The secret shame of a hoarder

Written by Gemma Fraser on 1 February 2019 in Comment

Hoarding does not spark joy, writes Gemma Fraser

Image credit: Pixabay

My name’s Gemma and I’m a hoarder.

There, I’ve said it. And admitting you have a problem is the first step to dealing with it, right?

OK, so I’ve not got boxes in my house piled up from floor to ceiling, or fire hazard rooms filled with old newspapers, and I don’t collect empty crisp packets, but I have always had a problem parting with things I would file under the heading ‘memories’.

When me and my partner bought our first home together about a year and a half ago, I had the horrendous task of packing up my flat which had such ample storage that it fuelled my memorabilia-collecting habit.

Such was the generous cupboard space, I even liberated all my boxes from my parents’ house – which they had lived with since I moved out to go to university, aged 17 – and shoved them, unopened, into an abyss which probably ended somewhere close to Narnia.

So when it came time to move into a house which had been built with the minimalist in mind, I suddenly panicked and realised I needed to part with my ‘memories’.

I began the laborious task of opening up each box and going through the contents, and I felt embarrassed by the useless and inexplicable items I had amassed over the years.

Old bus tickets, random receipts, carefully folded bags from tourist shops in Greece, badges, school jotters, enough pens and pencils to start my own stationery store, posters, homework diaries, endless lists detailing everything from ‘boys I fancy’ to ‘ways to earn money’, postcards, old articles, certificates highlighting my competence in first-year French and my ability to cycle in a straight line, medals gained for running in a bygone era, birthday cards dating back to when I was at primary school…

And the sad truth, as I drowned in all these ‘memories’, was that I couldn’t even remember what 99 per cent of the things were or why the hell they’d been so important to me that I had packed them into boxes and kept them all these years.

As organisation and decluttering guru Marie Kondo – whose method is currently sweeping through households, thanks to her new Netflix programme – continuously tells her clients, you should only keep the things that “spark joy” when you touch them. And none of these things sparked anything other than bewilderment, shame and a massive feeling of being overwhelmed.

I got rid of a lot of things back then, but not as much as I should have. I ran out of time to properly declutter before the packing commenced, so most of it came with us to the new house as the prospect of throwing things out without first going through them was too stressful for me to bear.

But with two children who were clearly on Santa’s nice list, I’ve now been forced to revisit that whole process and declutter before our house does actually become a candidate for Kondo’s show.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m getting better at letting go and acknowledging that the real things that “spark joy” are the people who fill my house with love and happiness.

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