Stuff, stuff, stuff. We all have it. Some of us more than others. Buy how do you know if you have so much stuff that it might be a problem?
We can all justify why we have so much stuff and often we will argue that what we are doing is financially savvy. You need to buy things to save money, right?
But are you in denial? We have all probably seen the television shows about hoarders and figure if our lives are not that bad we don't really have to worry. But as an antique dealer part of my trade was buying from estates and making appraisals and some of the homes were eye popping in what I saw.
There is a difference between a person that saves, stockpiles and hoards but it can be a slippery slope and you need to know if you are in danger of becoming out of control.
The one thing that I understood was that people who had a lot of stuff collected it for several reasons and 5 of these reasons were that
1. The Organizers- they thought it would make their lives more organized
2. The Money Makers- they thought it would make them money
3. The Money Savers- they thought it would save them money
4. The Rescuers- they felt like they were rescuing it
5. The Betrayal Savers- they felt if they got rid of something it would be a betrayal
I am not a psychiatrist but I started to note these trends with the homes that I was in that had piles, upon piles of things in them.
1. The Organizers are people who thought they were going to make there lives more organized and were the ones that could not pass up a deal because they thought they could give it to someone latter as a gift, they would be able to use it latter themselves or they knew that one day it would come in handy.
These people were always telling me what a great deal that they got on everything. They tended to buy the same things over and over again such as towels, sheets, craft items, organizing items or gifts.
Most of the time the gifts never got sent to the intended recipient or items would be out of fashion before they could ever get used. They would have so much of one items, like towels, that they would forget what they owned. Their efforts at organizing usually meant hiding items in bins that they would forget about. There houses were a constant mess.
On the other hand people that save and stockpiled things tended to do it with items that they know will be used up by a specific date.
They might stockpile items that they plan to use at a cabin or second home and know that they will be taking them there at the first opportunity. They are organized in their gift giving and if the gift is not given to one person someone else will receive it. They have a plan and, for the most part, stick to that plan.
2. The Money Makers are people who collected things that they thought would make them money and were what I dealt with a great deal as they would ask me to come in to appraise things. Some of the items I appraised where beautiful and even very valuable but there were times I got to understand very quickly that they had no intention of selling any of these things.
One home that I was in had furniture stacked from floor to ceiling with paths that you could walk through. Everything was clean and in excellent repair but the main reason they had me do the appraisal was to prove to their children that they were not collecting junk, what they owned was valuable.
I know of several antique dealers who live in similar homes. They buy and store with the idea that they are going to make money on it and they are terrified that if they stop buying that they will run out of stock and have to buy items at over valued prices. Often this is more of an inventory problem because they are determined to sell what they have.
Most people are familiar with this type of person by people that collect scrap metal but never sell it. Their yards and property are littered with rusting out junk that they consider valuable but they never take the next step in business to sell it off.
Through my charity work I became very involved with scrap metal as we used it as a fund raiser for one the boys and girls club in our area. During our two yearly drives we were often contacted by widows or adult children of metal hoarders who just wanted to get rid of the stuff.
People who make money on the things that they collect sell them, it is as simple as that. If you are not selling and making money on the things that you collect then it is not a money making venture.
3. The Money Savers, the idea of buying something because it will save you money appeals to all of use but I have seen it taken to an extreme. Mostly I saw people that would stock up on tools, kitchen gadgets or DIY books/magazines because they knew that if they made items from scratch it would save them money. I also saw people that would have mountains of toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies and bathroom items.
With the tools, kitchen appliances and DIY books/magazines the sad truth was that most of these things were used or looked at once, if ever. They didn't want to get rid of any of it because they knew it would save them money if they just applied themselves to it.
While it is great to stockpile the necessities of home if you have more than a years worth and are using up valuable home space then you might be on the verge of hoarding.
4. The Rescuers are people who think that they are rescuing items by "giving it a home". They logically know that things don't have feelings but none the less buy things that they don't need because they are afraid the item won't find a home otherwise. These are the people that will say things like, "Well I knew if I didn't buy it, it would get thrown out."
Shopping at garage sales Rescuers would pick out sentimental items and be horrified that the owners would want to get rid of them. While most people would just have a sweet memory if they saw a favorite childhood toy at a garage sale Rescuers will sometimes get angry at the people that are selling the items and tell them that they don't know what treasure they are selling.
The only time that I have ever seen a Rescuer that was justified in what they were buying were people that buy and donate/sell items to museums.
5. The Betrayal Savers are people who can not get rid of things because they feel they will be getting rid of a memory or betraying a person that they love. I saw this over and over again. People that inherited furniture from parents or grandparents that they didn't have room for or disliked but they would not get rid of it.
It is so incredibly difficult when you loose someone you love to also get rid of their things and many people never can do it. It is not uncommon for widows to hold onto their husbands clothes to the very end.
Grief is a very deep emotion and you can not decide when someone has grieved "enough". Many times professional counselling is the only way people can get pass the idea of betrayal by getting rid of items that they don't want or need that belonged to someone they loved.
There are times that people inherit things from relatives that they were not close to or didn't know. They feel that they can get rid of the items because they would be betraying their family heritage.
There are mother that don't want to get rid of any of their children's items because they feel they would be giving away the memories as well.
Betrayal savers need to talk about their feelings. What they are feeling is valid but it might be pushing them out of control. No one wants the things around them to take over their lives.
While we can all see some of ourselves in all of these types we need to recognize if we are headed for trouble. If you are being told by family members repeatedly that you have a problem then you need to stop being defensive and seriously look at your behavior instead of always trying to justify it.
One argument that is often heard from people that are slipping towards hoarding is that there homes are clean. None of the homes that I was ever in were dirty. They might have been packed floor to ceiling with stuff but they didn't seem to have a problem with throwing out garbage. I suppose this problems is with people that are extreme hoarders.
Unless you are a extremely organized person, all of us have some things that we just hang onto. My husband has a box of books from university that are outdated but he won't part with them, I probably have more gardening tools and supplies than I really need. Everyone has something that they could probably get rid of but choose not to.
Being realistic with yourself will make you enjoy the things in your life that truly matter and help you get rid of the rest of the stuff.
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Copyright Ingrid Talpak 2012