Back in the 50s when I was born, you didn’t just throw things away. You kept them for a time when you might need them again i.e., baby clothes, or you checked to see if a relative or friend needed it or donated it to charity, especially if you had a large family.
In my youth, I used to give away clothes I could no longer wear because I’d gained or lost weight. I refused to wait until I was my perfect weight to wear those clothes again. However, in the last few years my behavior has changed. I’ve gotten way behind in keeping up the annual evaluation of the importance of things and documents to the point of hoarding.
In recent years I started keeping gifts others gave me as well as the things the gifts came in…pretty wrapping paper, pretty shopping bags, envelopes, pretty ribbons, etc. in case I can use them again. Also, well-meaning friends and even strangers give you gifts you don’t want and I end up stockpiling things I don’t want or need. And, I’m of the old school thinking in which it would be shameful to give away what’s been given to you as a gift. I’ve recently donated perfectly good clothes that made me feel older than I am though.
A move to a smaller home brought the issue to the front when Laura McCamy and her partner moved from a large house. “I had a hard time getting rid of things, even if they no longer made sense in my life. My ‘poverty mentality’ was holding me back but getting rid of those items freed up mental and physical space. I no longer have to look at the things I no longer need. I no longer have to look at them and wonder what I’m going to do with them. I define poverty mentality as living in unnecessary scarcity and fear. It leads me to make poor decisions about the possessions I bring into my home. Clothes that don’t fit…and furniture I don’t need. Yes, perhaps the item is broken/ugly/doesn’t fit me/doesn’t fit in our house, but my poverty mentality tells me that I need to keep it because I will never be able to afford another.”
For example, Laura lost a pair of eyeglasses in her clutter, and found them when moving after having expensively replaced them. I did the same with a set of keys which turned up a few months later in a winter coat. I also lost costume jewelry I had bought a couple of weeks before and found under some other clutter recently. We had finally gotten rid of a closetful of plastic bags to a recycle bin only to find out that the local government banned the plastic ones for paper bags which are too flimsy to hold a gallon of milk. I’ve seen some restaurant dinners fall out of paper bags. (See Laura McCamy in Sources below)
According to mayoclinic.org, “Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. The hoarder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”
According to Adaa.org, “The behavior usually has harmful effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and their family members. The home lacks functional organization or living space. The hoarder refuses to let others see the hoarding. Hoarding may cause extreme debt. The hoarder may be embarrassed or depressed after acquiring more”.
“At the turn of the 20th century, people rarely needed money because they grew food to sell or trade. Food stockpiles had to be maintained especially in winter. People experienced the poverty of the fear of such horrid times in the future—for example, a grandmother’s large collection of gifted silverware, plates and glasses from her wedding. Hoarding has its roots in poverty in their youth and not having enough. They saved stuff as well as money because of uncertainty.” (See Rubbish Please below in Sources)
While some other people think poverty has nothing to do with hoarding. According to MedicineNet.com, “the reasons someone becomes a hoarder include altered brain connections, genetics, stress, OCD, environmental factors and altered levels of serotonin. (See Medicinenet.com below in Sources)
The other end of the spectrum is keeping things until they become valuable. We’ve all heard of people who have kept toys, musical records, baseball cards, etc. until somebody wants to give them thousands or millions of dollars for it. If you haven’t heard of this, check out PBS’s Antiques Road Show where people get value for things kept since the 1800’s or older. It’s possible and even likely though that you won’t be around to get that kind of benefit…maybe a relative or the state will when you die. But, by all means, keep things that are valuable but sometimes it’s hard to know what will become valuable in the future. That also could be a reason to hoard. Suppose some movie studio is looking for just that old refrigerator of yours or an old desk to use in a movie. People have become millionaires by renting their vintage cars, etc., to Hollywood.
Oh yes, we can’t forget invisible digital money which can also make you a millionaire or a pauper. For example, Elon Musk was pushing this heavily at first, but is surprisingly silent about it now. If you are the one who ends up holding and not folding, you could end up in the poor house. There are all kinds of gimmicks to make you rich, like flipping houses for example. There was a man who went to one of those seminars and tried to flip 10 houses at a time and lost everything. Having too many of anything is not necessarily the answer.
Now, I give gift cards instead of buying a gift, because unless you know the person well, you don’t really know what they would like. And, I would really like the person to enjoy the gift and not be put in the same predicament of hoarding or re-gifting things they don’t want to keep to avoid hurting the giver’s feelings.
Even the Bible says, “God gives a man riches, wealth, and honor, so that he lacks nothing his heart desires; but God does not allow him to enjoy them. Instead, a stranger will enjoy them. This is futile and a grievous affliction.” Ecclesiastes 6:2
Laura McCamy, “Decluttering My Home of 17 years Showed Me My ‘Poverty Mentality’ Has Been Doing Me More Harm Than Good”, https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/decluttering-my-home-poverty-mentality-harms-2021-10.
Rubbish Please, “Connecting Domestic Hoarding & Poverty”, February 1, 2016, London, https://www.rubbishplease.co.uk/blog/connecting-domestic-hoarding-poverty/
Medicinenet.com, Medical author Karthik Kumar MBBS, Medical reviewer Pallavi Suyog Uttekar, MD. “Why does a Person Become a Hoarder?”, March 5, 2021
Written by Rosa L. Griffin