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Hoarding - How I Escaped

It's safe to say, I have a severe case of Hoarding Disorder. This means that I keep practically everything I am given. Advertisements, receipts, instruction manuals, you name it. I keep it all. It's not just being messy. It's about having a really close connection with our stuff. I have previously kept Christmas and Birthday cards for over 10 years because I felt bad about throwing it away when someone spent money or effort on something for me. So you can imagine how bad this got when I still had children's toys in my room from when I was really young. Some of them were hard to buy or really expensive at the time. Even though they may be decades old, I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them. It just feels like a loss. Almost a grieving process, but with stuff.

Of course, you have to get rid of things to move on, though. And so far, the only way that I've found to get rid of stuff, is to replace it. It's currently just after Christmas in 2019. I got a HTC Vive. A virtual reality headset. You wear it and it has sensors around the room to tell it where it is in a 3D space. This takes up quite a large area to use properly, however. And my room is frequently cluttered with old bits of paper. "What if I need it later on?" (I never need it later on) It actually causes me a surge of anxiety to even think about throwing things out. And the more value that thing has, the more it shakes my world.

I spent my birthday a few days ago fixing my PC and venting about how vague Windows 10's error messages are. But anyway. I spoke with my Mum about how I want to set up this 'room-scale' mode. But it needs 1.5 metres by 2 metres of space as a minimum. My room can meet these requirements, but I need to throw things out to do so. And in the early evening, I set off. Clearing out a draw, throwing things into a binbag. Mum kindly offered to take care of the rest. She works for a school so the kids will appreciate the toys that have collected dust for years. While clearing, I had to quickly rush to do as much as possible in between panic attacks. Of course, I had music on while I worked. But obviously a few hours rave music can only do so much.

To be honest, it was going to be a stressful situation no matter what I did. I either clear space for the Vive to work but have to throw away lots of old stuff in the process, or I use a >£500 headset in a way that can be done for half that price but get to keep everything in my room. The latter would be quite the waste of money and would also be no fun. But the former guarantees anxiety for a while. I chose the option number one very reluctantly. Though a few days later, I'm still having issues with anxiety. And college starts tomorrow. Not looking great. But as of writing this right now, I'm pretty much done.

So here's a picture of my shelves before, next to a picture of my shelves after.

Quite the transformation, huh? You may be wondering what was in those yellow and blue boxes. Well, the yellow one was completely empty. But it's the blue one's twin. So I kept it JUST for that reason. The blue one was full of old electronic circuits. No, I wasn't a child genius a few years ago. I only kept stuff like that when I was told to throw away an old electronic toy. My logic was "Technically I can keep it if I just keep its beating heart". So that box was full of broken circuit boards and several dozen motors. I did a few things with them. I managed to make a 3D printed saw with one of the motors. I managed to get a hole torn in my trousers from testing it and got shouted at for having torn leggings at work. That was fun!

Also, yes, I got rid of an entire shelf. The more shelves I have, the more my brain tries to fill them with junk. That theory originates from dieting. People on diets will usually own smaller plates, as it limits how much they can put on one.

Now let's go over some of the ways I convinced my hoarding brain that change is good.

  • New toys! When you're a kid, there's nothing like getting a shiny new toy that is somehow better than anything you've previously had. When you grow up, your 'toys' get a little more complex and expensive. (This is mostly just us teenagers) In my case, my new toy was not only complex but basically needed my entire room to be clear as I was practically going to be walking around while blindfolded. This was great motivation for me as it meant I could essentially have multiple worlds in my own room. (In the "after" picture above, I was about to play Rolling Line. A model railway game in VR. How cool is that!?) So you could probably apply similar logic to your situation. If you're a parent, maybe entice your hoarding kid to have a clear out by treating them to something if they follow through with the plan. If you're not a parent, now's the time to treat yourself! Hoarding disorder is a serious thing and is really hard to heal from. So you deserve it!

  • Healthy body! The dust buildup in my room was at the point where I was frequently calling in sick to college or work due to colds. When really, going to work or college would've most likely stopped the 'cold' in its tracks! Not to mention the tripping hazards. Which can become a fire hazard should you need to evacuate quickly. Better safe than sorry and all that!

  • Memories~! I actually managed to dig up some old memories while I was clearing out. I've only shown you one shelf in my room, but I'd say I got rid of over 70% of the mess. That's not bad going for me! And along the way, I found my old school diaries and a personal journal I wrote almost a decade ago. Who knew letting go of memories could help me find even older ones?!

  • Respect! No doubt, you'll get mad respect from your friends and family. If you like having people over, then you'll soon be in paradise. If you're an introvert, design your room so it's obvious you only intend to be alone. That will get the message across.

  • Satisfaction! All you have to do is clean one part of your room to notice a real positive difference. Just imagine the rest of your room ideal for the person you are now, not the person you were three years ago!

  • Tiny steps! Maybe throwing things in the bin is a bit hard. So move them into a binbag, but leave it outside your room. Then, a day or two later, move then again. And keep moving them further away until you get to the bin. It's a great way to gradually ease yourself into a new lifestyle.

Those are the top 6 tips I have. I'm recovering still, so I'm really not an expert. But if you're starting out, those are how I escaped the trap of hoarding. Good luck!

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