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 show Hoarders 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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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