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#729999 - 12/10/11 05:56 AM Hoarding
Jilly Offline
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Anyone here a hoarder? I kinda just realized i am one. It's definitely a symptom of my larger mental illness, but i am wondering how others have handled the emotional distress of not being able to get rid of things.

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#731070 - 12/14/11 10:01 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori - Marriage Offline
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Hey Jill. You know that I've been dealing with my relative who is a hoarder. It runs in my family as I can see the symptoms in other relatives, too.

I do not hoard but I believe it is because after the loss of my son nothing else--material--holds any real meaning and value to me.

From all of my experiences with hoarders, and from watching those shows on hoarding, it seems that the hoarding is only the symptom of an underlying need. Collecting, gathering, sorting, and holding onto things, whatever they may be, provides a sense of comfort and relief to the hoarder. Like a security blanket, the collection of things puts the mind at ease.

What is the underlying need? It is different for each hoarder.

Simply trying to "get rid" of things will only bring on tremendous stress. It is vital to address the need the fuels the hoarding. Is there a fear of lack/not having enough? Has the hoarder imbued emotion or memories into the "things" in his life?Does he believe that if he gets rid of the things, he is getting rid of those memories and emotions? Does he believe that he is doing a good thing by keeping and reusing and recycling items in his quest to be a good environmentally-conscious citizen? The hoarder is rarely a selfish person who just wants a lot of stuff. Often good intentions go awry due to an emotional void within.

If you recognize that hoarding is a problem in your life, you can self-help but it takes time whereas if the hoarder has a lot outside support, the process (clean-up within and without) can go faster.

I can tell you that I was able to clean up my aunt's place because I kept repeating a simple mantra to her:

"Your home needs to be healthy, clean and safe."









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#731071 - 12/14/11 10:24 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori - Marriage Offline
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Koala

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That statement allowed me to proceed. She couldn't disagree with the fact that her home needed to be healthy, clean and safe.

The second step was to tell her over and over that:

1. It is not saving money to store things that go bad. In fact, it is throwing good money away to store up sale items. Better to buy what you need at full cost and use it right away than to stock up on sale items because nearly everything has an expiration date. Even toothpaste. Hair color. We threw out a lot of expired products that she felt was saving her money to store.

2. You aren't "wasting" when you throw food away because food, for example, goes back into this good, green earth in one form or another. It will decompose in the refuse heap in the landfill or get pooped out and make its way through the waste management system and into the earth. It all goes back to the earth where it will resume its place in the food cycle.

3. Putting things into the recycling bin is better than your storing them. You may never get to "recycle" those things as craft items so better to let them get remade in a processing plant.

4. Let your unused things bless the lives of others by donating them to charities instead of collecting dust in your house.

5. Memories are in your mind not in the souvenirs you keep. Be selective in what you keep.

6. Look around you and see what your energy is attracting into your life. Like attracts like. Throw out the trash immediately.

7. We live in an electronic age so you no longer need to keep any papers, magazines, etc. Retrieval is instantaneous. Information gets outdated quickly. Go digital, even with pics.

8. If you had a fire and all of your things burned, you'd see that you still will live a happy, fulfilled life without the burden of your "things." Things don't bless you or bring you joy or love you back.

9. Keeping all this junk is hurting you, physically, emotionally and psychologically. Liberate yourself. Health is wealth. These things are not your friends. Don't use them as a replacement for love and friendship in your life.

10. Make room for new things. When you clear out your home, you'll be able to bring in new things with new energy.

It's okay to want things and to have them. But too much is not good. If you get rid of your old junk, you'll enjoy bringing in new things into your life to enjoy for a time. Then, allow them to go back into the world to make others happy. Attract new things again. It's a cycle of discovery and sharing.

You're not "getting rid" but you are sharing. Even if you return things to decompose into the earth, they are going back to whence they came. They will return in another product form. This is an important thought for them to adopt.

Hoarders have a hard time thinking that things might be wasted or get thrown into a trash heap. They really see the value in all things, perhaps because they want to see that they themselves have value, too. They don't want to be thrown away.

Other hoarders are trying to hold onto memories of loved ones.

**

As for the process of cleansing...It helps to take it in steps. For example, with my aunt, it gives her mental relief to know that we did not throw out all of her things. We have a storage unit for her. We donated a ton of stuff. We ended up having to rent four 40-yard dumpsters, too.

She could not and did not participate in the clean-up. Hoarders just can't bear to see their things drifting away. When she came back, she was astounded to see her beautiful, clean home, decorated with "her" things. She had no idea those pretty things were in her house. She keeps saying that it looks like an art gallery.

She still tries to keep and collect, but I keep on top of that by sending things to the recycle or trash bin.

I am writing an ebook about my experience with my aunt and how to help a hoarder.


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#731899 - 12/19/11 01:27 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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Hi Lori! Thank you for all your thoughtful ideas. I did want to mention that nothing degrades in a landfill. So this is not correct:

"2. You aren't "wasting" when you throw food away because food, for example, goes back into this good, green earth in one form or another. It will decompose in the refuse heap in the landfill or get pooped out and make its way through the waste management system and into the earth. It all goes back to the earth where it will resume its place in the food cycle."

The only way to assure thrown-away food gets back into the life stream is to compost it, or even just toss it in the woods. smile

I get very agitated when people throw away degradable items. I know this is a part of my illness, but it's also such a pity. We are tossing wonderful fertile resources into what is basically a tomb (landfill) and then spending money on commercial fertilizer that is made from mined non-renewable products. It's so backwards that I can't fathom it. I wish I could have everyone in my town bring me their food and yard scraps, so I could manage it properly.

I even take bags of leaves from people's garbage to spread on my garden as mulch, and so on.

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#731902 - 12/19/11 01:37 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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This one also has become a problem to me:

"4. Let your unused things bless the lives of others by donating them to charities instead of collecting dust in your house."

I now know from working with about four thrift stores in my town that good and useful things are tossed in their dumpsters every day. I have actually been diving in their dumpsters for things to 'rescue' from the landfill. And then they sit here in piles while I figure out how to get these things into people's hands that will use them.

I think of the rag and bone pickers in other countries and then about what we do here. We are so spoiled with luxury. frown

I need to find a thrift store that does not toss useful things. They all want to look like 'boutiques' these days.

And along the lines of rag pickers, another thing that gets to me is that people throw away torn/ragged shirts/towels/sheets and such, and then go to Home Depot and buy bags of rags.

So while I do sort through my things and pick out stuff I don't wear, and bag them up, I simply keep the bags of textiles around in my home. Some I want to turn into rags. Some are actually still wearable, but I worry that the thrift stores won't find them on trend enough and toss them anyway. So these bags of fabric just sit and pile up against the walls.

I also grab anything that is recyclable from people's trash (like metals), and I collect anything people are tossing that is burnable (like wood) and heap it on the fuelwood pile.

This really is a mental illness, more than just a tendency to keep things. I want to be the change in the world. I want to be a small person who still makes a difference. frown


Edited by Jilly (12/19/11 01:38 AM)

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#732532 - 12/21/11 12:34 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori - Marriage Offline
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Okay, so I stand corrected. I did not know that "nothing degrades in a landfill" as I assumed everything was covered with earth where it would decompose, albeit slowly. I'm not talking about plastics, but of foods and natural textiles (paper, plant fibers).

Jilly, your thoughts about use are correct. In a perfect world, we would use and reuse to save our resources. Unfortunately, most of us live in a new age. It is an age of overabundance. We overproduce and under-utilize. The heaps of waste are senseless and saddening. BUT...

you can become buried underneath it all if you try to save it all. You can't.

Yes, you can be the one small person who makes a difference but you must decide what difference you will make and how you will make it.

If you choose to salvage everything you come across and store it in your own dwelling--and never put anything to use--you're only creating your own little landfill where "nothing degrades" but just sits, unused. Is it better to sit unused against your walls, accumulating more and more of its kind until it pushes you out of your own home, or to sit in a landfill?

You aren't doing anyone or anything a favor by hoarding.

You are a smart woman with a great mission. But there are better ways to make your statement against waste:

1. Teach classes on recycling, making useful items out of refuse, composting, etc.
2. Make and sell to raise money to promote your cause.
3. Convince local thrift stores to allow the homeless to 'shop' for free in their discard bins.
4. Write articles and books about how to use less. Cutting consumption might seem counter-intuitive from a business standpoint when buying helps keep the economy going, but if your priority is to put less into landfills...convince people to USE LESS.
5. Start a grassroots campaign to convince your local congressman to write bills that give incentives to big companies to use less packaging.
6. Help local communities grow their own food.
7. Write to big companies to see if they would consider selling their products in the bulk items section of stores. It would save them money and project an earth-friendly image of their company.

You get the message. I recall your chart reading, Jilly, and it stated that you could make a big difference by teaching others. Seems like this is your call.

It's one thing to do what you do to help save the earth, but you will make a huge difference when you can duplicate your efforts by teaching others to do what you do.

BTW...just don't encourage people to hoard. Keeping things does not save the earth. Using things. Using fewer things. That keeps things out of the landfill as well as out of your home.


Edited by Lori - Marriage (12/21/11 12:38 AM)
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#732536 - 12/21/11 12:48 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori - Marriage Offline
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Koala

Registered: 11/26/09
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Also, if you take a few steps back from your life and have a more eternal, cosmic perspective...

Every "thing" on earth will stay on earth (unless we end up doing something stupid like blasting our refuse into outer space). Humans will live and die, leaving behind the things that they created.

These are just things. Made of this earth. To stay on this earth.

These "things" will outlast US. Why get all upset over what is seemingly "discarded" into trash bins?

There should be more to life than trying to save things. What are we saving them from? Sitting in a landfill? Sitting in an over-filled house? Being forgotten? Unused? These things will outlive you.

We're only passing through this place and we don't have a long time to do it.

What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to experience before you go? What do you want to take with you that you can take with you?

It's helpful to ask yourself these questions so you don't get distracted by things.


***

As for saving the earth...this earth will outlast us, too. In one form or another. It may or may not be suitable to support human life but it will exist (unless it is blown to smithereens by an asteroid!) Humans are affecting the climate and the environment to the point where neither will be hospitable to human life. But after the humans go, the earth will recover more quickly and magnificently than ever imagined. So when people say they want to save the planet, what they really mean is that they want to save themselves from extinction. Earth will live on.



Edited by Lori - Marriage (12/21/11 12:51 AM)
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#732543 - 12/21/11 01:12 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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I do already have several ways that I teach people these things, so i feel good about that. It's the walking the walk that I am more interested in. If I can't, then who?

I did manage to get a behavioral worker to help me with this. We met yesterday and worked on the stuff in the driveway. I bagged up my bottles, some garbage, and things to donate. We need to find a thrift place that does not throw things away. We will work on that another week.

At least things are starting. And I am earning cash from my recycling efforts, which will help me organize my workshop for more pleasant recycling going forward. Right now everything is kind of chunked together. At least the recycling stuff.

The good housewares are another matter, but i will deal with those things last.

I am writing up my weekly plan for working with my behavioral worker - I get two hours a week for a few months.

The front area looks a tad better today. A tad. That is enough for today.

I do recommend people get professional help if you can. It's stressful to work on this stuff, but it's doable when someone does it with you, in a supportive way.

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#732544 - 12/21/11 01:17 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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Oh and on the landfills. In the Sanitary Landfills, these are "dry" heaps. Nothing decays in there because there is no air. Not even anaerobic action happens once the layers are buried. Core samples have been drilled into old landfills and the old tossed food is still edible, not degraded at all. These things need to return to the life stream, not hidden away. Remember that we mine for non-renewable fertilizer products, while throwing away the even better, renewable, free stuff. It's a disconnect. I do have a plan and am working on that, so i do not need ideas on how to get the word out. But I have to live it. I want to live it.

I just need to get a handle on my hoarding emotions. It's the weirdest thing.

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#732932 - 12/22/11 03:41 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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I noticed when I was watching Hoarders episodes that the 'cleaning up' part - even with help - provoked great anxiety in the hoarders. Some got panic attacks, some had to leave the area, and some just sat and cried.

I felt very anxious with the behavioral worker, but it wasn't too bad since we were soley working with trash and recycling - things I never wanted to keep in the first place.

There was some recycling i wanted to keep - bottles that could be reused to hold other things, for example. I felt guilty about not reusing. Reuse is the greenest step after reducing. Recycling comes last. frown

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#735225 - 12/28/11 11:02 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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Tomorrow i meet with my behavioral worker again. I made a list of things I will want her help with, but misplaced the list. Doh!


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#757457 - 04/17/12 06:29 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Jilly Offline
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Things are slowly improving on the hoarding front. How is everyone else doing?

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#797400 - 12/22/12 07:00 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Susan - Meditation Editor Offline
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I didn't know that hoarding was a mental illness. Any comments?
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#798384 - 12/31/12 10:56 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Dr. Hershey-MH Offline
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Hi Susan,
You are technically correct. Hoarding has not been officially classified as a mental health disorder in the guidebook psychiatrists/psychologists use to diagnose mental disorders.

The guidebook - The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will be coming out soon with its fifth revision - DSM-5. In this updated edition hoarding will be listed as its own distinct disorder.


Edited by Dr. Ilyssa-Mental Health (01/10/13 01:28 PM)
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#798394 - 12/31/12 11:43 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
theraven Offline
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I am terrible when it comes to hoarding, the house definitely needs a huge clear out. Got to agree with Susan, never would have thought it was a disorder.
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#798409 - 12/31/12 12:14 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori-Dreams Offline
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After dealing with my aunt and mother, I realize that hoarding *is* a type of mental disorder. The term 'mental disorder' needs clarification because many people with a mental disorder are highly functional *except* for in one area in their lives. We often think of a mentally ill person as a deranged, dangerous person but most often, this is untrue.

My relatives are extremely functional, productive, typical members of society. No one would ever believe that they had any type of mental disorder. And in areas where people live in abundance today, it seems that we have attached emotions to things so many people collect, cling onto and keep stuff.

What makes this process become a disorder is when people cannot live safely, healthfully or happily due to their inability to stop the over-keeping and it takes over their lives.

My relatives' hoarding is nothing like the hoarding you see on those television programs. My aunt is a clean and organized hoarder. She cleaned, categorized and labeled everything from toothpaste tube caps to chicken wishbones. My mother just overbuys and doesn't throw out anything. I cleaned out both of their houses. It took three city dumpsters plus countless trips to the dump, toxic waste disposal center, Goodwill, etc.

I spent my last weekend cleaning out my mother's room--again. She was always shocked to see what turned up.

In my experience with hoarders, these television programs are handling it wrong. The hoarder cannot be involved in the clean-up process. It is too unbearable for everyone involved, including the hoarder. I start them off with a clean slate and then work hard with them in understanding what not to bring in and what to keep. They are always thrilled--and relieved--to see the final cleaned home.

Going back with them into each layer of junk is traumatic for them. They are incapable of making rational decisions about stuff. Each item is torture for them to let go of.

It helped tremendously for me to rent storage units for anything I thought they might want. They know the stuff is there for them, like an extended closet. No trash, no ruined or broken items. Only usable appliances, collections or souvenirs. They've never visited their storage units so it seems to a more rational mind that this is a waste but it gives them peace of mind for the time being.
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#798410 - 12/31/12 12:16 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori-Dreams Offline
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But I must add that, according to a hoarding organization, there are five levels of hoarding.

Hoarders need help because their messes create more inner turmoil and chaos in their minds and lives. The stress is very unhealthy!
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#800054 - 01/11/13 08:02 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
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Hoarding is frequently co-morbid with other disorders, such as anxiety disorders, compulsive disorders, PTSD and depression.

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#800062 - 01/11/13 08:39 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Susan - Meditation Editor Offline
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I can see how it could be tied into memories. It runs in my family, too.


Edited by Susan - Meditation/Calif. (01/11/13 08:40 AM)
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#804540 - 02/05/13 10:12 AM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Dr. Hershey-MH Offline
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Shark

Registered: 12/26/12
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While I have a long list of ideas for articles, I think an article on Hoarding will be coming soon ....
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#804603 - 02/05/13 12:26 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Susan - Meditation Editor Offline
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Thank you Ilyssa!
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#804607 - 02/05/13 12:38 PM Re: Hoarding [Re: Jilly]
Lori-Dreams Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
Hoarding seems to be a growing problem. Isn't it listed in the DSM?

I had/have personal experience with relatives and hoarding. There are different levels of hoarding and I haven't had to deal with the worst (no access into the home, hygiene issues, unsanitary conditions)--thank goodness! But still, the hoarding was clearly irrational.

Because of all the stress of dealing with family members who hoard even on a lesser level, my family and I have taken a very zen-like approach to things coming into our home. Compared to the rest of American society, we "have" very few "things."

Oh, I just saw my earlier post. Sorry for the repetition!

Looking forward to your article, Dr. Hershey!
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