Do you have rooms that you can’t use because they’re filled with stuff? We’re going to fix that today. But first, definitions and quotations. Then in the main segment, we’ll talk about taking the mental weight of clutter off your shoulders, and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
Before we start today, I just want to shout out to everyone who gave to their favourite animal rescue or humane society in Betty White's name on her Birthday earlier this month. I hope that becomes an annual thing for you, and that more people get on board too, because these animals, and the people who advocate for them, need your assistance. In fact, if you’re thinking about getting a cat or a dog soon, get a rescued animal. Consider an animal with special medical needs or a senior animal while you're at it, they deserve a comfortable home too. Don't buy a breed, adopt a friend for life. I mean, I'm your friend, but you can't afford me, and I'm not house trained.
Today we're going delve into why you don't need most of the stuff you have. You’re simply warehousing stuff that someone else wants and can use, and it actually may negatively affect your life and the way you think. I wish I were making this up, but you know, deep in your ridiculous beanie-baby brain, that all that shit in your garage and in your basement is always on your mind, and not in the loving Willie Nelson way. Let's talk about why you don't need all the stuff you have.
Because there's no real definition for this, I'm going to define hoarding instead. Now, stay with me, because you are likely NOT a hoarder, and there is a fine line here that we will talk about, but the concept will help to clarify what I'm saying. Hoarding is defined generally as "to amass money or objects to hide or store away. To reserve in the mind for future use." Now we'll talk a bit about the pathology of the mental disorder to illustrate, but this is really about you living your best life with less physical and mental clutter, and being less greedy. Let's look at some quotations for a bit of context.
The first quotation come to us out of antiquity and is credited to Decimus Junius Juvenalis, better known simply as Juvenal, who was a scribe and poet of some renown in the 2nd century A.D. His style was primarily satire and critiqued arbitrary government, tyranny, corruption, the degradation of public morals and other subjects, which caused his exile from Rome for many years. He is credited with saying “An excess of hoarded wealth is the death of many.” We're going to talk about more than wealth in the general sense, but note how seriously this issue was, even almost 2,000 years ago. So yeah, greed, you look really fucking good for your age.
Our next quotation comes from a much more modern source: Friedrich Nietzsche. He was a 19th century German philosopher, writer and cultural critic whose work still resonates today. Although deeply anti-Semitic and anti-nationalist, his sister's edited versions of some his un-published work put him in an undeserved German Nationalist spotlight for some years. His contribution to this quote-fest says, "The mother of excess is not joy but joylessness." We'll talk about the existential qualities of joylessness later. Kidding, no we won't.
Our last quote comes from Wendell Berry, an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and interestingly, a farmer. His writings and lectures are so highly regarded and influential that in 2015, he became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. He said, "Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire." although this is funny, the truth is some people are hurtling towards some form of this reality, and we're going to tell you how to fix it before it gets that bad. Let's get started.
So, what are we really looking at today? Well, here's the thing, if there are more self-storage facilities opening in your city than affordable housing, it's likely we're in an epidemic. It has nothing to do with viruses, but has everything to do with all of us buying too much stuff. This hyper-consumerism uses resources, releases greenhouse gases, is a human rights disaster for workers in countries with questionable rights laws and, on top of all this, it's bad for your mental health. Dr. Kristen Fuller, a physician, clinical mental health writer and author who specializes in addiction, talks about clutter and over-consumption in her work. "Uncontrolled consumer impulses, emotional attachment to things, sentimental keepsakes, fear of getting rid of things, the need to hold onto past memories are some of the many reasons why we tend to infuse our belongings into our emotions" she says, continuing, "when your home is filled with physical clutter, it can lead you to feel that your home is your enemy rather than your sanctuary, which can overall negatively affect your well-being." And, listen, I've seen your garbage bags full of beanie babies, so, yeah, I'm looking at you.
The other problem with this storage situation is the possibility that your are on the border of the newly recognized neurological disorder called Hoarding syndrome. Now collections, like your beautifully-displayed yet fucking horrific collection of Disney Princess mini-spoons may fall outside that as, according to an article titled "Finders keepers: the features differentiating hoarding disorder from normative collecting" published in Comprehensive Psychiatry that says, in part, "Although both hoarders and collectors exhibit the acquisition of, attachment to, and reluctance to discarding objects, Collectors were, additionally, more focused in their acquisitions, more likely to organize their possessions and less likely to accumulate in an excessive manner." So collecting beanbags, pet rocks, 8-track tapes, whatever group of stupid items, is essentially just your pressure-release valve. But just keeping stuff because it's stuff you have can lead to real problems, and may even expose even deeper problems down the road. Yup, as always with me, it gets worse.
Of interest is that The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM–5, recently added hoarding disorder as a diagnosable condition, but hoarding is also listed as one of the diagnostic criteria for obsessive–compulsive personality disorder. But it gets even darker when other psychoses are also linked, like experiential avoidance. This is defined as the “phenomenon that occurs when a person is unwilling to remain in contact with particular private experiences, like emotions, thoughts and memories, and takes steps to alter the form or frequency of these events and the contexts that occasion them" according to a paper titled "Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment" published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology by Hayes et.al. Even going further, these manifestations may increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people who have experienced a severe trauma according to Matthew Tull, a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. It has also been linked to other pathologies such as anxiety (we talked about this last episode), generalized anxiety, high-risk sexual behavior, substance abuse and others.
So this all starts because you decide to keep a box of broken tape decks because they are worth something and possibly fixable. And another box of glass power-pole insulators that would make great windows, or some goddamn thing, etc... Eventually, even getting rid of all that crap seems like too much of a challenge, so now you've attached guilt and failure to the equation. So ask yourself, is your mental health worth less than a box of junk that keeps you from enjoying your life? I mean, I'm not really asking, I know, because I'm a fucking life coach. But you have to recognize your own slow descent into madness and be willing to make some changes. I have some ideas.
The first step is to take stock of your situation. If you're parking your $30,000 car outside because your garage is filled with $75 worth of yard sale trash, you need to change. If there are boxes in your basement that you haven't opened in years, and you don’t know what's in them, you need to change. But don't look at the whole problem as one act, take small chunks. Take one room in your house, throw out or recycle stuff that's broken or garbage, and give away stuff that you aren't using but someone else could use. And, most importantly, stop bringing new stuff into your house. Just stop. It's like quitting smoking sometimes, I get it, but you need to start putting yourself first, and your unused and useless clutter last.
Stop thinking about the clutter as just stuff, see it for the health hazard that it can be. Dust mites, chemical substances and fire hazards all mask as harmless clutter. If you know you have clutter that may contain objects or substances that pose a danger, deal with those first. Make a schedule and work at the problem for at least 15 minutes a day until you get a handle on it. And, despite the playful naiveté of Marie Kondo and others, a professional organizer may be the kind of kick-starter you need for motivation. Remember, if they say jump, you say how many boxes, or something, I don't know, I got nothing. But really, if you reach for help, listen to those people.
And finally, don't feel like your failing, even if the process is going more slowly than anticipated. And if you're helping someone through this, don't be a judgemental asshole like I am. It’s a slow process of realization and lifestyle change that really only brings lasting results over time. Be patient, be kind - with yourself and others - and, especially, be realistic. But honestly, acting on this before it gets worse has long-term and long-lasting results that will make you happier, and better in bed. I'm kidding, just happier.
Okay, so that's it for this episode. As always, I'll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – yes, w-w-w still not resolved. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there's a link on my website – DM me if you want some stickers, I’m not even kidding right now. Also, if you like what you've heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that?
Ancient philosopher Lao Tzu once said, "Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.” This was simplified further by 20th century clutter master Albert Einstein who said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” Even more recently, 21st century productivity and simplicity expert Leo Babauta said, "“Simplicity boils down to two things: identify the essential and eliminate the rest." So, to conquer our clutter, we must embrace plainness, boil our essentials and reduce our selfishness so that we have fewer desires to simplify, or something, I don't know, whatever...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...