Clutterbugs- Part II
Junk drawers that erupt when opened and stacks of old papers, piles of clothing, magazines, books, and video cassettes that appear in every corner of every room may be part of a clutterbug’s behavior pattern. Why do people keep things that they don’t really need and when does this become a problem for them or those around them?
Last week, I began talking about clutterbugs, pack rats, and hoarders. Clutter-bugs and pack rats hate to throw away anything due to romantic sentimentality or thinking that someday this or that item might “come in handy.” A clutterbug or pack rat keeps things that should be thrown away, recycled, or donated but cannot “let go” for fear of needing or wanting a particular item in the future. Clutterbugs and packs rats collect and hold onto things until the mess becomes too much even for them. These individuals tend to have difficulty in deciding what is beneficial to keep and what they need to let go of. They can be encouraged to discard and organize their “things” and often feel empowered once a small area of their home or office is clean and tidy after a good de-clutter. Although clutterbugs and pack rats can cause family members and friends some frustration with their piles and collections of this and that, their habits do not usually cause them significant problems in their tasks of daily life.
However, sometimes cluttering assumes a pattern that is considered “hoarding.” This problem involves a deep fear of throwing away, giving away, or letting go of material things and can cause great emotional distress. Hoarding becomes a pathological attempt to control pervasive anxiety and is often connected to a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder. Issues of control lead some individuals to hoard items to the point where collected “things” literally take over their lives. Hoarded items become a part of an individual’s identity and reason for living. Throwing away or giving away items can feel like letting go of a part of one’s self. People that are hoarders often need professional assistance to cope with underlying problems which may be part of an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Changing behavior takes time and requires a change of mental attitude, but clutterbugs and hoarders alike can find ways to “let go” of material things and begin to appreciate the benefits of an organized life.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 2005