Hoarders, Part 3 - What's Behind It All?


This is the third and final post in a series on Hoarders. If you missed the first two posts, please go back and read those now before moving on to Part 3.

A common tendency of a hoarder is isolation. Once hoarding gets out of control, it's easier to just hide the mess than to deal with it.

For my husband's uncle, he simply left curtains shut and doors closed. Keep the garage door closed and nobody would see what was stuffed in the garage (see above). He didn't invite anyone over. He let his lawn and shrubs and trees grow out of control, providing more shelter for the mess the house had become. He isolated himself from neighbors and family members.

Hoarding moves beyond normal activities like saving keepsakes because you have a sentimental attachment to them. Hoarding moves into a realm of finding security and self-worth in and through your stuff. To remove the stuff makes one vulnerable. One might feel alone without the stuff in which they find comfort. To offer to clean up the stuff "once and for all" won't address the deeper issue for most hoarders. Left with a clean house, they will only set out to fill it up again, because the stuff provides them with comfort and security and self-worth.

Hoarding tends to cut off relationships with other people (who are overwhelmed and disgusted by the hoarding) and instead creates a "relationship" with the stuff itself. Hoarders often cannot bring themselves to the place of getting rid of their stuff. It is emotionally painful to even consider. The hoarder has a co-dependent relationship with their stuff. The stuff needs them and they in turn need the stuff.

What's behind it all?

Materialism. Believing that stuff that we own will make us happy. "Must have more stuff. Must stuff each room of my house full, then move on to stuff the garage. Then rent a storage unit for all of my stuff." All of my stuff shows the world that I am successful. "I am somebody becomes I own A, B, and C. I am happy... except that deep down I'm really not!"

Not understanding one's true value is also a part of hoarding. Looking to stuff to find one's worth is the same issue as the teenage girl looking for love in all the wrong places. She doesn't see how valuable she is. Neither does a hoarder. They may feel rejected by people, so they turned to the stuff that will not reject them. They may feel disappointed in people, so they turn to stuff that is always there and won't let them down.

I am reminded of Jesus' parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 and can think of two easy lessons from this parable.

First, the folly of storing up things for ourselves but being poor in storing up anything of eternal value. We can jam our homes full of stuff, storing up all kinds of food, clothes, knick-knacks, you name it. All stored up for ourselves. But how foolish that really is! How much wiser to spend time on PEOPLE instead of THINGS. To invest in children, in neighbors, in family, in souls than to invest time, money, energy in the things of this world that will pass away and rot. Jesus said to the rich fool, "This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"

Second: Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. There is more to life than clothes, food and stuff. Each soul is so valuable and yet we tend to only think of "valuables" as things, as stuff. Sometimes we need a reality check. A second look at our priorities. Honest consideration of how we're spending our life and what regrets we might have at the end.

The End of the Story:

My husband's uncle's life had a sad ending. He hadn't seen his adult children in many years. He rarely got out. When he fell on the day he died, he had to call 911. The paramedics had a hard time getting into the house to find him. They knew the house needed to be condemned as uninhabitable. After his death, his children came back to their childhood home and couldn't believe their eyes. Their dad's legacy: a mess to be cleaned up and a house full of questions.

In a small way, though, this is a story of redemption. My husband is a visionary. He saw this house - full of bad smells and trash, smoke-stained ceilings and left-behind furniture - and saw potential for what this house could be. We helped clean it out. It took many weeks of hard work. It took 8 semi-trailer sized dumpsters to collect all of the trash, clutter, expired food, ruined furniture, etc. Then we bought this house!

This time around, this house will be filled with love. If these walls could talk, they'd speak of laughing children, of meals eaten together around the dinner table, or cuddly children listening to parents read stories. This time around, this house will be full of people, of living souls, more than stuff. This house is part of the reason we became foster parents. We saw the space and said "If God gives us this house, He wants us to use it for His glory. He wants us to use it for ministry." We will redeem this house. It will not be uninhabitable. Instead it will be a home, with open doors, where love abounds. Not love of stuff but love of people.

PS: For those who might be interested in seeing pictures of our home AFTER the clean-out,
go here and look through the 9-part series called Home Makeover.


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