Conditions that can masquerade as “hoarding”

I have had quite a few clients that have been told they are “hoarders” (by experts and non-experts alike). Some diagnosed and some not diagnosed. And many clients have self-diagnosed themselves as “hoarders” also.

I have also had professionals (support coordinators, social workers etc) say “This person is a hoarder”. However, there are a LOT of conditions, neuro-diversities and behaviours that can cause (or masquerade as) hoarding and challenging domestic environments.

Autism can cause executive dysfunction that results in overwhelm and avoidance, which can end up looking like hoarding to the uninitiated.

ADHD can do the same. It can also cause impulsive buying which can then also look, on appearances, like hoarding.

Autism can result in collecting behaviours in special interests, and very strong attachment. This can be mistaken for hoarding disorder.

Depression can cause decision-making anxiety, which means that things can’t be decided-upon get left unresolved, which can result in unclean living conditions and unfinished tasks, which also can be mistaken for hoarding.Depression can also cause low motivation, which results in unfinished tasks, and sometimes self-soothing actions like buying and collecting, which can build up clutter and sometimes unclean spaces.Bi-polar can have similar effects – during mania episodes, there could be impulsive purchasing. During depressive episodes, there could be a lack of motivation, overwhelm and difficulty starting and finishing tasks.

OCD can mean that regular household tasks become gargantuan and unmanageable due to the complex rituals that need to be undertaken. Washing the dishes could take 5 hours. Who’d want to do the dishes if it took that long?

Creativity can cause a high interest in numerous activities. Couple that with ADHD and you can end up with high level of clutter and an inability to put it into order.

Childhood trauma (or any trauma really) can cause attachment issues and self-soothing activities that can cause high clutter levels. Also for some people, there was no role model to learn helpful space and stuff management behaviours.

I could go on, but my point is – hoarding behaviours and “unclean” living environments can come from many possible sources.

Be careful not to saddle someone with a label that has stigma attached to it (hopefully that will go away but for now, it’s here) when it could simply be a behaviour that has its sources in a place other than hoarding disorder.

Also, assuming it’s hoarding disorder can mean that potential treatments can be missed out on.

And if you have hoarding behaviours, go easy on yourself – you are a whole person who cannot be reduced to one behaviour. You’re awesome x

Leaving room for the warm fuzzies

When you declutter or downsize, there will be items that are challenging to make decisions on. There are various reasons, but one reason is definitely that there is a sentimental connection somewhere.

Sometimes it’s an item that reminds you of a past event, or even just a past feeling. It could remind you of blood, sweat and tears that you put into it. It could have been given to you by a loved one, or someone who has passed. It gives you a good feeling that you don’t want to lose.

When you have more stuff than space, it’s important to reduce your belongings – it’s actually necessary. However, you don’t need to give up on off of the things that fill your heart and soul.

When you are decluttering and downsizing, it’s fine if you want to set aside some space for your memorabilia. For some people, it’s a really important piece of who they are.  They key is to be intentional about how much space it can take up. If you’re moving into a smaller home, designate a certain storage area in the new home for your warm fuzzies.  Ideally, you’ll use them and they’ll be in the daily cycle.  Second priority would be to display them. But even if there’s no room to do either (or it’s not appropriate to display Great Grandpa’s love letters or your school reports), you can set aside a space somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.  Sometimes just a few items can meet the same emotional needs as the whole lot.

It’s okay to make space for your heart, just as long as you do it intentionally and it takes up only a helpful amount of your living space.

Being able to keep some things that give you the warm fuzzies is important.

A better life? You choose….

When we buy things or keep things, we often have reasons why.

“I might need it”
“But it’s part of my history”
“I need to finish it first”
“I’ll feel guilty”
“It’s still usable”
“These things always come in handy”

ALL of those rationales could be re-written as “My life will be better if I keep it”, couldn’t they? You’d be prepared, or have memories, or have knowledge awaiting you, or you won’t feel guilt. You’ll be better off than if you discarded it, right? I mean, that’s why you’re keeping it, really, isn’t it?

Next time you catch yourself making an excuse to keep something, tell it how it is. Say how you think it will make your life better. Then question that. Will it REALLY? Or just potentially? Or just in the short term?

What about your goal of living a life that is more intentional, mindful, simple and meaningful? Will living like that make your life better?

So which will you go with?

Keeping: “My life will be better if I keep it”

OR

Discarding: “My life will be better if I don’t keep it”.

It’s up to you to choose, so choose well.

Mindful shopping: an antidote to clutter

One of the most common causes of clutter I come across is excess acquisitions; when people buy more stuff than they have space or need for.

People shop for various reasons. One is a basic need – you need sustenance, so you buy milk and bread. You have a hole in your shoe, so you buy a replacement pair to stop your feet getting wet.

Another reason we buy things is to give to others. Presents, gifts, donations. Or as an investment – jewellery, art etc. We also shop to create an environment we feel happy in. We buy home-wares, clothes, artwork and decorations.

Another big reason we buy things is to make ourselves feel better. To feel more successful, to feel more content, to feel more beautiful, more intelligent, more accepted, more creative.

Finally, we shop to get an adrenaline rush. Either the thrill of the chase, or the thrill of the bargain. And then once addicted, it’s just for the rush and no other reason.

People don’t usually shop with the intention of filling their house to unhelpful levels, nor with the intention of growing large amounts of debt, of feeling constantly unsatisfied, or of needing to buy more storage, or of filling our oceans and landfill with excess goods we didn’t need in the first place.  But this is what happens anyway.

Shopping mindfully can help to reduce these negative effects of consumption.

Ask yourself what do you really NEED, and can this item give you that? Will that pretty notebook really make you happier than you are today, beyond the first page of using it? Will that new outfit really make you feel more attractive in the long term?  Will that new phone still be good enough when the next one comes out?

Ask yourself if your home and your life can handle more stuff in it. Is there a home for that item? Do you have time to maintain it, put it away, dust it, clean in, move it around, repair it etc?

Ask yourself if you already have enough. Do you have something else already that can do the same job as that thing you’re eyeing off? Can you survive without the item? (for most things the answer is yes as you’ve survived just fine without it so far!).

Finally, as yourself what truly makes you happy. True, lasting happiness comes from being accepted and part of a community. It comes from helping others. It comes from being grateful for what you have. It comes from learning and growing. It comes from being mindful and present.

Ask yourself these questions before you next make a purchase – and be intentional and mindful of what you bring into your life.

Future You and Past You – are you ignoring them?

Why do we treat our future selves so badly sometimes? And why don’t we trust our past selves?
 
I was just thinking about this because I decided to set myself a calendar reminder to do something (marketing stuff – boring!) once a month. I thought that was a good thing for my future self – she’ll be glad I reminded her of something she should be doing but always forgets to.
 
My first thought was “I’ll probably ignore it” (as I usually do).
 
Do you do this? How many reminders pop up on your phone or PC and you select “Dismiss all” every time without reading them?
 
My next thought was “I wouldn’t ignore someone else’s advice, why do I ignore my own??!”.
 
Doing that task monthly is a GOOD IDEA. I know it is, that’s why I want to set the reminder. But then when I get the reminder, I’ll think “Meh, whatever”.
 
I will not trust my past self enough to do what she said. I will not respect my future self enough to put in some work for her so that her SEO doesn’t drop away.
 
So I’m going to write that reminder, and schedule it. And in it I will write in caps: “STOP DISRESPECTING YOURSELF”. Maybe that will remind me of how important that task really is!

The culture of “better” is hurting us

It might be because of the hundreds of homes we either declutter or empty every year, but I am very, very aware of the amount of stuff that our culture is wasting.

Our culture of “better” is toxic to say the least. We are made to believe that unless we have a home that is in fashion, we have failed somehow. That we can’t have “ugly” things or old thing, or things that don’t match (side note: what you bought last week will be ugly to you or someone else one day but you think it’s gorgeous now – what does that say about us??).

We at Clear Space send TONS of furniture to Auction Houses and charities every month. Literally tons. It’s all perfectly usable and the supply really does outnumber the demand, which means that even quite usuable stuff is often rejected by all and ends up in landfill.

But despite the massive supply to second-hand places, how many people ever consider buying second-hand?

Most people think “Why would you, when a new one is $5 from Kmart or $15 from IKEA and it’s “modern” and pretty?

I beg you to rethink this obsession with fashion. I beg you to rethink this obsession with buying cheap stuff and replacing it frequently with more cheap stuff.

There’s some amazing secondhand stuff available if you just take the time to look. I can virtually guarantee you that a 50yo, $30 coffee table will last longer than the $250 new one you buy.

Embrace sustainable purchasing, embrace “old is new”, embrace the idea that what you have is good enough and doesn’t need to be “upgraded”.

Let’s not fall for the Culture of Better.

It requires more than decluttering

There’s always a lot of talk about decluttering as the Solver of All Woes.
 
We’re told that if we throw out a lot of stuff, we’ll be happy.
 
That’s not incorrect per se; I truly believe that with less stuff comes less complexity and stress, but decluttering is a medium-term benefit, not long-term (and organising is short term!).
 
By decluttering, we are ridding ourselves of all the things that weigh us down and complicate our lives. But if that’s the only thing we do, then we’ll have to keep decluttering forever, and we’ll still have big impact on our environment and culture.
 
What is better, is a change in acquisition habits over the long term.
 
What we don’t buy today, what we don’t get given as gifts, what we don’t grab on sale, what we don’t “save” from kerbside waste, will not need to be decluttered later.
 
The items we choose to repair instead of discard, to purchase from ethical and sustainable suppliers, to buy based on the material’s end-of-life destination, to buy second-hand, will not end up in landfill at the same rate it will for lesser quality goods.
 
So yes, declutter, but also please, put into action some new habits and lifestyle changes so that in five years time, you’re not still decluttering madly nor sending a lot of unnecessary items to landfill.
 
Some habits to try could be;
* only buying what you need
* avoiding sales
* saving up for things instead of using a credit card
* largely ignoring clothing and decor trends (they’re just there to make you consume more and then you produce more waste)
* buying fewer items that are higher quality, repairable, and are produced ethically and sustainably
* giving experiences as gifts
* not accepting “free stuff”
* buying second-hand when you do need something
* showing your love with presence instead of presents
* avoiding the “disposable” mentality
* keep things until they fall apart or are no longer serving you, not just because there’s a “newer” version
 
You don’t need to be “perfect”, and do all these things (I certainly don’t always) but any small attempts you make now will reward you and our planet significantly in the future.

There’s nothing wrong with who you are right now

You know, I don’t subscribe to the “achievement” agenda. The “be your best” and “overcome mediocrity” war-cries.

I’m tired of all the “You can do better, you can have better, you can be better” motivational lines.

I am sick of everyone feeling like a failure because they aren’t the best. When did just living a mediocre or modest life become disdainful? My Dad didn’t climb the corporate ladder. He pretty much had the same job for 30 years. Others rose above him, and he kept working in his lab or in the field, quietly, brilliantly and unassumedly. And one day someone named a building after him (much to his embarrassment!).  You don’t need to appear to be the best to have an impact on the world (you also don’t need a building named after you either, it was just an example of people admiring and appreciating you even if you aren’t “out there” or rich or famous).

You don’t need an Instagram face or body. You don’t need to look 20 years younger than you actually are (as one of my friends put it, if there’s nothing wrong with being 40, why is there so much ‘wrong’ with looking 40?). Your loved-ones won’t look back on their photos and see your Mummy Tummy or bald spot. They’ll just be happy to be setting eyes on someone they love.

The only thing I think we should be more of is compassionate and kind. And even then, if you don’t want to be, that’s noone’s business but yours.

You’re good enough. You’re loved already. You’re part of something wonderful already.

You don’t need to set lofty goals, be the best, be the first, be the only. You don’t need wealth, just some security. You don’t need to be extra fit or have an extreme approach to life.

Just stand outside with your face to the sun and try to argue that you need to be, do or have more. You have so much already.

7 reasons why paying full price is a good thing

I openly advocate paying full price and avoiding “bargain hunting”. Of course, people ask me why on earth I would possibly want to do such a crazy thing, so here’s why!

1) It makes you stop and think before you buy. It puts in that little delay that gives your mind a chance to catch up with your heart. We buy on emotion and justify later with logic. We need to short-circuit that. We need to think “Do I really NEED this?” before “Oooh! 40% off! How could I NOT buy this? I’m sure I’ll find a use for it”.

2) You value the item more. You aren’t going to spend a lot of money on something you don’t value, and you don’t value something you don’t spend a lot of money on. You will care for it, repair it instead of discard it, love it, nurture it. It will last longer.

3) The item will be used. You are far more likely to use something if you have paid full price, because you are less likely to compromise. Shoes are half a size too small and not in your colour? Well that’s okay because it’s 40% off and therefore only $35. Then they never get worn because they hurt your feet and don’t match anything you own. But if you’re spending $140 on a pair of shoes, you’re not going to walk out unless they are absolutely bloody perfect.

4) You buy less items because you are spending more on each one. Your home is therefore less cluttered. Less clutter equals less maintenance, equals more time for rest/play.

5) You can’t use the bargain to justify the purchase. You have to use something else to justify it. It makes you more accountable. It makes you think hard about the item, its value, its usefulness, its versatility, its quality.

6) You become more discerning about ‘cheaper’ items. You question discounts, you question manufacturing ethics and the environment. You become a more responsible consumer and when we have more responsible consumers, we have more responsible suppliers.

7) You buy intentionally. You don’t only buy on Black Friday (or if you do, it’s something you placed on your “want to buy when it’s on sale because I’ve thought long and hard about it and don’t have to rush to get it” list months before). Your trigger to purchase isn’t a sale, or a rack, or a sign out the front, or a catalogue. Your trigger to buy is a NEED.

The need for a “good home” – is it holding you back?

Why do we tend to NEED our unwanted belongings to “go to a good home”? What is the rationale behind that?

I think this is something we need to unpack, because it holds us back from achieving our goals.

Why does it matter what happens to belongings that we no longer need or want? What is it that makes us care? Is it something to do with our sense of self? That by discarding something in a “careless” way challenges our sense of who we are?

Or is it because we project our history into items? Or because we personalise our belongings and treat them as though they have feelings?

All of the above?

Are these valid beliefs? Are they truths or are they fabrications? Are we creating an obstacle?

Just think. If you didn’t care what happened to your stuff once it left your house, how much more free would you feel? If you didn’t need it to go to a “good home” (what does that mean anyway?), then how much clearer would your home be?

I’m not saying it’s a wrong belief or feeling (there are no such things – we feel what we feel), but I’m saying it’s well worth unpacking and looking at it from a different perspective. Because although it might not be wrong, it certainly can be unhelpful.

Oh, and on the “good home” thing. Is it currently IN a “good home”? Is it being lovingly stored, used, admired? Or is it shoved in the back of a cupboard or under a pile of clothes? So if you don’t give it a good home, why is it so important that it goes to one?