They come in different colors, but mine is white. It’s shiny. Not the kind of shine that catches your eye; more like it’s elegant, even sexy. I take it everywhere I go. I even take it with me from room to room just in case it needs me. Yes, it has practical utility. It’s a device for communicating, for taking pictures, checking email, seeing in the dark, playing music, or even making sure there is nothing stuck in my teeth. But it’s more than that. It’s comforting. It’s hard to explain but it feels good to know it’s near. It alerts me with a gentle buzz when it needs me. I find myself gently touching my back pocket just to make sure it’s there. Sometimes people touch it without permission. This bothers me a lot. It’s mine. Do not touch. My loved ones worry I care about it too much. “Put it down” they say, “It’s not going anywhere.” They don’t get it.
We are connected to our belongings. More than we’d like to admit. We all have a similar relationship to a possession, a memento, souvenir, or sentimental item as was describe above. And, it’s easy to understand this relationship when something has a high monetary value. The item described above is an iPhone 6 plus. It cost me around $600. You’d consider me mad if I were to throw it away, and likewise I’d share the same sentiment if you were to ask me to discard it.
But what if the item seemingly had no monetary value? What if it appeared to be junk?
You’d further consider me mad if I chose to keep it, correct? The problem with having too many items has nothing to do with the value of each item or the utility of these belongings. The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” refers to judgement of taste versus a literal interpretation; however, the latter can also be true.
Instead of infusing this judgement, when working with individuals who struggle with Hoarding Disorder, the focus should be on how their belongings (not trash or junk) impacts their life. Can they find all of their valued possessions? Can they enjoy them? Are they displayed? Can they use their homes and spaces for their intended purposes? If you're eating in the garage because the kitchen is cramped, maybe you’d like some help in organizing?
Hoarding Disorder is a serious psychological condition that causes suffering and has huge emotional and financial cost. Effective treatments are available that don't necessarily require giving up your beloved possessions, rather changing your relationship with them.