I was watching a lot of documentaries about extreme hoarding, and I could not help but be shocked by the number of possessions some people have, and the rationalization behind it! But what was most alarming was the strong emotional attachment to their items, and the frenzied like behaviour when shopping.
I am a daughter of a hoarder, and this really hit home for me. I can remember going to thrift stores with my mother, and how she would ALWAYS find many items to purchase. It was mostly clothing, kitchen items (a friend once commented that we had enough cutlery for a family of 10), and decorations. Our rec room was too full to use, and our bathrooms were covered in a large variety of creams and soaps. Our cupboards were always overflowing, and in order to fit things, we had to learn different systems of organization that were tedious. For instance, we had certain towels designated for the upstairs and the downstairs that had to be folded a very specific way in order to fit them all. If they did not fit, the quantity was never the reason, but the folder of the towels! If only we all learned the system, we wouldn’t have trouble! The same went for cups. They were all mismatched and of different weights and strengths, so you had to learn which ones could get stacked into others, as to not break one of them!
What would be simple and quick chores for most people, were painstaking for us. Dusting all the nicknacks took long, cleaning a washroom meant taking down all of the products just to wipe a surface down, etc.
The excuses for all this mess were of the following variety:
1. Our house is just too small
2. We (her children) were just not organized enough, or too lazy to keep things in order
3. This is her only hobby since we don’t have much money so she cannot give up the only thing that makes her happy/that she has fun with.
4. (similar to 3) “Since I don’t have money to go on vacations, I can at least shop.”
I also noticed that my mother had a very difficult time making decisions out of fear. But imagine how many more decisions she had to make with all the things she had. She’d have to pick out what to wear out of 2 dressers, one large closet, and boxes of clothes, and look through 50+ shoes and 15+ jackets each time she dressed.
I started wondering what the root of this problem is. I saw the therapists and organizers on the show give their input, but it didn’t feel like a full picture. They linked it to trauma, being brought up in a messy house, anxiety, OCD, an addiction etc. I don’t doubt that these could contribute to the problem, but I also searched the Bible for more insight.
Here are some wise words of Jesus Christ
“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:15-21
Jesus wanted us to store up treasure in heaven, and not to hoard it up on earth. He wanted us to be rich in things that will last, not things that can rot, mould, and have no value.
A really eerie warning and description is found in the proverbs:
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man. Proverbs 27:20
Here it seems the unquenchable desire for goods, is as unquenchable as the fires of hell! I have never reflected on this verse, and it shakes me to the core. But it gets deeper than that …
My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
12 Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
13 We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
14 Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse”—
15 My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
16 For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
17 Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
18 But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners. -Proverbs 1:11-19
Here it equates EVERYONE who is greedy for gain, as like those who would rob and shed blood for goods. Greed destroys no matter how it is pursued. And even though the therapists on these hoarding shows would call it a disorder, Jesus has another name for it.
20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” –Mark 7:20-23
And what about the gospel and this condition? Here it is explained in a familiar parable:
Luke 8:14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
Mark 4:19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
So it chokes the gospel message in those who have received it. What is seen as a pleasure, is actually a life taking thorn. To expand upon this we are instructed what to do with those who call themselves believers but are taken over with greed
1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
Besides greed, there is also another deadly sin at the heart of this:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34
For this you know, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. -Ephesians 5:5
“Whatever becomes the chief object of our desire, so as to claim our chief fear and love, is, of course, an idol; for “ye cannot serve God and mammon.” When we absolutely forget about God due to our covetousness, we are setting up some other object of worship to fill the vacant throne.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
The other object of worship would be: “something comparatively very base and contemptible, in the place of God, as if it could be the ground of his dependence, and the source of his happiness” Benson Commentary
So idolatry is also in the hearts of those who cannot stop shopping and hoarding.
But ultimately this piece is not meant to condemn or oversimplify the issue. As I mentioned earlier in this post, it is likely a combination of the biblical reasons and some of the secular reasons. A person can genuinely have a mental health problem, family history, compounded by issues of their heart: greed and idolatry, that could create such a scenario.
People who are in this state need help with getting things organized, trashed, donated, as well as support from loved ones and friends. They also desperately need prayer and a change of heart.