Sunday, February 17, 2013

Am I a Hoarder?

I had the fun privilege of house/dog sitting for some friends of mine a while back.  Along with wifi access, I was able to watch TV shows that I had only heard about (I don’t have cable at home).  One of those shows was Hoarding: Buried Alive on The Learning Channel (TLC).  They had a show marathon, and I watched as much as I could stand.

Hoarding is a reality show about people who cannot stop collecting and storing items.  Their homes slowly deteriorate from piles of items in one room, to multiple rooms being used as storage closets, and ultimately ending up a dump that houses mounds and mounds of debris, some valuable, some filthy junk.  By the time the camera crews show up, the homes have become unlivable, and some have literally become dangerous health hazards.

I saw many similar character traits in each hoarder:
  • Fear – They were all afraid to let go of anything.  They felt like their stuff was a cocoon that protected them, when in fact, it imprisoned them.
  • Isolation – They did not let anyone come to their houses and many did not go out in public unless absolutely necessary. 
  • Shame – They went to great lengths to protect their secret from their loved ones.
  • Despair and Depression - Most of the hoarders I saw were depressed; some were even suicidal.

After watching these shows, I had to ask myself the question:  Am I a hoarder?  Not a hoarder of material things (no, my apartment does not look like that, thank God), but a hoarder of body clutter.  I saw my excess weight and self-destructive thinking were parallel with the mentality of the hoarders on the TV show.

I was fearful.  I didn’t want to let go of the weight for a while because I thought it was a cocoon that protected me from other people’s bad feelings and lecherous men’s unwanted advances.  I didn’t want to let go of the negative thinking either.  I believed that if I could  think and say it about myself first, it wouldn’t hurt to hear it from anyone else.  First John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear.”  The reverse is also true; fear casts out love.  Pastor Rick Warren said, “Any barrier you build around your heart to protect it from pain also blocks out love.”  I saw this in my own life.  My fearful heart had no room to love anyone, especially myself.

My fearful heart isolated me.  I thought being away from people made me safe, but there is more safety in numbers.  I Peter 1:8 says that satan “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”  What kind of prey do lions seek?  Prey that is injured or alone because they are easy pickings, won’t put up much of fight, and are unprotected.  In Ecclesiastes 4, King Solomon points out that life is better when not lived in isolation.

Being isolated lead to feelings of shame.  I was ashamed to be around anyone, ashamed of what I looked like, and ashamed of the failure that I had become.  I didn’t want my hoard of pain to be seen anymore.  My days consisted of going to work, going home, and going to church and that was it.  If I had to leave the house to shop for groceries or anything necessary, I went during off peak hours to avoid running into anyone who knew me.  I stopped wearing makeup, doing my hair, and considered any extra care I took of myself a waste.  I was a mess…a hot mess.

Well, at the worst of it, this hot mess was so depressed and so full of despair that she didn’t want to live anymore.  I wasn’t really living anyway.  I was just existing; surviving from one crappy moment to the next.  What difference did my body dying make?  I didn’t have the balls to just off myself, just to slowly disappear from life and hope to die alone in my sleep.  After all, that was the death I felt I deserved. 

So how do any of us hoarders get free?  One statement I heard from one of the hoarding/OCD experts on the show was, Clear the clutter inside or risk losing your home forever.”  Some got the message; some didn’t.  Whether it was the psychologist who made them make quick decisions about what to keep and what to throw away, or a moving crew with a semi to pick up the items and hall them away, each person who got the message had lots of people to help. 

Wow, I think God was talking to me.  I got the message and started doing the same things to clear my life’s clutter because I wasn't ready to give up my home—my body, mind, and spirit.  I got a lot of help.  I’ve talked about accountability before, but I also had to clear some clutter through talking about it and dealing with it through prayer, hearing God’s Word, and confessing my faults and sorting them out with someone I trust.  I’ve been an active member of a Celebrate Recovery support group for several years, which is also a big help.  I’ve chosen to let go of some junky things to gain something better.  I now have people in my life who keep me on the path of clearing out the hoard and not letting me collect new junk…none on my body and none in my mind.  It has been a tedious process, but my “cleaning teams” are very patient with me, even when I am not patient with myself.  I never want to be a hoarder again!

Are you a hoarder?
Who can you get to help you clean up?


  1. I'm stunned at your comments. I never thought of the disease like this. My best friend here is a real hoarder: truck piled to the gills, lives with her boyfriend because her trailer is trashed, etc. You are SO RIGHT about the fear factor. I've watched that show, because of her, and I SEE that. The client always lashes out when things start going away because they are SCARED to see them go. I never thought of your weight in the same way. I've been sad that you've maybe been left out of the romantic scene because of it. THAT makes me angry at humanity. I never thought you'd feel the need to isolate yourself from humanity: you've always been so warm and bold. You are such an inspirational person: brilliant, strong, humorous...need I go on?? I wonder if you're under Satanic attack. I wouldn't rule it out. He can really go after the "best ones." I could spend the rest of my Lents praying for you. I wish I could ease your pain. I do recall your telling me of an event in your early life that may have triggered all this. If this is so....I PRAY you can get help to work through it. I love you and think about you all the time!!! Suzanne.