Why guilt makes me a hoarder

Why guilt makes me a hoarder picture with stacked boxes
It’s all set! Yesterday we signed for the new house (more on the house later, I promise). On the 26th October we will, somehow, be condensing and cramming all our belongings into a tiny place that has only one bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchenette/front room. God knows how we are going to fit it all in. D’s garage is full of boxes of tools, loose wires, camping gear, 6 tents (don’t ask) and all other such normal stuff that fills the average households’ space that a car never gets to see (ok, maybe 6 tents isn’t normal). Currently I have 2 chests of drawers full of clothes along with a wardrobe and an extra rail on the landing. The new house will only fit one wardrobe so I have started to PANIC.
Although panicking, I do see this is an opportunity to assess my possessions and decide what can me compromised. Countless times I have had a clearout of cloths which has produced just a small bag of odd socks, laddered tights and discoloured underwear. Why is it so hard to part with ‘things’? It’s a battle of logic over sentimentality which drives feelings of guilt. That top that my aunty bought me for my birthday two year, no three years, ago. The only top that is still folded at the bottom of the drawer. After each clearout it has been neatly put back but never actually worn. I won’t throw it away because I feel guilty. She spent money on it, she took the time to wrap it up, and she probably imaged how happy I would be wearing it. These thoughts go through my mind and I just can’t face putting it in the charity bag. So back in the drawer it goes. And it doesn’t stop there. I have boxes of the stuff. Guilt boxes. Right now they are stored in the loft of my parent’s house and now I have to sort these too, because they want them gone.  I can’t even remember half the stuff they contain. One item I can recall is a Westlife address book that my Grandma bought me for Christmas at the age of 15. I despised Westlife, (I still do) they weren’t cool, yet my good acting skills showed Grandma how happy I was with my gift. For a year it sat in my bedside cabinet (along with other ‘stuff’) and then Grandma died. Well I certainly couldn’t get rid of it now, could I?  It was one of the last gifts she bought me and one that I had kept for a year and now she was gone. In to said box it went and there it has been ever since.
So, as I write this, sat on the picnic bench in my parent’s garden I can sense those boxes sat in the loft just meters away from me. I should be sorting them now but I’m putting it off. Maybe they can stay there a bit longer, just another year. Doubt that.  Damn, now I’m feeling the guilt. I could just use the Westlife address book I suppose. But I don’t need it! I have modern technology; an iPhone to do that. It won’t even fit in my handbag. FFS.  

                                                            Ps. Please reassure me it isn’t just me who has guilt boxes….please!
Photo source

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.

  • Anonymous

    I am most definitely not a hoarder but I can say categorically that I also suffer from guilt when trying to clear stuff out and gifts from family are definitely the hardest to part with!

    Donating to a charity that *said relative* would have approved of always makes me feel a bit better about clearing stuff out. And if you sell the items (car boot, eBay…) you will have a Westlife address book sized boost towards your house deposits which I’m sure your Grandma would be pleased to know she helped towards!

    Can’t wait to hear more about the new rented place 🙂 x

  • Good point. I do often take things to the charity shop and feel good about that but that guilt of getting rid of something that someone put thought and time into makes me feel so bad! Do you really think someone will want my Westlife address book? Haha.
    Thanks for reading! x

  • I am not a hoarder, but I grew up with one and picked up a few ticks. I could never ever get rid of stuff my mum gave me because she would be distraught. After she filled her own house up, she started to fill mine up. I felt a lot of guilt about wanting a simpler existence, but at some point enough was enough and the drag all the stuff was having on my life outweighed the guilty feelings. Out it all went 🙂

    I would back up your online contacts in a paper address book, just in case. You can always sew a cover for it and you still get to keep your memories x

  • Hi Aurora. I have read/heard many people say that they have felt a weight lifted from their shoulders after clearing out stuff they don't need. It must have been hard to make the decision to do it knowing your mum would get upset but it sounds like you did the best thing, for yourself at least.
    Good idea about using the address book to back up contacts, thanks!
    Jenni x

  • I am most definitely a hoarder, have been since a small child and only now, in my late 20s, am I actually managing to move past it. I also struggle with the guilt but, after watching many videos on the topic of clearing clutter and doing lots of homework reading up on it, I am finally managing to really minimalise (for me). What really stuck with me is the point that said item is not your loved one. The Westlife book for example is not your gran. Your gran is your gran and having, or not having a 'thing' will not detract from the memory of her. Also, asking yourself three questions about the item helps me rationalise keeping it or letting it go: Do you love it? Is it beautiful? Is it useful/used? If you can answer yes to one of those all good, if more than one yes even better but if it's no to all of them then rationally it has to go. Anyway, these are just a couple of things that have helped me. I've been clearing out just one item a day because tackling large areas seemed so overwhelming, but I could pep talk myself into one item every day. I did start with the easier things, and now 105 days in it's getting a little tougher. But it's definitely been a lightening of the load from my shoulders and I'm much less anxious and stressed. And I haven't missed anything I've cleared out so far – all 105 of them, well more than that because I've done extra bursts of clearing out too. I'm not sure how many days I'm going to keep going for. I still haven't tackled the boxes in my parents loft yet though…maybe I should get on with that…

    I'd be interested to hear how you managed or are managing it now, after a couple of months…