Let It Go: Ever Wonder If You're An "Emotional Hoarder"?

Some folks hoarder stuff. Then there are those who hoard...feelings.


While I've never watched an episode of the television showHoarders before, to be honest with you, I've never had to. Although I'm personally not a hoarder myself (at least not in the classic sense; more on that in a bit), I've been in my fair share of senior homes that would definitely fit the bill. Like really, how many Tupperware cups do you need and is it necessary to keep every single card you've received in your adult life? The amount of "organized junk" that many of them keep around is so fascinating that I absolutely had to ask a couple of 'em what's up. Something that I found to be interesting is they all basically said that when you grow up with little-to-nothing, you tend to store things up for a rainy day; you know, just in case. Even though it's clear that the day rarely ever comes. Which is why they end up with so much…stuff. Yeah, bookmark that.

Yet out of all of the older hoarders I know, there is a younger person who totally takes the cake. In fact, her house is so utterly disturbing that I've only been in it twice—and I was barely able to walk into it then. When I say that there is junk everywhere, floor-to-ceiling, that's no exaggeration. It's been like that for years and, it's only been since she's gone to therapy for some emotional issues, that there has even been a little bit of noticeable change. Did you catch that? In both instances that I just shared with you, there has been an emotional link connected to why people hoard things in the physical sense.

And shoot y'all, when you take into account that reportedly there are between 5-14 million hoarders in the United States alone and then add to it that we're at the tail end of another year (check out "Why Fall Is The Perfect Time To Prep For The New Year"), I figured this would be a really great time for us all to do some serious pondering over whether we're, what I call, emotional hoarders or not. What I mean by that is if we are indeed someone who tends "to accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place", not realizing that living this way is only cluttering our lives and making our world so much more complex than it really has to be. Have you ever thought about that before?

In order to get to a "yes" or "no" answer, I'm going to share a few signs that you do indeed accumulate people, feelings, things and/or ideas more than you should or, to a point where they really aren't all that helpful to you in the long run. Are you ready to free up some emotional space? Let's make it happen.

You Get into “Unnecessary” Relationships


I don't know what it is about the turn of every birthday that suddenly makes most of us want to live a more minimal lifestyle, even when it comes to the company that we keep. When we're in high school, it's like we base our value on how popular we are; then, once we hit our 30s, we're far more interested in the quality of relationships that we have (check out "According To Experts, We Only Have A Few Friends — Here's Why").

I think a part of the reason is because, when we're young(er), we're still trying to figure out who we are as individuals. Yet as we age and things begin to settle, we're able to get clearer about what we need in our lives—and who. And by "need", I mean just that—people who can clearly serve a purpose in our life, whether it's personally or professionally (check out "According To Aristotle, We Need 'Utility', 'Pleasure' & 'Good' Friends").

That's why I think, when it comes to broaching the topic of emotional hoarding, a good place to start is by asking yourself if you've got relationships in your life that you don't actually need. People who are draining your energy and/or causing drama (or even just ridiculous distractions) and/or you're only really keeping around because they've been around, even though neither one of you are truly benefitting the other.
I've said it before and I mean it from the very bottom of my heart—as we age (and hopefully mature), we learn that there are miles of space in between friendship and someone being an enemy. So when I say that you could be an emotional hoarder if you keep folks around that you don't need, I mean "keeping them" in the intimate parts of your life (check out "Always Remember That Friendships Have 'Levels' To Them") where they can reap from you in the same way that those who are truly worthy of doing so are able to. I'm telling you, moving some folks into the "we cool" sphere can free up a lot of your time, resources and feelings, so that you can give to those who are truly deserving—the ones who reciprocate in a way that actually you need them to.

You Suck at Forgiving Others


If you're someone who follows the Bible, the fact that Matthew 6:14-15 tells us that God won't forgive us unless we forgive others should be enough of a reason to do it. Then, if you add to that the fact that forgiveness reduces our anxiety levels, soothes depression-related symptoms, strengthens our heart, improves our immunity and even gives us better mental health—I really don't get the "win" in being intentional about not forgiving others. Matter of fact, I think that by choosing not to forgive those who hurt or harmed you, you're actually giving them more power in your life, whether you realize it or not (because again, look at all of what comes from acting forgiving in the first place).

I can't count how many times I've shared a favorite definition of forgiveness. I believe that it's by author Dr. Gary Zukav. He once said that "forgiveness is accepting that the past cannot change." Unfortunately, because a lot of people think that "forgiveness" means that you dismantle all of your boundaries while offering up no consequences for the offense, they totally clam up at the concept.

Yet, as someone who has endured more abuse and pain than I care to write and you've got time to read, I promise you that all forgiving someone is really doing is 1) choosing to not let them or what they did run your life; 2) keeping you abreast of the fact that you also need forgiving from time to time; 3) allowing you to free up the bitterness and resentment, so that you can let others into your life without penalizing them for what has happened that has nothing to do with them; 4) teaching you how to peacefully release rather than violently cut off, and 5) helping you to heal so that you can thrive.

It really is an epidemic, the amount of people who aren't able to soar in their life, both personally as well as professionally, and it's all due to the fact that not learning how to forgive—releasing an offense, so that you can stop living in the past, so that you can finally heal from it—is weighing them down. Look at it this way—if everything that you didn't forgive manifested itself into a piece of junk, how much clutter would be in your house? Definitely something to think long and hard about.

You Hide Your True Feelings


If there is one thing that absolutely exhausts me when it comes to the married couples who I work with, it's the amount of wives who expect their husbands to be mind readers. Why do I think this happens more with women than men? I believe a part of it is due to how many women pride themselves in thinking that they can read the mind of others. The reason why I stress the word "think" is because, while the emotional side of us can indeed heighten our intuitiveness, we're oftentimes not as "spot-on" as we think when it comes to knowing what other people are thinking (check out "So, Experts Have Something To Say About Your Intuition's Accuracy").

Anyway, because a lot of folks struggle with humbling themselves to this reality, sometimes they become an emotional hoarder because they wait for someone to figure out what they need or how they feel rather than being forthcoming, genuine and honest and letting others know.

I can't tell you how many married couples do not really know their spouse and it's because their spouse has become a master of hiding their feelings. Listen, it's not fair to penalize others for not really meeting your needs if you're not openly sharing what they are. Someone who truly cares about you wants to get to know the real you. And guess what? Whatever comes with that—so long as you're not delivering it in an abusive or combative way—I'm pretty sure they can handle it.

You Obsess over People, Things and/or Ideas


Thanks (although personally, it's actually a strong "no thanks" for me) to television channel Lifetime, a lot of us think that obsession only means that we're stalking someone and/or on the brink of killing them. And perhaps, that's why a lot of us remain obsessed over someone or something for far longer than we ever should. Yeah, believe it or not, there are other ways to be obsessed that are far less extreme. Constantly brooding over something or someone to the point where it keeps you in a rut of negativity is a form of an obsession. Being so focused on something or someone that it basically causes everything (and one) else in your life to suffer is a form of an obsession. Not being able to find balance (social media, anyone?) so that you can get things done is a form of an obsession.

Worry can be a form of obsession. Being a control freak can be a form of an obsession. Always trying to change what you cannot—and perhaps even should not—can be a form of an obsession. Wishing you were something or someone that you're not can be a form of an obsession. Wanting who or what doesn't want you can be a form of an obsession. Manipulating things in order to get what you want can be a form of an obsession. Basically, allowing any person, thing or idea dominate your life, by the very definition of obsession, is a form of an obsession.

And here's the thing—as you mature, you learn that mastering life is about finding balance. In part, this means that if anyone or anything is throwing you off kilter, at the end of the day, it's taking up way too much room in your psyche and it's costing you more than you can afford. Again, obsession doesn't have to go to potential jail time extreme. If something is consuming you, why is that? Because if you want to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy, it shouldn't.

You’re Always in Emotional Debt


If there's a company that will push me to the brink of wanting to plot ways to destroy it, it's Xfinity. On so many levels and for so many reasons, they suck due to their inconsistent customer service and their prices. Still, they are kind of the only complete gig going where I live (they know it too) and so, at least for now, I have to deal. Anyway, I'm bringing them up because, while I'm ashamed to say it, I senselessly gave that company, at least a couple of thousand dollars (no joke), by renting a modem for them for about 15 years (again, at least). When they finally pissed me off to no end a few weeks ago, I went out, bought a modem and gave them theirs back, so I could get that fee off of my bill. The cost of my new modem was $80. SMDH.

So, what took me so long to make the move? Because, in my mind, I thought renting the modem was convenient when really, it would've been easier, smarter and far more cost-effective if I had sucked it up, went to an electronics store and bought a modem years ago. My point?

Sometimes, we keep certain people, places, things and/or ideas in our lives out of that same convenience. It's not really that they are so awesome or beneficial; it's more like…they are familiar. Yet when we make the move to release them, we realize that they were actually doing us more harm than good; that they were putting us into emotional debt because they weren't giving us what we needed and/or they always had some sort of drama attached to them and/or they never really served a true purpose. Yet because we kept engaging them like they did, it ended up putting us into some level of emotional debt because, after all, debt is basically an obligation—or a liability.

When relationships are healthy and purposeful, they are not disadvantageous (which is what a liability) in our world. You can see clear and immediate benefits that come from having that particular person, thing or idea in your life. You don't keep them around just because you're used to them being there or because you're afraid of what it will cost you to make wiser decisions.

This brings me to my final point.

You Don’t Know How to Let Ish Go


What is hoarding all about? At the end of the day, it's really simple—it's about not letting s—t go. It could be something that's related to a bad experience. It could be what connects you to feelings for a person who, at the end of the day, is fruitless in your life. It could be fears about leaving a job, city or church (hmm). It could be holding onto a friend who really isn't. It could be refusing to shift from who you were and how you processed things 10, five or even two years ago. Basically, anything (or one) that you know that you know that you know is impeding your growth (because you've been feeling triggered throughout this entire piece)—it qualifies as something (or someone) that you're emotionally hoarding on some level; something (or someone) that it's time to shift from, so that you can make more space in your life for what is truly good and healthy for you.

Again, I've never really hoarded stuff yet emotions? Girl, yeah. And the more I release what no longer serves me, the more my life makes complete, total and peaceful sense. There's no time like the present to stop hoarding what you don't need. What are you waiting for? DO IT.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

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And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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