Hoarders: Hiding Hurts

I was watching old Hoarders episodes and whenever they opened the hoarder’s fridge, I felt an urge to check mine. I’m an artist, so I did have some cans of paint in there, but a modest amount of food, none of which was growing mold, and no nasty surprises like a dead cat, as they sometimes find on the show. “Oh, I wondered what happened to Boots; I loved him like a son. Boo hoo hoo.”

I think I’m a bit messy, but on the Packrat spectrum I’m on the opposite, minimalist end; that is, I throw away stuff I might actually need someday.

I did briefly room with a hoarder. A nice lady, but typical floor to ceiling trash, 14 dogs and dog poop layered with phone bills from 1972, etc. I thought she was too busy to do housekeeping and I would do her a favor and clean up her 2,500 square foot house, one room at a time, and she would feel better. You know how badly that worked out.

I once suggested I move her boxes into a semi trailer on the back of the property. She opened the door to the trailer and it was already packed floor to ceiling. That’s when I knew something was dreadfully wrong, though the term “hoarder” was not known at the time. She hated my cleaned rooms, the pollution in the house was literally making me sick, and so I moved out.

I noticed that many hoarders had suffered a loss before they started-a loved one died, a marriage ended. We all suffer losses and cope with the pain in various ways. The healthy way is to face through it, feel it, and cry-preferably on the shoulder of someone who cares about us. Many hoarders seem to have subconsciously vowed that they would never suffer loss again, not even the loss of a plastic grocery bag. Their stuff is very important to them, they say. Darn right, it’s protecting them from the pain of the loss.

Dr. Paul Brand wrote a book called, Pain, the Gift Nobody Wants, which takes the position that pain is good, in that it’s a warning that something is wrong, something needs to be dealt with. When it’s emotional pain, we often deal in self-destructive ways, don’t we? Drugs, booze, various addictions that make us feel relief in the short run and destroy us in the long run.

We should greatly admire the courage of those who face the pain, feel it, and not only survive, but overcome. I know I admire them.

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