Addiction to Clutter

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Clutter is a big problem for many people. At a lecture that I gave, I asked for a show of hands regarding how many people had problems with clutter and disorganization. I was surprised to find that at least half the people raised their hands.

One of my clients told me that she was trying to help her sister get back on her feet after her sister had been laid up with an illness and lost her job. Her sister's house had always been a mess, and had become so filled with clutter that there was no place to walk or sit. My client, Rebecca, offered to buy her sister a car if she would clean up her house. Rebecca even offered to help her sister clean up the house. Rebecca was shocked when her sister refused the offer, even though she desperately needed the car. He sister was unwilling to get rid of the clutter.

Why was the "stuff" so important to her?

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Underneath all addictions lies fear - of emptiness, helplessness, loneliness and aloneness. Addictions are a way to feel safe from feeling these difficult and painful feelings, and an addiction to clutter is no exception. It's all about having a sense of control over feeling safe. Clutter, like all addictions, provides a momentary feeling of comfort. However, as with any addiction, the clutterer needs more and more clutter to maintain the illusion of safety and comfort.

When my mother died and my son was cleaning out her house, he discovered huge amounts of clutter. While my mother's house always looked neat and clean, the cupboards and drawers were filled with clutter. My son told me he found 6 broken hair dryers in one cabinet. Why would my mother want to keep six broken hair dryers?

My mother grew up during the depression and always had a fear of not having enough. No matter how much she accumulated materially, she never felt that she had enough. The six hair dryers made her feel safe from her fear, even if they didn't work.

Carrie has trouble throwing things away, especially magazines with "important' information in them. She subscribes to many magazines but, being the mother of three small children, doesn't often have the time to read them. So the magazines pile up and pile up. Carrie hopes at some point to have the time to read them, but that time never seems to come. When asked why she won't throw them out, her answer is, "Because there might be something important in them and I don't want to miss it." Carrie fears missing out on some important piece of information

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