You have heard about or seen the show “Hoarders”, where people collect and save endless amounts of things trying to fill the voids in their lives and hanging on to memories they have attached to physical items. Unfortunately, my husband and I are experiencing this phenomenon first hand. His grandmother kept everything, literally. She kept old egg cartons, bags and bags of buttons, used batteries and many other things including antique collectible items.
Through this process of dealing with his grandmother’s things (since we are the only family left) I have had much time to reflect on why people hoard and the anxiety all too often attached to the possessions left behind. In his grandmother’s case, she collected and inherited many things. She kept the home as tidy as she could, but simply never got rid of anything.
If you have ever watch any shows about hoarding, those who struggle with this are at a major risk of health problems due to infestations and safety issues stemming from the lack of room in their homes to navigate and live. In terms of our mental health, mental hoarding can cause the some of the same type of physical problems.
The whole issue with hoarding is this lack of letting go. Hoarders in any definition collect and save everything. If we are to look at this regarding mental hoarding we would be talking about holding on to memories good and bad, hanging on to past experiences and worrying that we might lose these things if they are not discussed or present in some way.
It is likely that you have met a mental hoarder at some point. These people tend to re-hatch past experiences over and over as if to relive them and not move on. The problem with doing this is that by not letting go of the past, in any capacity, you are actively blocking yourself from experiencing new things.
The health risks come in when mental hoarders focus on the negative experiences they had and are trying to prevent them from happening again. However, the reality is that they are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by not letting it go. These negative memories are a source of stress and can cause severe anxiety that over time can lead to heart and nervous system problems.
As Spring comes we think of cleaning our homes and de-cluttering, but with each new year it is also a good time to do a mental sweep. Spend time letting go of the past, allow your mind to look to the future and actively erase the negative memories, for they no longer define you. You will find that even in this exercise the good memories will come back as needed, but the negative will be gone because you no longer carry them with you.