I have a collection of Cherish Teddies in a couple of boxes in my garage. They have become the family joke, because no one wants to inherit them, and I can’t even sell them in a garage sale! Do you have a “what do I do with it now?” collection?
Some time ago, I studied with fascination some of the world’s largest collections.
There was a collection of: Barbie dolls (15,000 dolls in 19 years); Santa items (25,189 toys, trinkets, dolls,and other Santa items); Dice (a reported 11,097 dice in 2003); Kitchen timers (1,300 different timers); Nativity scenes (2,150 nativities displayed in one church); License plates (11,345 different numbered plates from 133 countries); Teddy Bears (7,106 different bears); Rubber bands (700,000 rubber bands) …
Whether the collection is thermos bottles, shaving brushes, Snow White figurines or Hulk Hogan action figures, collections can take over our lives if we’re not careful, and feed into a larger problem ~ hoarding.
I visited a friend and there was nowhere to sit. She had to clear off a spot on the couch. As we sat chatting, some boxes stacked nearby fell over. I felt a claustrophobic. The dining room table and kitchen counter were all cluttered. “I wonder how she prepares a meal?” I thought. On the way to a bathroom break, I saw her bed, stacked high with clothes. “I wonder where she sleeps?” I wondered whether I should offer to help her clean. My heart grieved for my friend. She was trapped in a hoarding lifestyle.
It’s estimated that one in 20 people is a true hoarder. Medically, hoarding is a compulsive emotional, psychological disorder ~ and many of the hoarders highlighted on television shows do need intervention. Some of the symptoms of true hoarding are: (1) compulsive buying or acquiring of things (usually specific items); (2) the inability to release or get rid of anything, usually linked to anxiety or fear; (3) difficulty processing information properly in order to make decisions about possessions; (3) sometimes, a lack of organization skills; (4) a distorted sense of value – sometimes seeing value in something others consider trash or junk; (5) abnormal identification with things; (6) and emotions (like grief or anger) triggered when forced to part with things ~ feelings often rooted from past events, trauma, or tough circumstances.
It’s hard to get a true hoarder to recognize his or her disorder. Just getting rid of their things is not the answer. There must be a sense of trust. What can we do to help? We certainly can pray for the hoarder, offer loving support and encouraging words, and assure them of God’s love. We can be patient and understanding, and we can ask questions to help the hoarder process. But in truth, a professional is often needed to help the hoarder get to the root of the problem. Hoarders who are Christians have the advantage of the power of God in their lives, and with education and biblical counsel, they can overcome their problem.
But that’s not the issue that bothers me today. I believe many of us who don’t have the medical disorder have Hoarder Hearts.
And there are a number of reasons for this… the symptoms of a Hoarder Heart:
(1) We’re basically selfish.
The Bible says that in the last days people will be selfish ~ self-centered, self-seeking, self-absorbed and self-serving. (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Philippians 2:21; James 3:14). Sometimes we’re inclined to hoard things out of fear or self-preservation, forgetting that God knows our need and will take care of us (Matthew 6:8, 32; 1 Peter 5:7).
(2) We just love our things too much.
Why do we get so caught up in the “things” in this world when God tells us not to do this? The Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15). What has helped me have better perspective is to realize that everything in this world (except people and the Word of God) will pass away (1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31b; 2 Corinthians 4:18). Don’t get me wrong ~ it’s not wrong to have nice things, but it’s foolish to pour all our love and attention (and money) into things that won’t last. God wants us to surrender our desires to Him.
(3) We substitute things for what we really need.
Many times, our lust for things comes from God-hunger. Some have called this the “God-shaped hole” or “God-shaped vacuum” in our lives. We’re trying to stuff things into our lives when what we really crave is a deeper relationship with our Creator. Our cravings should be for Him, not the things He might want (or not want) to give us.
St. Augustine reportedly said, “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Perhaps our inner restlessness, this stirring for more, is for more of God? He has put eternity into our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) to invite us to seek Him.
(4) We do not have a contented heart.
One of the most powerful ways to combat a hoarding, greedy heart is by developing a contented heart. The Bible has much to say about this (1 Timothy 6:6-7; Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11-12). We need to guard our hearts against greed ~ life is more than an abundance of things. An antidote for a discontented heart is gratitude for all that God has already provided.
(5) We’re not making wise choices.
We just have too much stuff because we aren’t being wise about our purchases and things we bring into our homes and lives. We’re not living in discernment or obeying the promptings of God’s Spirit in our lives. He cares about our daily decisions about things. God wants us to be wise stewards of our possessions (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 25:20-21; Luke 12:42-44), but also to know when enough is enough (1 Timothy 6:8-10).
(6) We don’t see the ministry power of our resources.
Because we are basically selfish, we either don’t see the needs of others, or we choose to ignore them. Maybe we think that others’ needs are so varied, we can’t possibly meet them all. But we can help one person.
We can alleviate some bit of pain. We can better some person’s life. We can meet an immediate need.
Walk around your home, and you might be surprised to find many things you have that people are praying for every day… and you have two or three or four of more of them! Let love and service motivate your life (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 4:10), rather than the drive for an endless collection of things.
Yes, you can move from being a hoarder to a helper! It begins with a change of heart and ends with open, giving hands.
[A Final Note: for help in organizing your stuff (before or after you get rid of things), check out Marcia Ramsland's wisdom and advice at organizingpro.com. She has several books to help you SIMPLIFY your life, time, space ... and even the holidays. Get ready for next Christmas!]