Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Heart of Hoarding

Hope you're all doing well! It's been a busy couple of weeks around here, with company and a birthday. I've had posts I want to blog about, and they'll be coming. For me, blogging is not a business but a fun hobby and a ministry; it takes a back burner to the demands (and time constraints) of real life. That said, I'm happy to have a few minutes to sit down and write a post that's been on my mind for a few weeks!

A house in our town burned down a few weeks ago. Its owner had passed away a couple of months ago, but apparently, the family had not yet gotten around to cleaning the house. Firefighters said they could not enter through the windows, because the house was packed floor to ceiling with stuff. A quote in the newspaper from a family member blamed the man's hoarding on the fact that he was a "Depression era kid" with the mentality of saving everything.

Certainly, I'm sensitive to those raised during the Depression and the mindset it can create. Both sets of my grandparents also grew up during the Depression, and while they lived frugally, the Depression did not cause them to hoard anything and everything usable from floor to ceiling. So I think chalking the condition of this man's house (or his mental health) to being a "Depression era kid" is only telling part of the story.

Thinking about this made me wonder about the heart of hoarding. What is it ultimately that causes us to keep more than we need? Is it a lack of trust in God--a fear that our future needs will not be provided, so we save unreasonably to provide for ourselves at a future time? (I am not equating a certain amount of prudent storage with hoarding and lack of trust in God).  Do we find comfort in our material things? Have our things simply taken control of us, where we feel they have more power over us than we have over them?

I suppose, for people prone to hoarding, the reasons are unique and vary person to person. If we're prone to clinging excessively to stuff, I think it is helpful to check ourselves and really search out the why behind it. Then we can deal with each individual's unique situation (and the reason behind it.) I think the worst response is to blame something else, such as being a "Depression era kid." When the blame is on something external, there are always excuses and behaviors never have to truly be dealt with, because "it's not really one's fault."

My husband had a good point: when intangible stuff seems to control a person ("you can't get rid of me. How dare you?", rather than the person controlling his or her stuff ("I think I'll keep this, because..."; or, "I think I'll toss this because..."), that's the sign there's a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Food for thought...


  1. Great thoughts! I do think that sometimes for me it's an issue of not trusting God. Maybe more than that I think well, He provided it and I know that my next child can probably use it so I should keep it, and what happens is that I end up with clothes everywhere making me feel like it's choking the life out of me and stressing me out because I don't have the means to store it.

  2. Hoarding is actually on the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder spectrum. There are many reasons why people begin to hoard, and many believe that it's triggered by a traumatic event in a person's life.

    I think it's a really complicated issue, and each case is different. And I think it's an interwoven thing of spirit, heart and mind.

    I also think that a lot of people judge it without really understanding what it is, especially because of shows like TLC's "Buried Alive." I'm not saying you've done that here, but I frequently see people's posts on Facebook about these shows, and I think, "If you only knew...".

    In the interest of full disclosure, my grandmother was a hoarder. She passed away last month and we are in the process of cleaning out her home. It's a heartbreaking task, and it makes me ache for her, realizing to the fullest extent how she lived and how I always wanted better for her. We begged her to move many times, but she stayed in her home.