You may not be a full-on hoarder, but hoarding can still have a big negative impact on your life. Are you a micro-hoarder?
First, let’s define what we mean when we say “micro-hoarding”. Then we’ll take a look at why it’s so bad to do it.
You might remember the popular A&E show Hoarders. Whether you’re a big fan of reality TV or not, you’ve probably heard of this show. It’s pretty jarring—at first, it seems like a sick look into the intimate side of people’s tragedies. You’re seeing inside homes so full of stuff it seems impossible to fix or clean out.
Yet, by the end of each episode, the people featured are making progress. Reconnecting with family and friends. On the path to better mental health.
It may not be as extreme, but the situation is the same with micro-hoarding. How do you know whether micro-hoarding is impacting your life? Read on to find out.
What is micro-hoarding?
Full-on hoarding is a mental health disorder in its own right, or may be a symptom of another disorder such as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or depression. Here is the clinical definition:
Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members.
The quantity of the stuff hoarded is usually on a larger scale than other people. And it can have massively bad effects in your life. Many hoarders face a “wake up call” at some point, whether it’s the fire marshal declaring that if you don’t clean up you’ll lose the house; family staging an intervention; or even having Child Protective Services called in over charges of child endangerment. A house with every available surface covered in trash is no safe environment to raise a child.
So if hoarding is the massive accumulation of stuff to your and your family’s emotional, physical, social, financial, and legal detriment—then what is micro-hoarding?
Even if you’re not a full hoarder, you still can have a complicated relationship with the stuff you own. You might over-accumulate one specific item or type of item. It might not have a huge negative impact on your whole life, but it might negatively impact your relationship to that item. That’s micro-hoarding.
Micro-hoarding certainly wouldn’t be considered compulsive or obsessive in the clinical sense, but if your accumulation of something gets large enough, it can still derail you.
Here’s what to watch out for to understand if you are in a micro-version of what happens on the show Hoarders, and if you are, what to do about it to make sure it doesn’t derail your life.
How to know if you’re micro-hoarding
Let’s take an example. Let’s say you love to cook. You love it so much that over time, you accumulate so many kitchen implements, pots, and pans that your ability to enjoy cooking is impaired. You have a device for every possible scenario, and each time you cook, you use so many implements that cleanup is a huge hassle. You can’t find that perfect pot when you need it. You have now accumulated so much cooking stuff that you do not enjoy cooking at all anymore. You’ve become a micro-hoarder.
Or it could be books—let’s say you love to read. You keep accumulating books that you’d like to read, to the point that you have so much anxiety deciding what to read next that you end up not reading any books at all. Instead, you read articles like this one on the internet. That’s another example of the things you own starting to own you.
Here’s an important note: Micro-hoarding and collecting are very different. Collectors gain enjoyment out of what they collect, feel pride when explaining it to others, keep their collection organized, and—crucially—budget their time and money devoted to collecting.
Ultimately, you can know if you’re micro-hoarding based on a simple question: Is your accumulation of something impairing your enjoyment of it?
If yes, then you have a micro-hoarding problem. Here’s what to do about it.
So you’re a micro-hoarder. Here’s what you can do about it
Ask yourself the following questions to determine the best way to dig yourself out of your micro-hoarding hole:
1) Are you spending money on things that don’t matter to your goals?
What are your long-term goals—paying off debt, starting a business, or saving up for a house, trip, or toy? Where is your money going instead? If you’re spending money on something that isn’t helping you make progress on your true long-term goals, this is an indication of where to start to fix your micro-hoarding problem.
Start with the money. Every time you are about to purchase something to further your micro-hoarding, stage a wake-up call for yourself. Ask yourself: Does this matter to what I really care about? Is this worth postponing or losing out on my long-term goals?
If the answer is no, then the choice should be easy. Don’t spend on stuff that doesn’t help you get where you want to go in life. If you don’t, you will be one step closer to beating your micro-hoarding and being free to live your life.
2) Do the things you surround yourself with bring you true happiness consistent with the time, space, and energy they take up?
We’re all aware of Marie Kondo and her revolutionary ideas around the life-changing magic of tidying up. The core of her ideas, and the reason she’s received so much international acclaim, is very simple: If you look around at the objects in your life, hold each one in your hand, ask yourself, “does this spark joy?”, and truly listen to the answer, then you will instantly be on the path to a happier life.
The objects we surround ourselves with are emotionally charged, no matter how small. If we only keep the ones that give us truly positive feelings, then our lives will be better. That’s some life-changing magic. And you can use it to improve your own life.
So try it! Begin analyzing the objects around you through the lens of does this spark joy?—and throw it away or give it away if the answer isn’t a resounding yes.
3) Do you have a storage space with stuff you haven’t used in over a year?
We all keep stuff we probably don’t need or won’t use again. Why? Is it because we think we might use it? Or because of the memories it holds? Or maybe it’s just that we wouldn’t know what to do with it if we did try to get rid of it?
Whatever the reason, this stuff is bogging us down mentally and emotionally. Think about that storage space. How does thinking about it make you feel? Not great, right? Vague sense of guilt? Dissatisfaction at paying the monthly fee, if you’re using a storage facility? Same here.
So get rid of it. Commit to freeing yourself from those feelings, and then follow through. Make a plan for when you’re going to go through each item, and decide what to do with it. Don’t be afraid to throw it out—I know it seems scary now, but you’ll be surprised at how light you feel when it’s done.
Ultimately, freeing yourself from micro-hoarding isn’t about freeing up physical space. It’s about freeing mental and emotional space to more fully do the things you love, to more fully be with the people you love, and to more fully be your true, authentic self. All this stuff is dragging you down, and smothering the things that bring you real joy. Don’t let it.
Make the commitment today to make each dollar you spend a wake-up call; to start analyzing each object in your life through the lens of sparking joy; and to make a plan to get rid of your stuff and the mental baggage it creates.
Don’t wait. Do it now. You don’t have time to waste.
We certainly don’t want to hoard the good news… That you could be driving 43% more traffic to your site through Amazon Alexa, while you sleep. You’ll want to try the Shoutworks plugin (takes 2 minutes). Quick, do it before everyone catches on!