An image of a box of photos, postcards and assorted memories.


Out of sight, out of mind. The space looks neat and clean, swathes of polished furnishings, simple and minimal designs. In the garage sit boxes- organised, we tell ourselves, exactly where they need to be. Each set of things compacted into their own space, left there for some other time, when we might need them. The things out of sight and mind quickly and relentlessly return to our minds. When you reach into the underbed storage to try to find that one thing which you’re looking for and struggle through the boxes and drawers of items which have been stored away it starts to feel like a lot- it starts to be in sight, and in mind. Among the things, sacred memories stored away, crushed into tiny spaces and crammed together. Just keeping them for the future, a little while longer, you think. Minimalist exteriors often hide an underbelly of secret hoarding.

Of course, some of these items we might need, but many of them we don’t. Many things sit, unobserved, for months and years on end. So much so that once we start decluttering, it all seems new. It seems thrilling and exciting, the memories of objects flooding back. Revisiting items in storage is almost like going into our own store, a store which we’ve created entirely for stashes of old papers and inherited possessions like a strange, antique haven.

Then, of course, the emotional response, the sense of rediscovering our own possessions as if new again, leads to us keeping them. When things feel essential, we don’t feel like we’re hoarding them. Among the positives are other emotions, too- guilt, sadness, frustration. The excessive number of things which we keep ironically prevent us from interacting with the possessions which we genuinely love. If we narrowed down the five memory boxes to one box, or to the ten most important items, how would that look? Perhaps we would start to see the best moments.

For many of us we can go one step further, and minimise our memories into usable objects. Here, usable refers to anything which can be seen in the immediate environment as either has a physical use or an emotional use. An old photo is a usable object when included as part of a display within a room if it brings happiness to the people in the environment. An old photo is not a usable object when it sits in a box underneath a pile of things and is not able to be accessed.

Secret hoarding isn’t necessarily ever intentional hoarding. It’s a statement of the ways in which we take for granted our possessions and hold onto them in strange and non-functional ways. It’s simply a trademark of how much we have, and, to a large degree, of our attachments to physical objects. These attachments themselves aren’t flawed, but allowing them to get out of control to the point where they negatively impact our lives can be a problem. If we take back control, acknowledge our secret hoarding, organise, and minimise, then we can build a more positive relationship with what we own.

Featured image: Christopher Flynn via Unsplash.

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