Kicking the Hoarding Habit – How To Free Yourself of Junk

Kicking the Hoarding Habit

Shows like Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive have delved into the personal lives of diagnosed hoarders to highlight the impact Hoarding Disorder can have on one’s personal and family life. Whilst compulsive hoarding is quite rare, lesser variations of the behaviour are commonplace, with many of us claiming ‘sentimental value’ or ‘a collection’ as the reason for our excessive clutter.

Now that Autumn is here and Summer well and truly over, we’re starting to dig out the warmer clothes and stow away our BBQs and outdoor furniture. When these simple tasks become a chore (there isn’t any room! I can’t find it! It was here when I last looked!) it’s time to take heed and declutter your home.

Why do we hoard junk?

Your reason for hoarding junk might be completely different from the next person, but generally speaking there are several key reasons for hoarding: anxiety and depression, poor house keeping skills and lack of time, consumer fetishism and over buying.

Yale researchers recently found that the two areas in your brain associated with pain ‘light up’ when responding to letting go of items an individual owns or feels a personal connection to. It’s this personal connection that can be the hardest circuit to break for most hoarders and curators of clutter. Each time a hoarder holds on to something they feel safer and calmer – an addictive notion, don’t you think?

Anterior Cingulate Cortex - showing the pain in your brain when giving up your junk items.

Credit: http://lifehacker.com/how-clutter-affects-your-brain-and-what-you-can-do-abo-662647035

Excess and overspending are symptoms of Generation Y and Millennials, which more often than not results in our homes accumulating more ‘stuff’. According to recent statistics Generation Y shoppers are spending 25% – 40% more than your average consumer.

Buyer’s remorse is perhaps the biggest advocate for clutter, stopping us from getting rid of things we probably shouldn’t have bought in the first place just because we ‘might use it one day’. And a fear of not knowing what to do with accidentally acquired belongings often leaves us storing them for undetermined amounts of time.

Many of our older generation are inclined to hold on to things for longer than is really necessary owing to; their growing up in the post-depression era, or in thrifty families, remaining in one home for the majority of adulthood, or becoming the transient family members’ storage facility.

Technology Fetishism

When products are designed to fail us after 2 years but cost so much to purchase in the first place, we just can’t bear to let them go. Technology companies are releasing new versions of their gizmos and gadgets regularly, so often in fact that we don’t always notice the difference.

Game controllers, electronics can be subject to planned obsolescence and quickly become hoarded junk.

Poor storage

Poor storage enables clutter and hoarding. Rental accommodation is expensive and more and more urban dwellers are opting for apartment or town house living. And let’s face it, these options don’t offer storage solutions. When there aren’t enough shelves for all the books we tend to start piling them on top of one another or putting them into boxes and in rows across the floor…

A pile of books which have become hoarded junk.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blacktailbooks/2501164024/

Bad gift giving

When we receive expensive gifts that we never really wanted in the first place it’s hard to let them go – too good to throw away, too awkward to re-gift, and too expensive to bin – so we keep them. But what good are they sitting in a draw or under the bed? Pass it on.

We’re sentimental

Creative children generate masterpiece after masterpiece, and our refrigerator doors can only hold so much. Go through the pile of art with your child and let them help you choose which pieces to keep and which to store, frame and display, or throw away.

It might come in handy one day

The media is littered with stories about repurposed rubbish, junk art, upcycling craft trends, DIY projects, and one man’s trash being another’s treasure. It’s hardly surprising then that we’re hoarding and saving things for later.

Taking junk removal seriously – why hoarding junk is bad for us

According to organisational experts, there’s a correlation between being overweight and having a clutter problem. But clutter isn’t only bad for your physical health it’s bad for your mental wellbeing too. Having too much clutter can impact your ability to focus clearly on tasks and process information.

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that having “multiple stimuli” present in your vision would stress the brain and minimise your brain’s processing capacity, cluttering your attention span so to speak.

The same researchers also found that people working and living in uncluttered spaces were less irritable, more productive, less distracted, and better at processing information compared with their cluttered living opposites.

Stop Hoarding in its tracks – 10 ways to master junk

      1. Get rid of things you know you don’t need or want immediately – then there’s no time to reconsider (and re-hoard)
      2. Clear horizontal surfaces – a clear kitchen bench is must more enticing come time to cook dinner
      3. You know the troubled spots in your home – make an attack list
      4. Make a time to tackle each hoarder hot spot – diary it, lock it in!
      5. Get the right tools for the job – before you start the sorting, purchase cleaning stuff, rubbish bags or boxes, boxes; whatever you need to contain the hoards
      6. One at a time – start with one drawer, or one cupboard, or one shelf.
      7. Sort in an orderly fashion – left to right, top to bottom, whatever movement works for you. You’ll see the space change from cluttered to clean a lot easier this way (and we all work better when we see rewards along the way)
      8. Be brave about getting rid of things – your kids will forgive you for throwing away their broken toys and the lady down the road will never know if you throw out those homemade preserves she gave you last winter
      9. Find some balance – don’t feel bad about keeping the odd sentimental thing, or ragged teeshirt. Afford yourself a few pleasures during this clear out.
      10. Persist!

And if you’re still finding it hard, consider inviting people over more often to force you to tidy and declutter!

Nicely organised shelves with labeled boxes.

photo credit http://beorganised.co.nz/6-steps-to-an-organised-garage/

Additional reading