Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Hoarding and Storing
By Micky Wolf
Hoard: a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away
(Merriam Webster Dictionary)
From time to time news reports cover stories of people who have accumulated a lot of stuff, so much the place they call home has little to no healthy living space. The problem, known as hoarding, is serious enough an entire television series—an unmistakable ratings success for several years—has been devoted to the topic.
Hoarding, at first glance and by definition, does not seem that awful. Haven’t most of us been taught it is wisdom to store some supplies or funds for the inevitable rainy day? And hidden away makes sense, if for no other reason than to maintain order or respectful privacy with regard to items of a personal nature.
Scripture, however, is pretty clear about how much we ought to have on hand: "Whoever has two coats should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise." (Luke 3:11) To share in this way is indeed loving and virtuous, yet the reality is each of us has our own idea of what might be considered ‘more than enough’.
Psychologists, counselors, and other helping professionals can provide significant insight into why these individuals do what they do, which is not to say resolving the underlying issues is quick or painless. Indeed, it is usually the exact opposite—changing personal behaviors in order to live a less cluttered life is a complex and often time consuming process.
What are we storing away?
The kinds of things that are stored up can be as obvious and diverse as the plethora of material objects produced. Books, clothing, home furnishings, food, tools, office supplies, you name it. Sadly, even animals are hoarded by those who believe they are being charitable and kind toward all of God’s creatures.
Thankfully, most of us will not make the news with the stuff we have stored away, yet how comfortable would you be allowing others (including immediate family members) a look into your home—the cupboards, closets, basements, or spare rooms?
As hesitant as you might be with that idea, there is another aspect to hoarding we tend to overlook. What about those who store away old memories? Not just the pleasant recollections of days by gone, but the kinds of memories encased in unresolved pain and hurt? What about those ‘images’ we associate with a sense of having been wronged or betrayed by another person? And what if the things we are storing up come in boxes and bundles labeled bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness?
Our seemingly insatiable need to acquire stuff is not without serious and unpleasant ramifications, not only on our environment but on our collective psyche. Maybe one way to break the cycle of behavior is to acknowledge that what is stored up in our minds and hearts can be as unhealthy for living a Christ-centered life as filling the rooms of our home with stacks of old magazines or bags and bags of outsized and outdated clothing.
Why are we storing it?
One proven understanding is that accumulating stuff—whether material, intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual—serves as a way to fill a perceived void within ourselves. Perceived, because that which already resides within us—the gift of the living Spirit of God—is more than sufficient to meet and exceed every need we will ever have. However, embracing God as resource is not something our culture tends to encourage on a regular basis.
Another and darker aspect of hoarding has to do with a distorted sense of security or an attachment to material things, patterns of thinking, or belief systems that belonged to people who have had (or have) an impact on our life, good or bad. The death of a close family member, whether or not the person was loving or unkind toward us, can stir up all kinds of thoughts and feelings with regard to personal possessions or ideologies. The answer is not to throw everything away, but neither is the choice to refuse to toss even the smallest piece of their existence a healthy response. The key is realizing both examples of thinking and behaving are not wisdom. One may be an indication of a disordered attachment to the deceased person; the other may reveal a deep sense of disconnection. Either way, hoarding is only a temporary anesthetic.
Is it really hidden away?
No one is probably more aware of the chaos and mess of all the stuff than the person who is hoarding. The irony is they actually believe because it is hidden behind closed doors (or buried deep within their soul) it is much less a concern. Yet the bigger picture does not support this rationale.
Individuals who hoard—material things, funds, unresolved relational issues or emotional wounds—may appear to be at peace but the effort necessary to maintain this kind of life eventually takes a toll, physically, emotionally, and in every other way. It may take years before the symptoms fully manifest, but over time, a variety of clues will filter into their behaviors and actions. For some, it may be as simple as never being invited into their home; for others, there may be resistance or difficulty to fully engaging in a loving relationship of the heart, whether that means with a spouse, children, extended family or friends.
Leaning on the promises of God
One antidote to hoarding or storing ‘more than enough’ is learning what is of meaning and value in God’s plan and design for our well-being. Sometimes it takes awhile, maybe even the better part of our life, to be able to trust God for provision in all things, but persevering with Him in living this Truth will serve to overwhelm us with far more blessings than we could ever dream possible. The following is a good place to begin:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy,
where neither moth nor decay destroys,
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
How do I feel about this promise?
What are the treasures to be stored in heaven?
What do I need from God, in this moment, to nurture this Truth in my heart?