a house full of stuff

i have recently heard from a number of people who have difficulties with what could be called “hoarding” – ammassing and keeping more possessions or even animals than one can house in a living space. this oversupply then becomes a problem, either for the person who accumulates these items, and/or for those sharing and/or visiting.

here are some examples of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that can go along with that. it’s important to keep in mind that not everybody who experiences them has a big problem; or that this list of thoughts, feelings and behaviours is the “packing slip” that always comes with hoarding. however, if anyone recognizes some of these things in themselves and is troubled by them, it’s good to know that you’re not alone, and that there is help.

some people might experience

a fear of

  • losing and discarding important things
  • making mistakes
  • forgetting important life experiences or information that one may need in the future
  • letting things literally “out of sight”

a need for

  • strong emotional attachment to and identification with objects; sometimes these objects are mementos
  • rationalizing why each object “must” be kept (it has monetary, practical or sentimal value; will be needed in the future, by the owner or someone else; there is a responsibility that the items must be disposed of properly; the item is unique; something bad will happen with the item is discarded)

a difficulty with

  • categorizing and organizing objects and information
  • controlling the urge to collect items, even when collecting them is detrimental
  • deciding what things to throw away


  • feeling overwhelmed by a house full of collected items or junk
  • procrastination because it’s hard to know where to start
  • excessive shopping, on and off line, sometimes because shopping reduces anxiety
  • above average “magical thinking” related to objects
  • some people also “hoard” animals, especially cats
  • depression (both as a result and as a cause of the above)

what can be done?

that’s material for a whole new post. in the meantime, here are some web sites that might be helpful for some:


(note: this last site is called “messies anonymous” but i would not consider it a regular 12-step program)

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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