The Old Hoard And Purge


This is a topic that may or may not resonate with some of you out there: hoarding and purging stuff.

About every 9-12 months I purge my stuff: my books, records, DVDs, knick-knacks, papers, etc.

To the outsider, this looks like a wasteful, haphazard, and possibly even deranged act of self-negation. Because…this is my stuff. This is my stuff, the stuff I bought, the stuff I (all too often) found fortuitously on the sides of roads. The stuff people—people who were just trying to be nice—gave me.

And now here I am standing amidst a selection of bags and boxes, sorting my stuff and getting rid…of my STUFF!

But you see, dear reader: I have a tendency to hoard shit.

And so if I do not heed the intuitive call inside of me at least once a year to evaluate and purge some of my stuff, I am fucked.

A long time ago, I had a roommate who was a hoarder. I also was a hoarder. We were comic book fans, movie fans, music fans, bibliophiles, and even fucking toy collectors.

In one room of the apartment, we had the comics stacked so deep and so high (and by this point I was working in the industry, so I had access to metric shit-tons of free shit) that there was just a little patch of a love seat in the middle of the room where one could inhabit. This patch was so small, and the stacks so enormous, that once when my roommate was very ill the paramedics came and couldn’t initially locate my friend in the fucking room. He was crumpled on the love seat next to a pile of comics.

It was at that point that I decided to adopt the Purge method.

You see, to say to yourself that you will merely pare down your stuff—be sensible and orderly about it, do it over time, and try not to be wasteful—that’s not going to work for people like me.

I have to throw shit OUT. In bulk. Just throw the shit out.

The method I use is basically like a “hot potato” thing. I pick up the object in question, immediately gauge how it makes me feel—does it raise my energy or deplete my energy—and then either keep or toss.

That’s it. Does it raise my energy and inspire me…or make me feel depressed/tired/upset/guilty/etc.?

So for example, anything where I was going to learn a new skill or something and I never did it—and now it’s months/years/decades later and I still have the unplayed audio tapes to learn German. That shit’s gotta go, man. That shit’s gotta go. I’m not saying I’m never going to learn German, but obviously the ship has sailed on that tape set.

You see: that tape set has now been inundated with my “feelings of failure” energy. I can fool myself into believing that if I just keep them just a little while longer, I’ll eventually use them and all will be redeemed.

But that won’t happen. Because every time I look at those tapes, I think: “what a fucking failure I was at this. I didn’t even take the shrinkwrap off the package. This store on the price label doesn’t even exist anymore. I had no excuse not to learn German with these fucking tapes. Good lord. What the fuck is wrong with me?”

Now: at some other point in time, I may buy a new set of “Learn German” tapes…or, rather by now, digital audio books or something. So the door is not completely closed on the possibility.

But the original tapes now have an aura of “stuck” energy. So they gotta go. And I mean: GO. Not incorporate them into some plan where I donate them to a school, or make a point to send them to this obscure friend I met on Twitter who once two years ago mentioned they’d like to learn German. NO: because to people like myself, these long-winded plans to “redeem” the object in question (and of course metaphorically redeeming oneself) are DEATH. Those tapes will most likely just be moved to another part of the house (maybe a pantry where the tools are kept, or maybe by the bins), to linger further in my life and make me feel like a fucking failure.

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t gift, donate, and recycle shit. I do. But I’m very judicious about it. Recycling is the easy part—I just shove that stuff into bags and bins. Donations are more tricky. I use my city’s “Spring Cleaning” electronics donation thing once a year. There are a few “book exchange” mini-kiosks in front of houses here that I donate to. And once in a while the stars will align just right and I will have exactly the thing somebody I know needs—a certain movie, how-to-learn German audio tapes, the right bangle to match that blouse.

This brings me to my last point about hoarding and purging, which is the temptation to just give your shit en masse to a fellow hoarder. Do not do this shit. They will always happily accept your shit; they will even rent a fucking van to take it all away for you. But you are only adding to their addiction. I’ve been that person with the van, and I’ve been that person letting some doomed individual take in hundreds of old shabby vintage TV Guides that they sure as hell don’t need in their lives.

Helpful Hints:

  1. Really think before you buy shit.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up if you end up buying some dumb shit that you know is just going to end up on the hoarding pile; just try to learn from the experience.
  3. Take the time to really acknowledge your successes.
  4. Realize that you can’t take it with you; you might not even be able to take it with you on that move across town. Do you know how expensive moving is? Do you know how heavy just one box full of books is? (And carrying that box up several flights of steps?) Do you want to be one of those people renting a storage unit just to hold your “how to learn German” audio tapes and the t-shirts from your old business?
  5. Purging gifts and other things people have given you over the years is a thorny subject. Again: I’d put that “what type of energy does this give me?” test to the items in question.
  6. If you are a hoarder, one of the things you might have to face is your fear of Change. Hoarding massive amounts of Stuff assures that any attempt to “move”—from your domicile, away from your current status in life, outside your comfort zone—will be impaired. So that might be a personal issue to explore.

More to read about on Butterfly Language:
Small Changes Lead To Big Changes
On Having A “War” On Negativity