Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Hoarder in You / Robin Zasio

4 out of 5 stars
We all have treasured possessions—a favorite pair of shoes, a much-beloved chair, an ever-expanding record collection. But sometimes, this emotional attachment to our belongings can spiral out of control and culminate into a condition called compulsive hoarding. From hobbyists and collectors to pack rats and compulsive shoppers—it is close to impossible for hoarders to relinquish their precious objects, even if it means that stuff takes over their lives and their homes. According to psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio, our fascination with hoarding stems from the fact that most of us fall somewhere on the hoarding continuum. Even though it may not regularly interfere with our everyday lives, to some degree or another, many of us hoard. The Hoarder In You provides practical advice for decluttering and organizing, including how to tame the emotional pull of acquiring additional things, make order out of chaos by getting a handle on clutter, and create an organizational system that reduces stress and anxiety. Dr. Zasio also shares some of the most serious cases of hoarding that she’s encountered, and explains how we can learn from these extreme examples—no matter where we are on the hoarding continuum. 

I guess I intuitively knew there was a “hoarding continuum.” I have one sister who exists very much on the minimalist end of that scale—I envy her ease at keeping her house clean and organized. My other sister and I inhabit the mid-range of the scale, thankfully well away from OMG territory, but we struggle with accumulations of “stuff” in our homes.

It makes complete sense to me that the hoarding tendency goes hand in hand with anxiety issues and with perfectionism. My desire to do things not merely well, but excellently often stands in my way when I am sorting household debris—if I could just toss things into the dumpster and leave it at that, my home would be much less crowded. However, I feel the necessity to recycle as many items as possible—making things available for people who have less and keeping things out of the landfill. I’m starting to see that I need to let go of this perfectionism. Even the charities are getting picky about what items they accept and I need to just chuck some things.

Anxiety certainly also plays into my issues—questions like “where exactly is that electronics recycling depot?” hold me back, because I am reluctant to load the car and hope that I can find the spot. I like to know where I am going, but I can’t know until I actually go there the first time. I’ve managed to work myself into the perfect circular loop of inactivity.

I think one of the best tips in this book is the existence of thought distortions which make it difficult to part with certain objects. The whole “what if I need this later?” myth is a great example and one which I have heard directly from my sister’s lips. The truth is, if we need it later, we can borrow it or rent it or maybe find it second-hand. The real truth is we are unlikely to EVER need it and it is taking up real estate that could house things that are actually useful.

I had already come to see my household accumulations as piles of unmade decisions—now I have a few tools to deal with those problem piles. And I also have a book recommendation to make to my sister.

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