Old pictures, creased at the corners, capture only one chaotic moment of a wider, more turbulent, life. Piles of books and clothing, like modern art, litter every surface. The stacks of things seem to float on top of each other, the furniture invisible underneath. A chair is concealed by mountains of falling coats and jackets, fit for all weathers, kept on the chair, not in the closet- just in case. Notebooks are half-full, abandoned out of fear of ruining them, but kept for the future- just in case. The possessions are haunting, somehow, filled with memory and meaning which nobody could possibly understand, some of them painful, but they remain- just in case.
I grew up in a faux-middle-class house on a poverty line budget. The house was wearing at the seams, the bathroom a hideous pink ceramic, chipping at the edges, with a burgundy carpeted floor. When you grow up poor, you learn to hold onto things- just in case. I never thought of myself or my family as hoarders, until I wasn’t one anymore.
I didn’t see myself as disorganised, or messy. I didn’t have a reckless disregard for the things which I owned. I thought that I cared deeply about all of my possessions, I thought that I cared for myself.
When I finally took the time for self-reflection, I looked around myself and saw chaos. It made sense, but it was painful: my external reality looked a lot like my internal reality. For me, there was no external minimalism without internal wellbeing. Emotional healthcare, reflection on your own flaws, creating boundaries: these things take time to employ. Donation bags, recycling, and organising take time too. To have one without the other, in the early stages of self-development, makes little sense.
I kept things because I felt I might need them, not because of their use or value to me, but out of fear of lack. I was afraid. Afraid of the future, of not having enough. But the things were never enough, the things took away my energy, my time, my space: the things of real value and use.
A small desk, a macbook sits atop it, a notebook to the side, open and filled with ideas in black ink. Three green plants line a chest of drawers. A guitar leans against a bookshelf, each paperback loved, read, and re-read.
I now have space to live a rich life, to interact with my possessions. I remind myself often to keep my internal reality tidy, and in turn I avoid falling into old fears and mindsets. To experience a future, free of the burden of hoarding, free of that heavy, claustrophobic fear, is worth the initial time and energy spent decluttering interior and exterior spaces.
Do you have a history of hoarding? If so, how have you overcome it?
Featured image: cottonbro via Pexels.