How to keep yourself from hoarding

Deb asks: I live with my mom (age 89, but very healthy). We have three bedrooms. One is now a den for 39 years. It used to be my sisters room before she married in 1976. The master bedroom is my mom’s (dad died 31 years ago). My room is in the middle. All my clothes are from the 99 cent store. However, in 2007 I went overboard with buying tons of clothes from the 99 cent store and I had to use the closet in the den for many of my clothes in addition to my bedroom closet and dresser draws. Then in December 2014 and January 2015 I got a hold of myself and gave away 60 bags of clothes and now I have perfect amount. All my clothes are now just in my bedroom closet and my dresser draws and I love it. However, here is what I am OCD’ing about: First let me tell you we have four closets altogether – The closet in the den, my closet, my mom’s closet and the coat closet. What I am OCD’ing about is that I will be compelled to use the other closets for my clothes when my mom is no longer here and I am the only one living in the apt. I don’t want to feel compelled to use the other closets for my clothes. I just want to keep my clothes in my bedroom closet and dresser draws forever. Keep in mind when she is no longer here I will have to give her clothes away and two out of the three closets will have nothing hanging on its rails the rails will be empty.

Hi Deb –



I’m sure some people would read this letter and say “Oh, Deb’s a hoarder!”  But speaking as a hoarder myself (of toys, old bones, and other things I don’t want anyone else touching), I fully relate.


In terms of a solution to your self-control problems, I could go with the easy ones like, “Well, move to a smaller place,” or “Put other things in those closets, like bones or dog toys!”


But I think there’s a much tougher issue here.  Which is the way you’re so casually saying “when she is no longer here.”


Humans think a lot more about the future than we pups do.  Your larger brains give you the ability to make plans, but also give you the mistaken idea that having plans will eliminate the pains that life brings.  Deb, there’s no way your mom being “no longer here” is going to be easy for you, regardless of why that happens (as she might need to move to a place with  nursing care but live a long happy time, or not).  And I think you’re absolutely right, that when that happens, your biggest inclination will be to fill up the empty spaces in the house that she leaves.


But the problem won’t be the closets.  Deb your job is to fill up your life with other things, just the way you would be loading your house up with clothes.  To make new friends, to learn new hobbies, to volunteer your time to help others the way you are so good to your mother… to make your life so full you don’t even have time to think about those closets.


And if you do, and you’re right that the day comes when your mother is no longer there, you’ll find that those closets get filled.  Maybe with paperwork, maybe with craft materials, maybe with pets, maybe with… oh, anything other than clothes you don’t really care about.


Now none of this changes those simpler ideas – yes it might be great for you to consider moving to a smaller place, both for ease and for cost.  But for right now, I just want you to put those worries about the closet space into energy.  The best energy you possibly can make.  Whatever it is that you’d like to do with your life and your time.


And whatever it is, it will be wonderful.  And so much better than those clothes.


All my best,


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Leave a Reply 4 comments

Kota - April 19, 2016 Reply

Such a great response! I sure hope she takes your advice. This is my first visit to this site and my very first question to observe. But I’m impressed with your answer and I think it was the best possible answer, given this scenario.

    shirelle - April 21, 2016 Reply

    Thanks! I can sit and shake hands on command too!

Elisabeth - April 30, 2016 Reply

Shirelle, your answer is helping me as I move back into my childhood home with my 85 year old mother. I will heed your wisdom! Thank you!

    shirelle - May 2, 2016 Reply

    Oh thank YOU! That’s just why I do this whole site – thanks for making my day!!

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