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The Energizer Blog

  • Writer's pictureEileen McDargh

Stow it. Stuff it. Stop it! The Energy Drain of Hoarding

One of our friends has not invited anyone to visit his house in 30 years.  The other week, he finally admitted to being a hoarder. He was too embarrassed to open the front door—if he even could. John (fictitious name) still won’t seek professional help for what has now become a psychological disorder. According to the American Psychiatric

Association, many people with a hoarding disorder also have associated problems such as indecisiveness, perfectionism, procrastination, disorganization, and distractibility.

While John’s situation is on the far end of a scale, many of us continue to accumulate possessions. Worse, we help our kids gather material goods. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population but U.S. families buy more than 40% of toys produced globally.  The average weight of a household move in the U.S. is 8000 pounds. (TIME March 23, 2015)

We have become a one click-nation with overnight delivery. Stuff!!!  That might explain why The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo has been a NY Times best seller since February.  We too often hang on to stuff. The self-storage industry took in $24 billion in revenue in 2013—more than the NFL (TIME March 23, 2015)

But we’re not happy with stuff.  I watch friends running to storage facilities to spend hours trying to find some object. They become tired and grumpy in the bargain.  Or perhaps you’ve looked at the 10 pairs of black pants in the closet and determined, unhappily, “I have nothing to wear.”  Bookshelves over flow, four jars of mayo sit in the pantry, and cartons of old holiday ornaments have lost their color and sparkle.

Sentiment is fine—to a point. But when we spend our precious allotted hours looking for something, stowing something, or stuffing something—we also use energy that could be channeled in more positive ways.

I had my own rude awakening when my assistant and I spent two days going through file cabinets and discarding HUGE bags of articles, papers, news clipping, and overhead transparencies. I’ll bet some dated back at least 10 years.

Time to reclaim our space AND our energy. Here are a few brief suggestions to get started.

Start big - NOT one thing at a time.

You will never see progress if you decide to only discard or move ONE thing.  Select a closet, a room, a garage, and become a ruthless discarder.

Ask: when was the last time I used this? Needed this? Looked for this?

The answer will tell you the next step.  Begin to create three piles:  Give away. Throw away.  Keep.

Ask: is there someone else who could use this instead of me? You know which pile that belongs in. The local Assistance League. Salvation Army and Goodwill are just some of the organizations eager for items.

Have a Stop-it Supporter.

This would be someone who is not afraid to push you and ask the question:

  • “What next?”

  • “Why not?”

Allocate at least 3 hours to this project.

However, do not stop until the items are literally gone—ether in the trash can, at the non-profit, or neatly back into an appropriate place.

If you are stuck, ask your Stop-It Supporter to say: “WHY do you want to keep this?” 

Think of this as an onion and it will take at least six “why” questions to get to the core

Celebrate when you are finished with the first project.

Set a date for the next Stow-it-Stuff-it-STOP-it-project.  Do it within the next few weeks.

Create a future-you goal.

For example, for every item bought, you will give 2 items away. It’s a real commitment but you’ll feel an internal sense of pride AND energy.

Here’s my question for you: What is the “stuff” you hoard? What steps do you take to stop it?  We can learn from each other.

Look forward to hearing from you.

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