One of the Most Dismissive Hoarding Misconceptions Today

"It’s simple! Just do it!"

Posted Oct 29, 2019

There are good reasons why people face significant barriers to “just doing it” when advised to stop hoarding.

Motivating “change behavior" is based on our internal experience and belief that we have the ability and can access the resources necessary for the challenge we face. This is true for most of us. For those who hoard, the executive function center of the brain is impaired by the state of being profoundly overwhelmed. When answers and action feel too far beyond us, avoidance and procrastination become an ally. Procrastination has been given a bad name. Procrastination is actually more of an adaptive choice that shields us from a bigger fear or negative end result. (More about that in upcoming blogs as we discuss how managing procrastination is pivotal to achieving success.)

Many people lead lives where they are mildly to moderately organisationally challenged, and never quite stay on top of things, including their living and working spaces, finances, maintenance of healthy relationships, and physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. All these elements in their lives are maintained just on the edge of control.

Some unsuspecting folks are at extra risk of hoarding disorder when life events make them additionally vulnerable. It can only take one major negative event, or a series of smaller events which occur in a compressed period to prevent them from restabilizing between setbacks. 

As a result, they can only find it within themselves to do what they have to do to keep things barely manageable. This leaves them consistently living on the verge of spinning out of control and becoming overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed is a state of being that precedes almost every single hoarding situation.

Being overwhelmed means the tools we need the most (our executive functions; i.e., the way our brain puts things in a workable order) are not available enough to help us to:

  • Sort things out
  • Think things through to better options
  • Decide on and develop a plan
  • Follow the plan through step-by-step to conclusion
  • Problem-solve along the way when hiccups happen ... as they will. Life is like that for all of us!

Slow down. Take a deep breath. The more frustrated and overwhelmed you get, the worse the problem seems to become. It can feel like you are walking through mud up to your hips while trying to make progress.

Many clients tell Elaine that every day they start to work on the piles but by the time they pick up the third or fourth item, they are so overwhelmed because they can’t figure out what to do with it.

They get caught in a loop of asking themselves questions like those found in this illustration.

 Created by author
Stuck in the endless loop.
Source: Created by author

This pattern repeats itself and goes around and around until nothing is resolved. If you are at this point, you are probably deflated, frustrated, and may be very overwhelmed.  You may be in a fog, feeling like your head is spinning. You may begin to feel increasingly worse about yourself. Do you promise yourself that you will try again tomorrow? And you do try. Are you having the same results?

When you are in a blind maze and you want to get out, get a guide. Reach out for hoarding-informed help.