Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hoarding - a Result of Emotional Imbalance

I have a confession – I’m a compulsive “box saver.” Any time something arrives in a sturdy cardboard box I have to save it. My rationalization is that “Christmas is coming” and I’ll need the boxes for wrapping gifts. Or, maybe I’ll decide to sell something on eBay and I’ll need a box. Or, maybe I’ll have one of my bouts of organizing and I’ll need good boxes.

My family laughs at me about this and I annoy myself a little when I’m trying to stack my empty boxes out of the way. But I never considered it a problem until last week-end.

Then, a TV show I saw made me wonder if I was starting down a path to hoarding.

Have you seen that show? It’s all about people who can’t let go of their “stuff” and after a few years their homes turn into huge junk piles. They can’t cook because their kitchen counter tops and tables are covered with 2 or 3 feet of “stuff” and they can’t sit on the couch because it’s covered too. In extreme cases they have little paths to navigate around the house and have to climb over piles of things just to go to bed at night.

The worst of it is that the people doing the hoarding are so ashamed that they cut themselves off from family and friends and don’t allow others to visit their homes, but they can’t seem to stop themselves. They know when they’re going to yard sales and shopping bargain stores that they don’t need any of what they’re bringing home. They know that old newspapers, empty food containers, and broken toasters belong in the trash. But they keep on acquiring and saving.

On the show, the people who are profiled have agreed to treatment from a behavioral psychologist and the filming follows their progress as they learn to part with things. Some of those people exhibit actual pain just from seeing someone else touch something in their piles. And they agonize when anything – even a 3 year old phone book – goes into a trash bag.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about the underlying problems that would cause a person to hang on to physical objects in this way. Of course the show mentioned depression, but that’s a pretty big catch-all for a lot of emotional disturbances.

So I went to FeelBach.com and started reading about each of the Bach Flower Essences. I decided that Sweet Chestnut might be a good place to start, but since so many different situations and events could trigger a need to hang on to things, I think each person needs to study the lists.

I’ve decided that as long as I can still use my boxes and send them out into the world, I’m OK. But if you’ve started saving things for no reason that you can understand, it might be time to seek some emotional balance. Go to FeelBach.com and study the brief descriptions, then go to www.bachflower.org to read the long versions.

It simply cannot be fun to end up like those poor folks on the Hoarding show!
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