To Nature / To Others / To Self / To Society / To Things

How is hoarding un-purposeful?

Key Takeaway: Hoarding can come in many different forms – physical, digital, emotional and financial. And they’re all against the tenets of awareness, even if said hoards are supposedly tidy. True organization is simple and purposeful, and to truly deal with hoarding is to deal with the personal mindset and standards on things, vis-à-vis purposeful living.


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We’ve all heard it: our society – especially Philippine society – is consumer-driven, and the world in general is so consumerist that people have inadvertently turned to a new kind of idolatry where money, or wealth and fame, has become a god. We always want the newest, the best, the most popular, but what happens after we get them? Are they truly consumed? Not always.

Hoarding is a real problem that affects people from all walks of life, to the point that there is an actual compulsive hoarding disorder (it was listed as a mental disorder just two years ago), which is estimated to affect about 2-5% of adults. Hoarding is a behavior with two distinct characteristics: excessive acquisition and an unwillingness to part with said acquired things (whether it comes in the form of giving, selling, or discarding).

It can have negative effects on us ranging from the obvious to the not-so, such as less space to work with or around, opportunity costs, or even strained relationships with loved ones.

But here’s the thing: Hoarding can take on many different forms, and we may not realize that they are actually already hoarding (myself included!). Here are a few such examples.

1. Physical Hoarding

The most commonly-recognized kind of hoarding: We buy and buy (or acquire in some other way) lots of things, not even sure if we’d actually use them, and they are unintentionally (or otherwise) left to languish on the shelves, in the back room, in a side pocket, etc. And when pressed to get rid of them, we are unable or unwilling to.

2. Digital Hoarding

Although proper documentation for a company – especially in today’s technology-driven world – calls for a complete inventory of digital files, which could fill up an entire hard drive or two or much more (I was trained, in fact, to keep even older versions of documents), digital hoarding is very much possible. This especially applies to those who love downloading significantly huge files such as multimedia files, especially TV series – and while the physical space isn’t sacrificed, there is still an element of disorder underneath.

3. Financial Hoarding

Being driven by money is actually a form of hoarding, especially when said hoarder is a miser, a person who accumulates as much money as they can yet spends as little as possible. This is different from purposeful saving up for, say, your children’s future: Financial hoarding has no clearcut purpose other than to be rich and enjoy so-called financial security and stability.

4. Emotional Hoarding

Hoarding can be emotional as well, and this shows in relationships (or the lack thereof). An emotional hoarder does not share their thoughts or feelings even if they have lots of such at the moment; it is hoarding especially if said thoughts or feelings can be beneficial to those around them (the same way that physical things hoarded but unused could be useful for others). It could in fact be emotionally unhealthy because it’s always kept inside and not released.

As shown above, hoarding of all kinds displays a lack of awareness and responsibility towards others, the environment, money and things, and even oneself. Hoarding is driven by self-interest or an unhealthy, excessive sense of contingency or preparedness – and sooner or later, its adverse effects will show, as mentioned above.

Although the things you hoard (this applies most to the first three kinds of hoarding above) can be very neatly organized and stored, this is not true organization. To be truly organized is to be simple and purposeful in said organization, and to organize things for the sake of it is, ironically enough, actually being disorganized. Furthermore, while something may look tidy externally, the same might not hold true upon closer examination or perusal.

There is a saying that “one man’s trash may be another’s treasure”, and this is the antidote to hoarding. It displays awareness: awareness that the things you hoard aren’t necessarily useful for you, that you may be keeping them for the sake of keeping them. Awareness that someone else in greater need may benefit from the thing hoarded, whether physical, digital (that files can be duplicated anyway isn’t the point), financial, or emotional. Awareness that you could live a lighter life by putting an end to hoarding practices.

As we push on through the Christmas season, and as 2015 draws to a close, many of us may be considering doing a spring cleaning as a New Year’s resolution or refreshing year-starter. The Christmas rush brings us many opportunities to go shopping not just for gifts for loved ones, but also gifts for ourselves. And when gifts aren’t thoughtfully or thoroughly thought out, they can become detrimental rather than beneficial. In summary, the Christmas season has a lot of potential to add clutter to everyone’s lives, and with that comes hoarding.

As I said, I myself sometimes suffer from hoarding. To deal with it, I try to become stricter with myself in terms of my keep-it-or-toss-it standards, but this isn’t just enough. The best way, which also happens to be from a long-term perspective, would be to re-evaluate the standards themselves, that is to say the underlying and overarching purpose of owning, keeping, or parting with something: How solid is the purpose? Perhaps it might not be an authentic purpose after all?

As we begin another week, why don’t we use the time in a truly productive way by evaluating and perhaps changing our mindsets on hoarding? That way, we can begin to prevent hoarding in the first place, and live simpler lives that enable us to focus on our purposes.

Have a purposeful week ahead!

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