Not like those folks you see on T.V. who have stuff stacked everywhere in their house and can barely move about it (albeit, my post-flood house does presently sort of look like that). Oh no, my hoarding takes another form that while less outwardly apparent is as damaging and invasive. I, my friends, am an information hoarder…I hoard emails that have information in them that I may use some day in the future.
I may not have the visible piles that the folks on T.V. have, but I have electronic piles that long ago eclipsed my ability to deal with them. Yesterday my two primary email accounts had collectively over 3,800 emails in their inboxes and about three times as many emails stored in specially designated email file folders.
I have tried to purge my email inboxes over the past seven or eight months of the excess emails that have been building up, but the sheer volume has proven impossible to slog through. You see, I feel obliged to read them all before deleting them – if I delete them at all (because I might need that information some day in the future).
I have recognized for awhile that my email accounts have been out-of-control, but I viewed the eclipsing pile as an issue of time. I simply was too busy to keep up with all the incoming emails. Yeah…well…I realize now that there is more to the story.
I am a keeper of information – articles, stories, links, list serv dialogues, addresses, etc. that may be of use in the future. In my field, the issues are many and the amount of information that gets pushed out there on a daily basis is daunting. I can’t possibly keep up with it day-to-day so I keep it until I have time to really address it. And now I am figuratively buried in information overflow and I realized yesterday that I need help.
Upon this realization I went straight to my one stop shop for all things – Oprah’s website. Fortunately, I had saved an email long ago from her network that had talked about hoarding and it led me to information on how to overcome hoarding.
Dr. David Tolin offers 12 tips:
1. Not being able to think of a use for an object doesn’t mean you need to keep it.
Dr. Tolin suggests: “The question to ask yourself is not whether you can use the object, but whether you really will use the object. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t used an object in over a year—say, you didn’t even know it was there until you found it on the bottom of a pile—you probably can live without it.”
Okay…so those emails from 2005 that I ran across can probably go.
2. More is not necessarily better.
“There’s really no need for most of us to have, say, two microwave ovens, or three bicycles,” Dr. Tolin says. “Try to get rid of the extras.”
Yes, guilty as charged…especially as it applies to list serv discussion topics…I realize that many of them repeat themselves.
3. Categorize items into piles.
For example, you might make a pile of things to keep, a pile of things to donate to charity, a pile of things to sell or give away and a pile of things to throw away. “Don’t make too many piles,” Dr. Tolin says. “Having to decide among 10 piles just slows you down and strains your thought processes.”
So are you saying that over a hundred email file folders are too many?
4. Don’t overthink.
“If you have to go through a long and complicated decision-making process for each and every item before you get rid of it, you’ll never get free of the clutter,” Dr. Tolin says. “Most decisions are not that complicated. If you find that the decision takes you more than a couple of minutes for a particular object, you are probably making it too complicated.”
Uggh…overthink is my middle name.
5. Learn to get past some of the imperfections—it’s okay to make mistakes.
“You don’t have to do a perfect job,” Dr. Tolin says. “Just a good enough job.”
I don’t believe this is one of my issues…perfect I ain’t.
6. Follow the “OHIO” rule: Only handle it once.
“If you pick something up, make a decision about it and then put it somewhere it belongs,” Dr. Tolin says. “If you find yourself handling things again and again, moving things from one pile to another, stop yourself. Refocus and move on.”
Guilty as charged…re-file, re-shuffle, re-assess…from here forward I need to RE-FOCUS.
7. Be brave.
“Beating compulsive hoarding requires you to face things that are very scary,” Dr. Tolin says. “I can’t tell you not to be scared, because you can’t really control that. But you can be brave. Be willing to face your fears. Be willing to risk making the wrong decision. The people who gain the most are usually the people who are willing to risk the most.”
Taking your word for it because you are cute…oh yeah, and well-versed in this area of expertise…you could email me any time Dr. Tolin.
8. Understand what you’re afraid of, and recognize when your fears are irrational.
“Ask yourself: What’s the worst that can happen if I throw this out? And how bad would that really be? If you’re not sure whether your fear is irrational, try an experiment. Try making a specific prediction about what will happen if you discard an object. Then discard it, and really look to see whether that bad thing happened.”
This I know intellectually. With the internet I can access virtually any piece of information I need quickly. To be sure, a Google search is undoubtedly quicker than an email file folder search – we are talking seconds as opposed to hours.
9. Be patient.
“No one is going to overcome compulsive hoarding overnight. This is a time-consuming process,” Dr. Tolin says. “So people with hoarding problems, and their friends and family members too, need to focus on small victories. If you cleaned a room out, congratulate yourself, rather than get down on yourself for the rooms you haven’t cleaned yet.”
Well, I did delete about 1,500 emails yesterday…I feel good about that…but I still have over 2,000 that need my attention…argh! Baby steps…
10. Keep the ball rolling.
Clean things as they come along, before they become overwhelming problems. “Once you’ve started, don’t stop, even for a day,” Dr. Tolin says. “If all you can do is five minutes a day, fine. But do it.”
Consistency and continuity…these things I seek to embody.
11. Be strict with yourself.
“When we were kids, our moms told us that we couldn’t have dessert until we ate our veggies,” Dr. Tolin says. “The same rule applies here. If you like watching TV, then promise yourself that you can only watch an hour of TV after you’ve cleaned for an hour.”
Does that mean I can’t re-watch that Oprah episode that you were on again on my DVR Dr. Tolin? Why do I have such an old Oprah episode on my DVR still??? Well…ummm…let’s just take care of one problem at a time…some things are easier to fix than others.
12. Know when to ask for help.
“Compulsive hoarding is a potentially serious mental health issue,” Dr. Tolin says. “Serious mental health issues require serious treatment. If you can do it on your own, great. But if you can’t, get help from someone who is experienced in the treatment of compulsive hoarding.”
Dr. Tolin – can you personally come help me? I know I could hit delete much more quickly with you by my side…I could probably even make enough free time to have a couple of glasses of wine as well.
So there you have Dr. Tolin’s sage advice…and as much fun as I have had with it above I am sincere in my effort to stop hoarding information. I will actually be taking this guidance to heart and will try and incorporate these steps into my recovery process (which I believe will need to become an enduring lifestyle change). I am likewise sincere about the request of assistance from Dr. Tolin – any day you want to hold my hand while I clean my intellectual storehouse Dr. Tolin you just let me know…send me an email.
Day five hundred and three of the new forty – obla di obla da