I’m a recovering hoarder. Yep. I SO used to be that person. Granted, I wasn’t bad enough to make it onto a reality TV show. My house was moderately organized. I had bins. My bins even had bins. I guess I would have really been more of a Type-A Hoarder. But when a friend casually commented one day, “It looks like Toys R Us threw up all over your house”, I started to take notice. Did my house really look like that?
Yep, it did. I had four kids. She had one. So there WAS a kid-ratio discrepancy and life experience difference between the two of us. But truth was there too. Man, I did have a lot of crap. How did this happen?
Because hoarding is just a symptom. It’s a behavior. The real problem lies within the heart. Hoarding is really just a marker for the more deeply-rooted issue of Spiritual Heart Disease.
Anyone with kids knows how quickly the stuff multiples. Seriously. You’d think toys were rabbits by the way they seem to reproduce right before my eyes. But apart from that fact—and the thousands of school prizes and birthday party favors that the kids continually brought home, I did have a problem. This problem had resulted in wall-to-wall stuff everywhere. I started to feel like I was suffocating. Or drowning. I needed help. And I knew it wasn’t going to be solved by one more bin.
What the heck was really going on?
You would have thought I was a shelter animal by the way that I binged on stuff. Like an animal that never knows when it is going to get its next meal, so it eats too much whenever it finds food. But instead of food, I was binging on stuff.
It started slowly. I can track it back to when we first got married. Being newly married and economically challenged, hand-me-down furniture and appliances were graciously accepted. Then the yard saling started. At first, it was just a fun pastime—to see what treasures and rarities I would discover or how I could make our money stretch. But then it became an obsession—one that continued throughout my early child-rearing years until just a few years ago when it finally started to die its slow death.
Sure, I’ll take your hand-me-downs.
Oh, I better buy that—one of the girls might need it.
I’ll just throw it in a bin.
I HAVE to go yard saling—think of all the money I could save.
These were just a few of my rationalities when it came to saving or buying stuff. I was new at the mom game. How did I know what I needed? Better just save it all in case.
I didn’t see it at the time, but I was starting to become like my depression-era grandma, who had at least 3 boxes of baking soda in her pantry the last time I visited her before she passed. Who needs that much baking soda at one time? One box takes forever to use in the normal course of cooking.
So I organized bins in my garage and closets by age. I obsessively labeled every box and container. Every school supply had a container or a drawer. Every toy had a shelf or a bin—which I kept adding to. It might sound cute and organized, but I was WAY past that point. I also had a downstairs closet that went way back under the staircase that was crammed FULL of toys. Shelves of toys. Bins of toys. Buckets of toys. It was so full that the kids barely went inside because it was too hard to get anything out. We also had toys all over our downstairs living area—where Toys R Us apparently threw up.
Can you say too much stuff? Control Issues?
It was the same with the kids’ dressers and closets. They had so many clothes—thanks to all my golden yard-sale finds and hand-me-downs—that the drawers were packed to the brim. Most of it didn’t even get worn. And all those bins in the garage? I often forgot what I had even stored.
I started to suffer with depression, anxiety and panic attacks, among other health problems. I was having major heart trouble—spiritual heart trouble. All the repressed pain from my childhood was manifesting in my physical body and also in these bizarre hoarding and planning habits. And the anxiety and stress of having to take care of SO much stuff and constantly keep it organized was sucking all of the life and energy out of me.
And it got worse.
It somehow got to the point where relatives would bring me their recently-cleaned-out crap. And I couldn’t say no. I had no boundaries (another story for another post). It was bad. I had become a magnet for other people’s stuff. Like some weird magnetic force in the spirit realm that just drew more hoarding to me, even when I wasn’t trying. Didn’t matter which relative it was. Whenever someone came to visit, they usually came bearing more “gifts”. More stuff. I tried a few times to say no, but I was shamed for trying to have boundaries. And the stuff from passed-on relatives was the worst. I was at my wit’s end.
I started to have physical difficulties breathing. The pulmonologist almost diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease. The world felt like it was collapsing onto my body. Life felt SO heavy. The stress even started to infiltrate my dreams. I’d dream I was in a dirty, cluttered house and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t clean any of it. And I’d wake up in a state of heart-racing panic. I couldn’t even rest while asleep.
But it wasn’t my house that needed decluttering. It was my heart.
And all of this craziness just illustrates how the behaviors can’t change in a person’s life until the underlying issues are resolved. Behavior modification in itself brings only minimal results. Such was the case with me. I had cleaned out our house many times. I cleaned, purged, and donated stuff a LOT. I had yard sales. I gave stuff to friends. But the stuff always returned. Because it wasn’t a stuff issue. It was a heart issue.
Jesus said, “These things come from the heart…” (Matthew 7:21)
It doesn’t really matter what it is. Take your pick: compulsive behaviors, coping mechanisms, addictions, obsessions, crimes, shame, anger, fear, insecurity, reactivity, anxiety—all of these things go back to the heart.
It’s always been a matter of the heart.
And God’s MO has always been about healing the heart. He came to heal the brokenhearted. He came to reconcile our hearts back to Him. He came to reconcile us back to our own hearts and to others. It just took me a LONG time to finally get it. There was a major incongruence between what I knew about Him in my head and what my heart actually believed. They were not one and the same.
Thank God I’m not where I was. When I realized most of my weird behaviors were just the fruit of something planted earlier in my life, I was finally able to start the process of heart excavation. And He has walked with me every day, revealing to me the roots of the pain and the behaviors. He continues to show me areas of unresolved trauma that connect back to childhood neglect and abuse. And he has taught me how the bitter life expectations and inner vows from my heart have affected my adult life.
My particular pain roots went all the way back to a childhood of instability and inconsistency. I lived my childhood swinging back and forth between the ever-undulating pendulum of two households. Feast or famine. Binge or purge. Depending on where I was, I might get some of my needs met. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. Financial. Or not. I never knew what to expect. I never knew who would follow through on what they had promised. I got used to constant disappointment. And the inconsistency fostered a lot of insecurity in my heart. So I learned to self-protect and take care of myself.
The years of not getting my needs met led to a fear of not ever having enough, which led to the self-provision and hoarding. And I judged God to be like my parents. I judged Him as someone who loves me, but who is only sometimes available to help. I judged him as inconsistent and uninvolved. I guess I lived unknowingly under the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”
It grieves me to think of all the years I’ve wasted not knowing His true heart. Because God is the epitome of generosity and unconditional love. He is a Father who loves to give good gifts. He provides. He protects. He’s consistent and reliable. And I trust Him now—in a way that I’ve never trusted another human being. The more that my trust has grown, the less I plan ahead. The less I buy. The less I store. The more I throw my needs into His court.
For example: I used to have SO many shoes. Just sitting in my closet covered with dust—for the rare occasion that I might wear them. Purses too. But now I just have a few. I have this favorite pair of Sanuks, a pair of flip flops and some awesome, snuggly boots for the winter. I have a pair of dress shoes too, which I’ll probably never wear…but just in case. I allow myself a couple just-in-cases these days, but not many. I’m still weaning off of self-provision. I’m still decluttering. I’m choosing to trust Him instead with the needs when they come up. And every day, I get a bit more free.
We hear so much these days about preventative care for our physical hearts. But our spiritual hearts need just as much attention. So many behaviors and even physical symptoms have spiritual roots.
So take care of your heart. Tend to your heart.
Your heart is the core of who you are.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18).
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1).
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).