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Hoarding items was a way to make sure we had everything we needed whenever we needed them. It defines the era of scarcity and many baby boomers’ homes are remnants of this era.
With scarcity, comes the need to keep everything. You always feel like you may need the item one day, or you keep it in case some unforeseen circumstance calls for it to be used.
But, hoarding items does more harm than good. And I know first hand the negative effects it has on a person’s life.
The Back Story
You see, my mom is a hoarder, of the professional kind. I mean, she literally hoards like it’s her job. During my early years and even before my time, my parents moved quite often, almost every 2 years.
My dad liked to make a quick buck off the housing market, and literally used our home as his investment and sales inventory.
My mom never really had much control over moving, no matter how many times she pleaded to stay, it fell on deaf ears. He thought he knew better, and before she could settle down, it was time to pack and move again.
Until the last time, when that “for sale” sign went up and the divorce papers were filed. My mom had finally had enough of the constant moves and the lack of control over her money and her life.
We moved from a 4 bedroom house with 2 living rooms and a den, to a small 2-bedroom apartment. She squeezed all of our furniture and belongings into this small apartment that was a third of the size of our last house.
How My Mom Got Started in the Hoarding Lifestyle
But, it made her happy to have control of her things. To finally settle in and stop moving. My mom has lived in this apartment now for over 29 years.
The problem now lies in the fact that over the course of 29 years, she’s been accumulating things. She has everything she needs, but still can’t walk out of a store without a bag or two full of new things she thinks she needs.
It’s become more than a habit. It’s become a way of control for her.
Now that she can do what she wants and controls her domain, she has subconsciously decided to fill every wall and space with stuff. And she’s burying herself in it, literally and figuratively.
Growing up in house full of things, where you open the fridge or the closet only to have a bunch of things fall on you was stressful for a teenager.
As an early adult, I vowed I’d never hoard things. I’d have wall space with nothing covering it. I’d have space to move around, to clean, and to stay organized.
Even as a young adult, I knew that hoarding had negative effects. As a full adult, I now know that the effects are not just psychological, they’re also financial.
1- Hoarding things takes up space, literally and mentally
When my mom was accumulating things, she sought to fill a void in her life. The more she filled her home, the more she mentally had more things to look at, to keep her busy from the underlying issues in her life.
She felt safe among her clutter. She felt like the clutter somehow was the blanket that would comfort her when she felt like she didn’t have enough.
It’s no wonder that when Marie Kondo started decluttering American homes with her KonMari Method, people cried during and after their transformation. They felt a burden lifted from their life and could finally free up mental and emotional space to live free.
2- It becomes and obsession to buy more
Early on, when my mom started hoarding, it was a way for her to feel financially secure. She could finally afford all of the things she wanted and bought everything.
The more she bought, the more it became a regular part of her routine. Until now, she still sees the word “sale” and wants to clear the shelves.
It’s become an obsession that’s hard to break, especially for someone who’s been hoarding for almost 30 years.
3- You can’t ever find what you need, things get lost
If you’re house is cluttered with things. It’s hard for it to stay organized. Things get lost, buried behind other things and you end up having to buy another one when you need it most.
Currently, my mom has been looking for her favorite jacket for almost 6 months at this point. She’s so upset that she can’t find it. But, if you visited her, you may forget and misplace your purse, even if it’s sitting right by your foot.
Her house is that cluttered and unorganized, it’s no surprise that things turn up missing.
4- Hoarding steals money that you could be investing
We often think of accumulating items in a sense of accumulating wealth. We have 20 purses or 50 pairs of shoes, I’m considered well off.
But, it’s often the contrary that is true. The more we accumulate in depreciating material possessions, the more we lose money.
We lose money by buying more meaningless clutter and we lose money by potential gains that we could have received had we invested that money.
In either case, we lost.
Moreover, we stole from our own pocket, losing the chance to gain on compounding interest.
5- You never use anything up!
You never get the chance to use the item to its fullest, always moving on to the next thing, and perfectly usable items sit idle never being used.
It’s not surprising that when we purchase material things, we tend to purchase more of something before we’ve fully utilized it.
This reminds me of my makeup purchases I made a few years back. I bought so many eye shadow palettes, ones that had very similar colors and ones that are still currently sitting in my drawer.
Do I need 203 eye shadow colors? No.
Do I need to have 15 different eyeshadow palettes? Nope.
True Story- My Makeup Hoarding Days
But, during my phase of loving everything makeup, I went on what seems now like a year long splurge of all makeup products. Things I needed and things I was only curious about.
The result was having a backlog of makeup that I’m struggling to use up before the products expire.
I’d guess I spent about $500 on the makeup. I know others who spent much more, so I felt like I was still being frugal.
I was wrong.
But, in reality, if I had invested the $500 into an index fund a few years ago, I could have potentially made 7% on average per year, growing my money to about $612 after 3 years.
Instead, the items I bought have no resale value, and if not completely used up by the time they expire, they’ll find their way to the trash.
That’s right….my money….that I work hard for….going straight into the garbage can.
So, what would you rather have?
Money that grows at an average rate of 7% over time or money that eventually goes straight to the trash?
I would rather have the former of course and I’m willing to bet you would to.
It’s about time we start thinking differently about the way we accumulate unnecessary and frivolous things and start redirecting our money to something more useful.
Hoarding is a sign that we’re missing something vital and feel the need to fill a void. Hoarding somehow makes us feel like we’re doing alright financially, if we can “afford” to buy more things.
But, I challenge you.
Let’s hoard money in our investments.
Let’s start hoarding money in our savings and in our retirement accounts.
At least at the end of it all, we’ll have something to show for it.
And we’ll avoid hoarding clutter that brings us nothing but mess and anxiety.
Our joy should come from our ability to sustain our lifestyle. And this, my friend, comes from the ability to effectively get our money to work for us on overdrive.