Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW
It is late August. The chilly breeze and the sky changing to a more subdued hue reminds me that this glorious summer is coming to an end.
Lately, I’ve been talking with clients about problems they are having with hoarding. I wonder if there is a primal connection between being in the harvest season and struggling with the urge to over-collect. After all, just a short few hundred years ago a well stocked larder at summer’s end made the difference between life and death over the winter.
So much of mental health boils down to the capacity to be conscious of and present in our current circumstances. As mammals with a kluge for a brain (a machine that adapts while in use, thus adapting imperfectly because none of the data is ever deleted) with both our ancestral and individual experiences to integrate, it can be hard to be in present time.
The problem with over-collecting is that it is a form of oppression that feels like a form of security. If I have too many shoes (well yes, I do) I have to squeeze them together to fit in the space available and that creates tension every time I look at my closet floor. Our right brains are primarily visual/symbolic, so when we look at clutter we feel tense because there are too many patterns, colors, shapes, and textures presenting themselves to sort out.
I am going to make a Good Will drop off this afternoon and get rid of some of my silly shoe collection. If you struggle with over-collecting (aka: hoarding) a quick trip to the produce section of your local grocery store can help remind you that in this day and age and in this particular corner of the world we live in a world of abundant, almost endless choices. You too can let go of your unneeded stuff.