Since my father passed away, over ten years ago, his briefcase has remained unused and hidden away. It isn’t beautiful or expensive it’s just a regular battered old case.
The briefcase holds vivid memories of my childhood and my father. When I touch it I can see him coming through the door nightly carrying the bag which was always too heavy for me to lift, full of work papers he never touched, preferring to spend time with his “girls”.
A successful businessman, admired by many, I feel that the briefcase holds some magical power and keeping it will help me become as successful and respected as Dad. My father made me feel safe and secure and when he passed away I felt I needed something physical to represent that. If I let the briefcase go it’s like I will lose part of my connection with him; as if part of him lives on in the briefcase and touching something he touched… is like touching him again. If I were to toss it in the rubbish, it would be a sign of utter contempt for our relationship. Besides, I tell myself, I can use it one day. I know I’m in denial but this lame utilitarian justification is enough of a reason to avoid letting the briefcase go which I have convinced myself will lead to decision remorse.
The briefcase is still hidden away under the stairs and I often think about whether I really need it, but after 3 moves – packing, unpacking, packing again, it’s still there. You know, I’m more attached to it than his ashes or a photograph of him.
About twelve years ago, my husband and I lived in Japan for a couple of years teaching conversational English. We loved it so much and often reflect on the freedom from responsibility of mortgages and family obligation it gave us for a short period in our lives. During our stay, we both took Japanese language lessons and tried to grasp the basics of conversation. On our return to Australia, I intended to continue studying so I kept all the textbooks. They sat on the bookshelf for more than ten years, as a reminder of our wonderful experience in Japan as young newlyweds, free from responsibility, uninhibited, and carefree. The opportunity of becoming a proficient Japanese speaker and travelling and working there again, possibly creating an amazing, glamorous, and interesting life has stopped me from letting them go. If I keep them, there is still a chance one day I might master Japanese and have the exciting life I imagined – right? I feel like I can’t throw them in the bin or even give them to charity because that would feel like failure – my failure to realise their potential. However, if someone worthy came along who could use them and take up the opportunity they represent I would willingly pass them on.
As I write this, I can hear these very words coming out of HD sufferers’ mouths time and time again: in documentaries, from clients I have worked with, from fellow professionals I have talked to, and interviewee’s quotes in academic articles.
Hoarding sufferers feel this attachment to not just one or two items but thousands of them, in fact most of the things they own or are about to own.
In this blog, I’d like to publicly digest what I read in the academic literature about people who have difficulty parting with possessions and trouble avoiding excessive acquiring. In turn, this will help me write my dissertation and perhaps help some of the hoarding sufferers seeking to understand their beliefs and actions in the context of normal human behaviours.
I don’t intend to write stuffy posts with difficult to decipher academic waffle but it’s hard to change habits so don’t judge me too harshly if I don’t explain myself in a way you can understand. All I ask is that you tell me if you need more information or a simpler explanation. If I can’t explain it simply then I don’t truly understand it, so your comments will be helping me out! This is a place for me to see what I am thinking and hopefully someone out there will find my musings interesting or useful.
Eventually I’d like to create a hub for hoarding information for Australians because there isn’t much out there with links to research, self-help groups etc. to offer support to those who hoard or know someone who hoards.
This is my first baby step.