Collecting, Hoarding, and Anxiety

It's funny what can be collected in a lifetime. I am only 36 years old with one child, yet I feel my overabundance keenly. America is awash in storage sheds and storage companies. It is considered one of the best investments that you can make currently – the stock market may rise and dip, but storage trends have stayed even to upward climbing as time goes on. People may be spending less... but they are storing more. A study released in 2005 indicated that 1 in 11 US households rent a storage unit – this is up 50% from the previous study. I couldn't help but ask myself what people were storing that was so important and so valuable that it was worth storing? (especially since a high number of shed renters own a house) Of course, the irony that I have a huge storage unit that is full and very disorganized wasn't lost on me. And I found many excuses for MY stuff that I found acceptable that I realized I would find pathetic indeed if they were given to me by someone else. Some of the excuses were:

1. I might need it again in the future and then I might have to buy it – so I am paying over fifty dollars a month to store things worth much less so that I do not have to buy them again???? That seemed silly when I thought about it, especially if you consider the fact that some of the things I hadn't used in years and my life was not wanting for it.

2. It 'might have' sentimental value so I should save it – I am not talking about scrapbooks here; I am talking about a cat photo of a cat you do not know, but it makes you laugh and since it makes you laugh.... you keep it. You of course find it tacky and know that your husband will never want you to hang it... but it makes you laugh... so you keep it.

3. But it might be valuable and so keeping it as an investment is a good idea – well, I guess some things are possible... but are you going to make any money if you spend money every month for years to store it?

So this last few weeks, I grew serious about dealing with my 'clutter'. I went to my storage shed determined to keep nothing unless it qualified for three categories. The first category was that it didn't belong to me and as my husband's belongings, I shouldn't unilaterally throw it away (no matter how useless I suspected it would be.) The second was if it was my son's belongings... and then I needed to ask myself if the belongings were useful, age appropriate or older, and something that he would really use or want later. The last reason was I could only keep something if it was truly sentimental and not something that I 'liked' but didn't need. So I got to work and after several trips to my house, the free room, and the dump... I am done!

It amazed me how much stuff I needed to get rid off. It also amazed me how anxiety producing the whole experience was for me. It was really hard to give away things that were not really useful, but were 'mine'. So as I really struggled with this (and have for years), I found the only way to actually do it right was to have an 'outside' anxiety pressure me harder so that I couldn't feel the anxiety of giving away my things. Frankly, that's pretty crazy! So I have taken a little time to try and think over that particular issue. Why did I feel so uncomfortable giving away things? Things that do not matter. Things that are not even very valuable or needful for almost anyone on the planet. Why was that soooo hard?

It turns out that the less money you have, the harder it is to give away things- even broken, useless things. That isn't the only answer. Apparently, many people feel uncomfortable if they do not have lots of things. Even things that are not valuable play into their self esteem and good thoughts about themselves and how they are doing. So people buy things to make themselves feel better, as a substitute for companionship, as a compulsion because of a mental disorder such as bipolar disorder, or just because it feels 'good' to be surrounded by things. So, I probably felt some anxiety because I do have difficulty in affording things, I 'feel the need' to feel better and spending money helps with that, and it makes me feel useful and successful.

That is a little sad. Here I am, a beautiful daughter of God, with a wonderful husband, an amazing child, almost a new house.... blessings every where I look, but I am unable to fully appreciate them because I have so much anxiety about unimportant things. I have faith, a powerful testimony, and anxiety so crippling I am unsure how to utilize them. So... I have mastered the first step of realizing that there is a problem. Now I need to deal with it. That doesn't sound very fun.


  1. The soapmaking forum I belong to has an ongoing thread called "Decrapification 2010." They are trying to get rid of two things a day, plus two things for every one new thing brought into the house. I'm not managing that, but I am getting rid of a lot of stuff.

    That said, would Brock like an elephant watering can? ;)

  2. Well written post. I love the way you write! I belong to a group called freecycle.org. You should look into it. It is 100% free and you will probably find one in your area because it is a nation wide site. Anyways on there people post things they are getting rid of or that they are in need of. You give or get the items for free and it is all from people in your community. I post a lot of stuff on there because you never know who out there may need it and just can't afford to buy it. If I get no takers than I take it and donate it. I also see the posts every day so it helps motivate me to get rid of any clutter I have.

  3. Katie- That is an awesome idea! Maybe doing it a little slower would make it easier. I will start tomorrow.

    Carolyn - I love freecycle! The big problem around here is that we are so rural that nothing is really 'close'. I love the free room because it is closer- it is just a lot more unpredictable as to what you can get. I have found lots of homeschooling things, DVD's, and Brock loves looking for books and toys. Next time you are here I will take you!