Being someone who is ENORMOUSLY affected by my environment, my heart immediately went out to these people, and the horrendous conditions they live in. Most of them have a space that is just wide enough to house them in an office chair, and their belongings are literally stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling. Most had rat infestations and dead insects carpeting the floors
As the program unfolded, I was really trying to understand their problem, and the reasons why their possessions drove them to live in such a shocking environment. As the ‘helpers’ came to sort out the ‘gold from the shite’… I could see the anxiety leaking from every pore of each hoarder, their distress was palpable. My sympathy was growing but I was still struggling to pin point WHY they had such trouble ‘de-cluttering’ (on a grand scale)… until I heard this sentence
One lady said “I don’t have anyway of distinguishing between items of worth and items of no-use, they all hold exactly the same worth and value as each other”.
She then picked up a beautiful clock in one hand, and a cheap, cracked and chipped ceramic squirrel in the other. You could see the struggle in her face, as she tried desperately to choose which one to keep.
ALL of her ‘things’ were of equal value to her, sentimentally and practically
This description clarified the core problem for her and other hoarders, and allowed me to ‘put myself in her shoes’…
I began to imagine how I would feel if 2 or 3 people came marching into my home, and started throwing away my new twister chair; my treasured ‘shoe collection’; my groovy new salt and pepper shakers; my DVD collection; or the photograph I have of me and my brother and sister, which is now 33 years old. I imagined them taking away my box of memories, with the ticket stubs for the shows I’ve been to; or bagging up the cards from my 30th birthday; or binning my Amy Winehouse memorabilia!!!!
In her shoes – I would have to watch people throwing these things of value into black bags on my behalf, whilst trying to express gratitude for their assistance. I would be expected to stay calm and composed as I watched them chucking away everything I consider valuable. I’m sure in reality, I would want to scream a piece of my mind in their direction, and hoof them out of my home immediately!
You could see that ‘hoofing them out’ is exactly what she wanted to do. Instead she had a house full of ‘do-gooder’s’ making decisions of worth and value over her possessions; placing them into ‘keep and throw’ piles, at a speed where she had no time to even ponder which goods she could bear to part with, and which she couldn’t.
She had people lecturing her about the disgusting rats and the extent of the infestations (as if she didn’t know this already!!!!). It was hideous watching people rip her habits and possessions to pieces; with a holier than though attitude, and little understanding of her reasoning
Had she not uttered the insightful description about the equal worth of all her possessions, I would not have been able to really understand her, or put myself in her shoes. Which brings me to my point
If we are confronted with someone elses problem and we wish to really learn about their pain…We have to listen for explanations, or ask questions.
Understanding WHY always leads to more effective ways to help those in need…
We are taught that it is verging on rude to pry into the taboo habits of others. BUT if the one rude sentence we ask, leads to a deeper understanding of a problem, we move into the territory of…
Actually helping those in need, rather than thinking we are helping, fully shrouded in ignorance!!!
If in doubt, instead of nodding in faux understanding and knowing – Ask why?