoarders think. We can always find a reason to hang on to useless things. Some of our favorite excuses are:

I might need it some day, and I don't want to rebuy it. Ask yourself - how often have you used it in the last 6 months, and how much would it cost to replace?

It was so expensive, and I hate to just give away all that money! This is a good excuse for hoarding furniture and clothing, but it makes no logical sense. Things depreciate in value, that's a fact of life. Just get rid of it.

I can repurpose or upcycle it. Sometimes this works out, but 99% of the time, you never "get around to" doing anything with it, and it just sits there, taking up space and collecting dust.

I want to keep it for my children. I use this excuse for hanging on to family heirloom furniture that I spent thousands of dollars restoring, but they don't want it. It holds memories for me, but none for them. Neither do they want all their old toys and books I have toted around the country with me for years.

Do you recognize yourself or someone you love in any of this? If so, there is help out there for you before it gets out of control, like mine did several years ago. Once you fall into that bottomless pit, it's a long climb back out.

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