Shayne on You: Household hording comes from a deeper place

Dear Maggie,

Iím the most disorganized, clutter-prone person I know, and itís really beginning to irritate my husband and kids. I tend to be drawn to various hobbies. Watercolor for awhile, knitting, sewing, etc. Scrapbooking was the latest. I never really end up doing anything with these hobbies. I end up with lots of supplies, (hundreds of balls of yarn, dozens of knitting needles, yards of fabric, and needles and thread and patterns and pins, boxes upon boxes of scrapbooking supplies, all the pretty stickers and lettering and pages and binders full of ideas. I have sixteen sets of watercolor paints, most still unopened. And brushes and easels and even some canvases. I start tons of projects, but I never finish any of them. I lose interest, and move on to something else in short order. However, itís all stuff I enjoy, even if I never do it anymore. I donít want to get rid of my supplies Ė they cost money, after all, and someday, I might want to get back to them, maybe finish some of those projects. But my family is rebelling. Every closet, every shelf, every possible storage space in the house is taken up by my supplies. Even the basement, attic and under all the beds. I even snuck a few boxes into my the garage Ė my husbandís sacred space. He says itís enough Ė that itís time to do some major spring cleaning, and Iím in a panic at the thought of getting rid of my supplies. I know it sounds trivial, but this is major to me. What can I do to get him to let me keep my stuff?


The Clutter-Queen

Dear Clutter-Queen,

You probably arenít living in fear of getting rid of your stuff because you really think you might want to use it some day at all. Or because it cost money to buy. The real reason is probably deeper, and while Iím not an expert, my guess would be that the need to collect and horde is coming from a very insecure place in you. Youíre acting out of fear of ďnot enoughness.Ē Fear of running out and never being able to get more. Fear of emptiness in your life. All of this behavior is stemming from a belief in lack. And no matter how much stuff you collect, youíre never going to feel itís enough, as long as that belief in lack and not-enoughness is your point of focus. So think about those things, and mull them over, and talk to your trusted friends, your mom, and even a therapist if you are in a position to do that. Some lack in your history might be the root of it.

Ripping your things from you while youíre still in this place of fear will only seem, to your mind, to confirm your fears of not having enough, and that wonít do any good. You have to get into the mindset where clearing the clutter feels good to you, and only then, proceed.

But in the meantime, to keep peace in the family, you do need to give them room to live and be comfortable in their own home. So seek a compromise. Claim one room for your very own, and clear your stuff out of every other place in the house. Spend some time sorting through your supplies and separating your favorites from the rest. Keep only what you can fit into your space. Invest in some plastic boxes to store the rest, rent a unit or prevail upon some extended family members to let you store a few boxes at their places. Explain to them that youíre trying to get over this habit of hording, and that this is step one. Moving the stuff away from you, but not quite getting rid of it. When you find you havenít missed it and are more secure in six months or a year, you will probably decide to give it away or toss it. Or you will have used up what you kept, and have room to bring it home.

These supplies would make great gifts too, so keep that in mind. If you can part with some of them, give them to those who would use and enjoy them when youíre ready to do that.

Not finishing projects easily becomes a chronic condition. So pick one, and set aside a time each day or each week when you will work only on that, and do so until itís finished. Then pick another. Donít let yourself jump back and forth. Old habits are hard to break Ė itís far easier to replace them with new habits.

Try a few of these techniques. I think if you are open with your family, theyíll work with you, especially when they see youíre trying to make positive changes. Moreover, you are going to be much, much happier, healthier person when you start living in a place of security and certainty of abundance rather than insecurity and fear of lack. You really will.

Good luck!


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