A show suggestion about hoarding came up on my YouTube suggestions and I can’t look away. The camera cut to the woman going to the thrift store and buying a lamp to add to her 56 lamp collection. There was literary no place left to sit or walk, so she sat in her car most of the time.
Then, the highlight of the show - a rat strolling out of one pile of junk and casually walked across the room and disappear into another pile of junk. The whole family was in an emotional wreck.
Her adult daughter was on the verge of calling the adult social service. Her teenage grandson who lived at home had nowhere to play or sleep. And she was buried in guilt and shame for her other grandson, who was in prison for 25 years for a gun violation.
When they were getting rid of her stuff, the lady, walking back and forth like she was in excessive stress.
It’s not that she doesn’t want to get rid of stuff. I mean, when she signed up for the show, she knew exactly what was going to happen. But when the reality finally set in, it stressed her out. Before the invention of anesthesia in the 19th century, people would rather commit suicide than undergo surgery because it was so painful. The psychological pain of decluttering for a hoarder looks as severe.
Hoarding is a form of mental disorder. Most people don’t live in that extreme of chaos, but humans do have an intuit nature to collect stuff. Things are cheap thanks to the globalization of the economy. Then humans have the intuitive nature to compare themselves to others. Social media doesn’t help with this epidemic thanks to everyone shares only the best part of their lives. Hence, somehow, we collect more and more stuff to make ourselves look better in hoping for the illusion to feel better.
Consumerism is good for business. Smart people have long figured out how to manipulate you into giving them your money. The newest phone, that $100 yoga pants, the place you saw on Instagram, on and on, down the rabbit hole we go.
We can all agree, Americans have too many things they don’t actually need. Then, they buy bigger houses to put all their junk, bigger cars to haul their junk, more time on social media to show off their junk. It's getting out of control. People like Marie Kondo write books about getting rid of stuff. People start to realize this is a real problem.
More stuff is not making us any happier. Instead, it’s making us more anxious and more depressed. The promise of happiness lasted for about a minute then we have less money, more debt, and an object that takes up way too much space - mentally, and physically.
We are still not happy, we still feel empty, we still can’t figure out the why and how.
More stuff is not only cluttering physically but mentally. For people that have hoarding disorder, it impacts their perception of reality, shortens their attention span, changes their memory capability, and impacts their decision-making ability. What’s more alarming is that it changes their beliefs and self-image, makes them feel anxious and depressed, and makes them feel unworthy, unlovable, and helpless.
You probably stumble upon my article because you want to get rid of your stuff. If any of the criteria apply to you, then it’s a sure sign that you are ready to simplify your life. If you think one of those thoughts more often than not:
- I have trouble organizing and locating items because I have too much stuff,
- I think about organizing and categorizing my surroundings constantly.
- I keep spending money to make myself feel better, but only to feel worse afterward.
- I am moving and there is no way I can move all this stuff.
- I am in need of a serious lifestyle change because my life is a mess.
- I feel bad about all the crap I bought and it’s damaging the environment.
- I simply want to simplify my life.
Before you start with any decluttering, here are a few core beliefs you need to examine:
The Older Phone(TV, gadget, car, watch) Works Just Fine
If you live in America, chances are you are set with basic human needs such as food, shelter, and water. Everything else is inconsequential to your survival. Your old phone works just fine. You may argue: but, the camera on the new phone is so much better and I need it. If you want to be a professional photographer, you might as well invest in a good camera. But if you are just posting to Instagram, your old phone works just fine.
You Don’t Need to Impress Others with Big Cars and Houses
If your friendship is based on how much material possession you own, you might as well be alone forever. I know a guy who runs a business with a partner, and they are competing with each other all the time. Oh, guy A bought a brand new jet ski, I must buy one as well. Guy B bought a mini-mansion, I must buy a bigger house. In the end, guy A is in debt into six figures, and guy B goes home and sits in front of his 8k screen TV feeling really miserable.
“I Love Myself - I am Worthy and Lovable”
“I don’t need to win people’s love because I am lovable and worthy”. Love is not something that you work for, you deserve love because you are a lovable being. I can’t recall how many times I witness a mother withdraw her attention because a child is behaving "badly". I don’t think this mother has bad intention, on the opposite, I think she comes from a place of love. But what this teaches a child is that: if you behave badly, I am going to leave you; you must behave good, which in turn wins my love. Love is not a bargaining chip we dangle in front of children’s eyes. Unfortunately, a lot of us grow up experiencing this type of conditioned love and all we learned as a child was that “I am not worthy and lovable if I don’t do this and that.” The truth is, you need to work on the core belief that you don’t need to work for your love, you don’t need approval from anything. You are a lovable being as you are.
You Don’t Have to Care What Others Think of You
Chances are, they are thinking of themselves. It’s difficult to stop caring what others think of you, but it’s not impossible. Your reality only exists within your perception, everything else doesn’t exist. You are tormented not by others’ opinions of you, but your own opinions of yourself.
The World is Safe and Secure
I know the media wants you to believe it otherwise, but trust me, the world has never been safer and more secure. War deaths are declining at a rapid pace since WWII; the homicide rate is at an all-time low globally; people are richer and work less. Fear sells stuff, but the data suggests we don’t need to fear.
Consumption is Bad for the Environment
Previous 5 points focused on what’s within you, and this point focuses on the consequences of our actions. Have you ever wonder where does our garbage go? In 2018, China, the biggest global recycle importer, stops taking U.S. junk(recycles, but a lot of them are unsorted and contaminated which doesn’t meet the recycling standards) unless it meets a strict standard. When a piece of garbage can’t be recycled or burned, it gets to send to landfill which produces greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Some garbage is dumped into the ocean and impacts the survival of sea animals.
And finally, I want to address one important practice, which echoes with point 3, but I feel it’s really important and deserves its own attention:
The Practice of Self-Acceptance
A young woman goes to the shop to buy new clothes. While at the store, she checks her phone several times to see if her crush has sent her anything. But nothing. She picks up her disappointment and put it into her pocket. “Only if I am prettier will so and so text me back”. So she goes back to scanning the clothing rack more eagerly.
Cinderella only found her true love when fairy godmother turned her into a goddess. In reality, Cinderella has the power to find a job, earn a paycheck, and leave her abusive family. But why accept your reality and make changes when you can wait for magic and someone to rescue you (cough).
Self-acceptance requires an open and present mind. Being open means we deal with different aspects of ourselves consciously. For example, you are in the process of losing 20 lbs. One night you were out for dinner and broke your diet regimen by eating too much paste. Instead of beating yourself up, look at the situation and say to yourself: oh, maybe dieting is harder than I thought, I should think of a new strategy. It is also accepting any type of emotion that is deemed negative. When you are angry, sad, and jealous, instead of feeling the shame of experiencing those emotions, look at it as what it is and examine it with a rational view.
Self-acceptance also means accepting awesome parts of ourselves. Often times we don’t praise ourselves enough. The truth is, every single one of us has amazing qualities, every single one of us is lovable.
After examining some points of view and practicing some self-acceptance, it’s time to practice minimalism in your life. Everyone approach this task differently, here are a few of my tips:
It’s a Long-Term Project, Please Plan at least 1-6 months to Declutter
Chances are, you have accumulated a lot of junk in your short time on this earth. Some stuff is easy to get rid of, such as old clothes and furniture. But some stuff is difficult to get rid of, such as your old records or your collectible sports cards. If you plan too much decluttering in one day, it will likely break your back and spirit. My suggestion is to start with stuff that is not hard to get rid of. For me, I realize I only wear about 20% of my clothes, so get rid of 80% of my closet was easy because I was not attached to any of my clothes. Other things are really difficult, such as books. I love books, therefore each book has sentimental value to me. I worked and cleaned up one area one weekend, then I took a break for a whole week, then clean another area next weekend.
Examine Your Excuses of Not Getting Rid of Stuff
I held off decluttering my basement for the longest time. When spring comes, I said to myself, "I am going to host a garage sale when summer comes". Summer was over, and we were into fall, I still hadn't had a garage sale. Your mind is clever, it will make up any excuses to avoid the pain to get rid of things. If 6-month later you still haven’t gotten rid of the things you want to get rid of, it’s time to make a decision and toss it to the curb.
Don’t Buy More Crap
I used to purge my clothes then I bought more crap to fill it up. Don’t buy more stuff until you are certain you are going to use this object many many times. Make sure it’s a good quality that will hold up for years to come. If you have to buy something, it’s better to spend more money to buy a really good quality one, than to buy many cheap ones.
If an Object Doesn’t Spark Joy, Get Rid of It - the Marie Kondo Method
I love this method because everything has a unique vibration to it. Because something was lovely 5 years ago, it doesn’t mean that it still makes me feel the same way today. The best way to find out is to hold the object in your hand, after all, your heart already knows what it wants.
Meditate on Living with Less
Americans pride themselves with “bigger better best”. The truth is, we came into this world alone with nothing on our back, and we all will die the same way. Your material possessions cannot be taken with you into the next life. To live with less is a practice that anyone can learn like we learned to crave newer better gadgets. It’s going to be work, like any other practice.
So those are my take on minimalism, I would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below to let me know!