The Urge to Purge (Why I Will Never Be a Hoarder)

Despite my incessant urge to purge, I’m a big fan of A & E’s “Hoarders,” a “fascinating look inside the lives of two different people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis.”

Fascinating it is. Viewers are voyeurs into the lives of people who are dealing with some real psychological pain. More often than not, the downward spiral to a house full of trash is triggered by some traumatic event from which they’ve never recovered. After reaching out for help, (usually at the insistence of family, friends or Adult Protective Services), a team of professionals is brought in to clean and organize the home, and aftercare therapy is provided once they leave.

Watching an episode elicits a range of emotions from disgust to a feeling of superiority (that will never happen to me), and then finally compassion and sympathy for my fellow man or woman.

For me, the urge to purge has always been strong. For as long as I can remember I’ve been throwing or giving stuff away to the point where it’s become a running joke in my family. (True story: My mom once found a pile of pennies in the wastebasket in my room. When asked why on earth I’d toss perfectly good currency, my 8-year-old self explained that it was dirty and I didn’t need it.)

Get the Urge to Purge

I believe that if you haven’t used something in a year, you don’t need it. Containers, shelves and bins are your friends. Mail should be divided into piles to keep, recycle or file, and should occur immediately upon receipt. Go through your closets before each upcoming season and make a pile of stuff to take to Goodwill. And so on, and so forth.

This philosophy has gotten me into trouble with loved ones who’ve discovered I’ve pitched something that they really wanted to keep. Case in point: if you’re a parent, you’re familiar with the unending stream of kids’ art projects. But let’s be honest, not every creation is truly a work of art. One has to be ruthless in culling through the endless detritus or quickly be overwhelmed. After getting busted by my daughters a few times as I was throwing things away, I learned to save that task for when they’re not home. I do save truly exemplary work that’s representative of that particular time in their lives, but many scraps of paper go by the wayside, never to be missed.

Love “Hoarders” as much as I do? What kinds of things do you do to stay organized and keep all that stuff in check?

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