When I moved into my 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in 1997, I had a few extra boxes in the closets and spare bedroom, but I could still park my car in the garage and the spare room still served as a functional computer room. When I left in 2011, I couldn’t even get into the computer room, couldn’t walk through the garage and clutter had begun to creep into every room of the house.
I finally had to admit that I am a hoarder.
How Does Hoarding Start?
I can’t pinpoint a time when I started hoarding, but it probably began with thrift store shopping. I love bargains, especially clothes and kitchen stuff. I loved to cook and bake, so I grabbed every piece of cookware or kitchen gadget I saw. Once I stopped cooking and baking, my hoarder mind wouldn’t let me dispose of the collected items. I had rusty friendship cake pans I had never used, strangely shaped european bread pans that were also unused and 4 sets of popsicle molds. Why I kept buying popsicle molds after my kids were gone is an eternal mystery.
Bargain Hunting Gone Wild
I later became an extreme frugalite, buying unneeded sale items just because they were cheap. I once bought several boxes of Christmas decorations marked down 90%, although I didn’t celebrate Christmas. I planned to sell them for profit, and I tried, but ended up leaving them behind during my last move.
Sentimentality and Frugality Gone Awry
My worst problem is letting go of anything sentimental. I could tell you exactly where I got almost everything in my house, and why I could not part with it. My favorite excuse was “I couldn’t buy that for three times what I paid for it now.” I have almost every gift my children ever gave me, which they have told me dozens of times I could get rid of without hurting their feelings. Until my last move, I had a box of kindergarten drawings from my younger son. I now only have a few of the better ones. Birthday cards, letters from high school friends that I lost touch with in the early 70’s, knick-knacks my mother bought me 40 years ago…I can’t part with any of it. I’m not content with the memories, I have to have the object.
Stockpiling or Hoarding?
My latest obsession is stockpiling food. I must say, this served me well when I lost my job. It took 3 months to get my food stamps, and I was just then running out of the food I had in my cabinets. My children always say “You have way too much food in this house.” Living in Florida, it’s easy to justify needing it in case of hurricanes, but that is just how my twisted hoarding mind works. I’m working on only buying what I can eat in a week.
How and Why I Control My Hoarding Urges
Researchers at Princeton found that extreme clutter messes with your mind, which becomes just as disorganized as your living environment. I had so much stuff I didn’t even know what I owned, much less where most of it was. I was constantly saying “I’ve got one of those…somewhere.” Nothing I had was useful, because I couldn’t find it to use it.
I’ve rid myself of 3/4 of what I owned, and still have way too much “stuff.” I’m actively going through and ridding myself of it by selling, donating and throwing things away. I stopped working in offices, so I gave away most of my dress clothes — 12 black garbage bags full of clothes and shoes. I don’t buy anything I don’t need. My closet? I now have about 4 feet of hanging clothes, as opposed to a full walk-in closet and clothes in other closets around the house. I gave away 200 clothes hangers.
It’s an everyday struggle, but my goal is to move into a 400 square foot tiny home. I may still have to use some creative storage, but at least the trucks I’m moving in are getting smaller.