I used to wonder all the time, what comes after hoarding? If someone is able to overcome the desire to hoard, what then? What will their place look like? What will they do instead?
Then I started to realize that the question I was pondering was actually bigger than just hoarding. It’s more about what anyone does after getting rid of any unhelpful state of being.
Procrastination, for example. Debt, for another. Nail biting or smoking, maybe another couple of examples.
Comparing something you are doing to something you would never do can be interesting. It’s a way of thinking of the problem in the third person and getting some distance from it.
I’ve never been a nail biter, so that’s an easy one for me. It looks painful! Why would I do that to myself? On the other hand (haha), I’m not into nail art either. I have a little parrot, and for some reason she is scared of all nail varnishes, even clear. I have no incentive to polish my nails. So for me that is a completely neutral area.
What if I felt about x habit the way I feel about my fingernails? (In other words, nothing much).
I imagine that someone with a nail biting habit might feel really proud to have a pretty manicure and show it off, maybe with a new ring to flash. Visualizing those enviable tips might be enough motivation to stay focused and get rid of the habit.
Why annoy myself when I could be living the dream?
Dream of what?
A nice manicure, running a marathon, saving a bunch of money...
Dot dot dot
What if you’re stuck on trying to visualize something nice, but you have no idea what you want?
Going back to hoarding, I have had successes. I’d say it’s about fifty-fifty whether people leave it behind as though it never happened, or whether they are so caught up in the glory of piles of dusty old moldy old stuff that they immediately start up again.
The two things that seem to keep the success stories motivated are 1. Having people over to visit and 2. Art.
It turns out that a lot of hoarders actually have fantastic taste!
One of the funniest things to me is that my people will have a beautiful prize item carefully wrapped up and hidden in a closet or in storage. Their favorite and most valued items are not on display. You’d never guess because what actually *is* on display is a drift of unopened mail or swathes of dirty laundry.
It takes a bit of convincing to get my people to reveal these hidden treasures. Then I ask, why not hang this up? Why not put it where you can see it and enjoy it every day? I’ll help you.
Sometimes there’s a basic design decision. Where should it go?
Decisions are sticky for a lot of people. They don’t like deciding on anything, from what to eat to what music to play, and they especially don’t want to feel stuck with the results of a decision like pounding a nail into a wall and then wishing it was somewhere else instead.
This is where having an extra, neutral party around can be so helpful.
Just say, How about over here? Hold it up - usually it’s a framed picture or a mirror - and if they shake their head, try it in another spot. It takes five minutes. Step two, hang it up, and step three, effusive compliments.
Once the magic object is in place, the rest of the room seems to come together quickly. The eye is drawn upward. The addition of the art piece makes the other nice features of the room, like the light fixtures or the window frames, stand out more. It also makes the remaining clutter look tawdry, more out of place than it did before.
There is a complication in adding art to the room. That is that while my people tend to have good taste in art, they don’t necessarily have good design sense. They will want to keep an item because it is beautiful, and another item because it is also beautiful, and yet those items look terrible next to one another. It’s an unconscious attempt to replicate a thrift store.
Another thing that many of my people have in common is that every single thing they own has a pattern. Tapestry mixed with floral mixed with paisley mixed with stripes and on and on. It is almost impossible to pull off this look and have it make aesthetic sense.
Ah, but this can be a form of rebellion. My people do not like to be told that there are “rules.” They hear a disapproving, critical voice all the time and one of the ways they shut it up is to act on impulse. I do what I want!
It is entirely likely that, given a few dozen interior design photos, one of my people will reject them all. They are simply too ordinary.
I have a suspicion that most of my people actually do have a hidden design vision. If they were able to afford it or put it into effect, they would almost instantaneously start keeping their rooms orderly.
Something to take pride in, something to show off!
(I also think it can be a great form of revenge for all the critics. Anyone in the family who ever said you were lazy or messy can simply eat their words at this point).
What I try to tell my students is that when you walk into your home, the feeling you should feel is: Ahhh! A deep relaxation that drops your shoulders and makes you breathe deep. Home at last. Your home should be a place where you can restore your energy and truly be yourself.
Possibly what it will take to feel this way is to have the surroundings match your internal vision. Let the outsides match the insides so that the insides can match the outsides.
What does your dream room look like? Is it different than any room that ever was?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies