I’ve said before that I may be the pathological opposite of a hoarder, that I will get rid of good things just because they are taking up space.
People hoard for a number of reasons, but I think the main one is that they are planning a life they don’t have yet. They may never have it. Hoarding may actually prevent that life from happening as they get trapped in acquisitions, crippling debt and loss of quality of life. Some hoarding cases I have known: Animal hoarders who tried to rescue abandoned or lost animals, and end up starving them because theycouldn’t afford proper food and care; a woman who bought furniture, decorative items, dishes, clothes and jewelry suitable for a duchess living in a palace when she, a retired school teacher, lived in a tiny four room apartment; a man and his son who were recyclers but never sold anything to be recycled and let it pile up on a five acre property worth in itself a million dollars; and homesteaders whose house sites were piled with lumber, sheds full of old magazines and hardware, and decrepit refrigerators and cars.
Would-be and new homesteaders can be tempted into hoarding. The one really good piece of advice I got years ago about preparing to homestead was not to buy anything for the homestead until you had all the money saved to buy the homestead. In other words, don’t tie up your earned capital in stuff.
That, though, is not what hoarding is about. We can all make some mistakes in judgment when it comes to a new endeavour – I bought a used scythe instead of a new one, which made cutting the long grass too much of a chore, for instance – but I didn’t buy every used scythe I came across. Hoarding is about living in the future, instead of trusting God to provide for our well-being. It can be about living in the past, when we cannot forgive someone else or ourselves, and we keep going back to the scene of the pain.
I think it is why we need to look carefully and prayerfully at why we want to homestead. Is it to serve God? There can be no other, better reason. We can be serving God in homesteading by living simply so as to leave resources for others, to improve and guard our God-given health, to provide our communities with healthy food, to raise our children separated from the world. But serving God is the core reason.
Have you ever known a history buff who was, well – obsessed? I was the curator of a historic museum in a small town. It was a wonderful job, except for the obsessive founder. He was a champion hoarder. He filled houses, and after I had de-ascensioned some trash he had left at the museum because he had no room for it, he was quite irate with me. It was part of my job to get rid of items that were inappropriate for the collection, and he was the reason. I stood up to him and sent him home with a couple of suitcases of his possessions he had left in the supplies closet.
Homesteading can be an excuse for the same kind of behaviour. You meet these people at country auctions, garage sales, barn sales, thrift stores. They are buying up anything old and potentially useful, at least potentially useful if they can fix it. Some day, they will need that lathe, hayfork, oil lamp sans globe, double boiler, auger, or fence wire stretcher. They can’t use it yet, haven’t bought the land, built the house, found the right stock…
The garage, basement and a new shed get filled. They stack things behind the house. They rent a storage unit or old barn. They have dozens, sometimes hundreds of books on homesteading. Yet they haven’t even planted a garden because there is no room, what with the three parts trucks and the old van in the yard.
They can describe that perfect homestead, how the house will look, how they want the lay of the land, what livestock they will get and what crops to plant. They live in that dream, and reality is ignored. The reality is that they may attempt to live their dream, and fail. Better never to start, than to be a failure.
I don’t mean those of us with delayed dreams – circumstances and finances may prevent us from moving along when we want to. We can contribute to realizing the goals of others with our knowledge and visions.
I mean those whose dreams have become a castle in the air. This is a serious condition. It will make the sufferer miserable, as they try every way but the right one to alleviate their anxiety and pain. It will make the sufferer’s loved ones miserable, as they are controlled by the person’s habits and hoarding.
Hoarders need to control, because they feel they have no control over circumstances. They have received a big shock at some time and felt helpless. They can control things, they can control people, but it is in a passive, manipulative way. They may feel superior to others by spending a lot of money, or “being prepared” for an imagined event or crisis that never happens. (Or if it does, they aren’t truly prepared because the items hoarded are no longer useful, or are inaccessible because of disorganization.)
I’m trying to approach this sensitive topic with an attempt at understanding the problem; I’m not condemning those who have fallen into this illness. But I also believe that we all need to be cautious about avoiding the syndrome. If we have a tendency to “save for a rainy day” anything that would otherwise be trash, then a sudden trauma could push anyone of us over the edge into a pathology. I am sympathetic to those suffering under this illness. It is as potentially damaging to happiness and health as a substance addiction.