It’s just hard to let go.
“Waste not, want not,” Grama always said. That clock was Grama’s, after all. And so were those quilts. And those picture frames. And those letters from Granpa. You know, one day that stuff may be worth something, and you’ll be glad you had them.
But the truth is, hoarding is extremely financially unstable (yes, even when you’re holding onto things longer), and it poses a significant amount of health risks. There is nothing that you will gain by hoarding that you would not have increased ten-fold by living only with those things that you need.
In many cases, people justify and even equate hoarding with frugality. The rationale is steeped in platitudes—luck favors the prepared; waste not, want not; a penny saved is a penny earned. But between the sales hoarders raid and the possibility of eviction, hoarding costs you far more than you could even imagine.
1. A Sale Is Not a Sale if You Spend More Money
It’s tempting. Those clothes may be 60%, 70%, or even 80% off, and that little girl outfit is just too cute. But you don’t have a girl that age. You don’t even have a niece at all.
Hoarders place a significant investment in what looks like saving money, and that is where the financial burden will strike the swiftest. Marketing and sales teams are extremely efficient at telling you a story about the “deal” that you are going to get and the money you are going to “save” by purchasing their wares on a given day at a given price.
It’s storytelling where hoarders lose the battle every time. The stories they hear and the stories they internalize and tell themselves create a false, insatiable need. Hoarders need to learn and internalize a different story: if you don’t know, with absolute certainty, that you need it in the next month, then you don’t need it. Period.
2. An Organized Home Is an Organized Life—and Bank Account
It is almost frightening how much our homes reflect other aspects of our lives, including our bank accounts. When items in a home cover up the essential parts of living (table, couches, beds, ovens, microwaves, etc.), it often indicates a bank statement and credit card statement that has charges and debts similarly marginalizing essential expenses like rent payments and car payments.
A home, much like a bank statement, does not have to be grandiose and impressive. It just needs to meet the needs of the people relying on it. Everything else is a hindrance to your family’s well being. If you want to get back into financial freedom, get the clutter out of your house and off of your bank account.
3. Disorganization Is Costing You Late Payments
One of the most frustrating experiences is missing a bill payment because you couldn’t find the bill. Having that experience multiple times or even on a regular basis is indicative of a much larger problem.
Hoarders, however, often have difficulty understanding that their home has been taken over by their possessions. “Organized chaos” is the anthem often trumpeted by those who cannot see that there is nothing organized about their chaos. Even if bills belong “on that pile of books, which sit on that pill of movies,” that’s not a place for bills to belong at all. The proof is in the pudding—you keep missing the bill payment.
4. Eviction Is Costly
Just as marketers tell stories of need, hoarders tell themselves stories of a mean, inconsiderate landlord.
It’s the wrong story to tell.
It’s hard to convince anyone that a landlord has the renter’s best interests in mind, but it’s not a stretch to realize that a renter’s interests and a landlord’s interests are aligned: a landlord wants a clean, well-kept property, and that’s exactly what a renter wants. You can quibble over how to qualify “clean and well-kept,” but in the end, you know that the landlord has a point.
5. Health Concerns Go Beyond Finances
When your health or the health of those in your home is at risk, then it’s time to stop talking about finances and start talking about quality of life—especially if a hoarder has children.
Hoarding doesn’t stop with objects that you can put in a garage or hang in a closet—the hoarders’ homes that I have visited have always had refrigerators and pantries packed with rotting food, open packages, and long-expired goods. It is a prime feeding zone for everything from ants and cockroaches to lizards and rats, and a hoarder’s home is guaranteed to have more than its fair share of all of the above. Clothes piled in a closet and in an attic make perfect nests for many types of creatures, and those creatures make it into your bedroom, your children’s rooms, and into your food.
The first financial truth is one of the easiest ways to fall into hoarding, and this fifth financial truth is one of the rudest wakeup calls to come out of it. We as people find it very easy to do harmful things to ourselves, but we will fight to the death to protect our children. When hoarding becomes a health hazard for your family, it is past time to rethink priorities.
A Parting Note
There is a way to fight the impulses that lead a person to hoarding. It requires time and dedication, but hoarders are very capable of taking their lives back into their own hands.