From a spiritual point of view, hoarding can be the result of the inability to let go and being stuck in the past. Hoarding could also be caused by a deep sense of loneliness or identification with the things you own.
Clutter per se doesn’t have to be an issue, but hoarding and extreme hoarding can negatively affect a person’s entire life, and the root cause of it cannot be laziness itself.
There is always a psychological and/or spiritual root cause, and that’s what the hoarder will need to be aware of because fixing the symptoms won’t fix the issue (this is true for anything else).
Hoarding from a spiritual point of view
A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself. In order to remember oneself it is necessary first of all not to identify. (…) Freedom is first of all freedom from identification.Gurdjieff
You are the witness, to whom things happen, but who remains a witness. Witnessing is the art of non-identification, and non-identification is all.Osho
Through meditation as well as other spiritual practices, we gradually let go of all the things we identify with.
You are not the things you own — I think we can all agree on that. But it’s not just material items that get in the way of the path to non-identification and self awareness.
For example, you are not your job or career. You are not the situation you are in. And if you silence the mind for a while and let the heart speak, you realize that you are not your thoughts or your physical body either.
So… who are we? Different theories and religions offer different answers. For the sake of this article, we are going to assume that man is, essentially, nothing more than a container i.e. an empty box or an empty circle.
Say that a certain thought or emotion fills this container. You will say: “I think this; I feel this”. Yet from a spiritual point of view it’s not you who creates these thoughts and feelings; you simply let them pass through you.
It has been said that all the greatest ideas and innovations were not created by the human mind itself, but rather the ability to connect with an infinite, universal source of information.
Essentially, we are nothing, we are pure emptiness, in the sense that everything we are, think, feel, do, and create comes from something else.
Emptiness as freedom
Spiritually as well as physically, your freedom largely depends on your ability to fill the “empty box” with positive stuff and let go of negative stuff. It’s that simple.
You have probably already heard phrases like: you become what you feed your mind. You are what you eat. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
These things — thoughts, knowledge, people, etc. — are not you and yet because you are, spiritually speaking, a container, then they are the content, and the content becomes you.
A hoarder is someone who acquires, collects, and accumulates a large number of items and then stores them in their house in a way that is clearly unhealthy and chaotic.
Think of a hoarder and you can picture a room so full of stuff it’s impossible to add any more unless you stack items on top of each other. The room/house of a hoarder is full of clutter; their environment is filled up.
If it’s true that the material world is a reflection of the spiritual world and vice versa, then by extension the hoarder’s mind will also be filled up (at least in the sense that their thoughts will be consumed by the items they own).
A hoarder is someone who stores a ridiculous number of items and finds it difficult if not impossible to let go of them. Can you see how this can affect the mind and the spirit?
How can you evolve and become the best you can be if you are totally identified with the things you own and let them consume your thoughts?
How can you empty the “container” (your heart or soul) if it’s already full and the thought of getting rid of its content terrifies you?
This is the greatest danger of hoarding from a spiritual point of view — identification and inability to grow and evolve.
Now, why would someone hoard, spiritually and/or in the material world? What is the root, what are the main causes?
Spiritual roots of hoarding
Hoarding can be caused by many different issues/traumatic experiences including poverty in childhood (where the hoarder feels safer if they accumulate things).
But as for the spiritual causes…
- Perfectionism. It may seem like a paradox, but many hoarders actually suffer from perfectionism. You would think that a perfectionist likes to live in a neat, orderly environment and yet in this case perfectionism translates to indecisiveness. What should I keep, what should I discard? Hoarders keep everything and discard nothing.
- Inability to let go. Someone who is stuck in the past, or holds grudges, or keeps dwelling on the same thoughts over and over again may struggle to forget the old and embrace the new. Guess what — this can manifest in the material world in the form of hoarding or excessive clutter.
- Identification. We have already seen how identification can lead to all sorts of mental health issues earlier in this post. When deep inside you believe that the items you own are part of your identity (who you are), then the thought of discarding those items can trigger intense fear.
- Loneliness. Most hoarders live on their own and can feel isolated from the rest of the world. Not to mention that true loneliness is being unable to connect with others rather than being alone. Piles of material items may make people forget about loneliness but certainly don’t fix the root issue.
- Uncertainty. We live in… interesting times. Not necessarily in a good way, at least not for everyone. Have you noticed that people are constantly worrying about the future? This has always been the case, but it’s getting worse. Hoarding can be caused by uncertainty and the intense anxiety of worrying about the future as well as the obsessive need for control.
Interestingly, some of the potential reasons mentioned above could be the cause of hoarding, or the effect of hoarding, or both.
The inner world reflects the outer world and vice versa, so it can be difficult to identify the original cause of any issue and determine what led to what.
If you or someone you know struggles with clutter or hoarding, know that self awareness will help, and that psychology and spirituality are basically the path to self awareness.