HOARDERS ANONYMOUS

Hi, my name is Gemma. And I’m a hoarder. (Correction, I was a hoarder!)

The first step to overcoming my habit is to admit I have a problem!

As a little girl, I had weird collections. There was my ring pull collection (predominately not from cans that I had drunk myself). And then slightly more obscure, my little treasure box of wood shavings!   Let me explain… I grew up in houses that were constantly having work done to them. My dad always had some carpentry project on the go and I loved it. Those perfectly formed curls, freshly shaven using his old-school plane were like hidden gems amongst the piles of saw dust and wood chips.  If only You Tube was around back then, I could have found this video and my weird collection could have at least had a purpose…

What I could have done with my woodshaving collection!

But in my defence, they did have a purpose.  They brought me joy. I was fascinated how they curled so beautifully.  You remember that feeling when you sharpened a pencil and the excess bit stayed in tack and curled into that long cone shape? Oooh satisfaction!  And that smell. That smell of freshly cut wood that if I smell even today, takes me back to my childhood. But that’s the point.  Those little curls in my own weird way, made me happy.

And that my friend, is the difference between a collection and hoarding.  A collection of items that bring you satisfaction, as long as you are actually enjoying them, are worth having and even displaying in your home. The problem comes when you are obsessively collecting and it’s more a habit than for the love of it. Like I heard on a gambling advert recently… when the fun stops, stop!

And so we move nicely on to the confessions of a hoarder.

I think a real turning point for me was a few years ago. I was up in my loft trying to find something (I’m not sure I ever did find it among the sea of boxes!) and I came across a compilation of floppy discs and Zip discs. I had no means to retrieve the information on these prehistoric data devices, nor the real desire to see whatever information was even on them. I questioned if I still needed them, and of course the answer was no but something inside me didn’t feel comfortable throwing them away. Was it the voice wondering if the information could be intercepted by a person who might use the data immorally? Although, I’m not sure what use my a-level course work would be to a criminal mastermind! After assessing the security risk, I think I threw them in the bin!

But the real light bulb moment was when I then found a couple of old, round, white, paper lantern, light shades. You know the ones that were 90p or something from IKEA. They were so old the paper had disintegrated. But not only that, the plastic bag that they were being carefully stored in was also crumbling in my fingertips! (See photographic evidence below.) I was under the impression it took hundreds of years for plastic to decompose. Hmmm, perhaps I had held on to these for a little too long!

I’m not really sure why I’m a hoarder. I’d like to blame my parents for this one as their 4/5 bed house is full of stuff I believe they no longer need or even want. We’ve all flown the nest, with our stuff. My mum blames the recessions that had hit them hard years before. She says she wants to keep things in case they don’t have money in the future. But I’ve tried explaining that rich or poor, do they want or need all this stuff. I think not. 

Realistically, I don’t think I can blame them. I think it’s an accumulation of things. Partly, I am massively sentimental (I found a stash of empty chocolate boxes given to me by my childhood sweetheart (obviously they weren’t empty at the time of giving)). Partly I suffer from the ‘I might need that one day’ excuse and that stems from my creative re-use or re-purpose streak. Oh and I’m a bit tight thrifty, so don’t like spending money unnecessarily.

But all that aside. I have been enlightened. Last year, my husband was seriously contemplating uprooting our young family of 4 and moving to Singapore for a couple of years for his job. We were all really excited about the prospect of having an adventure. My hubby sold it to the kids like our lives are a story and we are the authors. Would people want to read a book about our lives that was dull and predictable, living in the same house, doing the same things everyday. Or would a chapter about an adventure to live in another country and make lots of friends who would come from all over the world be more exciting?! We were all on board. After the initial excitement, the realism kicked in and I started to question, what were we going to do with all our stuff!? I was going round the house mentally choosing what we would take and what we would leave/sell. And then I realised, there wasn’t much in our house that I treasured enough that I was willing to either pay for it to sit it storage for 2/3 years or pay to ship it around the world. (Although, perhaps that was me being tight again!)

The big move to Singapore.

Circumstances changed and we ended up staying, but the desire to really cut back on things that we no longer loved or needed was prominent.

We’ve done a massive house re-configuration since and are still going through boxes of stuff that we don’t want to clutter up our shiny new house with. It’s a work in progress that I will be sharing with you to hopefully inspire and motivate you to do the same. 

So I invite you to look around your house and ask yourself… if you were to move to another country and could only fill up one shipping container, what would you take? And more importantly, what would you leave behind?

If this is too much for you, you may need my help. I offer non-judgemental, friendly, personalised assistance in helping you tackle the contents of your home. Check out Work with Me or Contact Me for more info.