Are You a Spiritual Hoarder? Three Ways We Withhold Ourselves—and Our Stuff—from Others

Hoarder: “A word that describes anyone that feels the need to find, collect, keep, [or] pack any and everything because they do not know how to throw things away” (Urban Dictionary).

Several years ago there was an entire TV series about hoarders. There are entire companies devoted to helping hoarders clean up. And there are even medical disorders related to hoarding. Innate within each of us—to varying degrees—is a desire to hold on to something.

Hoarding is more than just stowing away our stuff in some dark closet. Sometimes it means we keep our deepest selves locked tightly within us. Here are three ways we withhold ourselves from others and a few tips on how we can begin to let go:

Stuff – The most obviously way we hold onto ourselves is through our possessions. Our stuff can become a security blanket, and the more we have, the safer we feel. Without realizing it, we cling to these items, believing they will insulate us from, or at least help us endure, seasons of struggle.

Yet before we realize it, the stuff that once left us feeling safe or happy, can suddenly suffocate. We feel overwhelmed by the volume of care required and the pressure to keep up our collections.

Solution: Divide out your things—or budget—into what’s needed and unneeded. As you evaluate ask yourself some questions, especially about the items you really love. Do you need them? Would giving them up help you hold your possessions more loosely? What kind of freedom—or fear—would you experience if you gave something up?

Time – With so many demands placed our time, it’s hard to give it freely. Whether it’s a friend who’s moving, a meal train for a new mom, or a teaching opportunity at church, the needs around us quickly mount and multiply. Sometimes it’s easier to just say no than to figure out if we can squeeze in one more thing.

Solution: You can’t say yes to everything. But maybe you can do something—however small it may seem. Evaluate your schedule. Is there something you could give up—like a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon or a few minutes on your lunch hour—to serve? Also consider your season. Some stages in life allow us to serve more than others. So aim for balance and big picture and don’t give in to unnecessary guilt.  

Emotions and Affections – Sometimes hoarding becomes terribly intangible. We withhold ourselves—our deepest emotions and affections from those we love.

Instead of stuffing our third grade science project in a closet, we lock our true selves deep within us. The pain, shame, or fear we feel is too much to let out. Or perhaps our dreams, hopes, or aspirations seem too distant—or outlandish—to share. So instead of letting others in on these things, we simply shut down. But in so doing, we miss out on the encouragement, comradery, and wisdom that true friendship affords.

Solution: Spend some time evaluating your emotions. Why do you fear sharing your faults, insecurities, or dreams? What do you think would happen if you opened up to someone? Identifying our root issue helps unravel the emotions around it, freeing us to be our true selves with those we love and trust.

How do you struggle with hoarding? What will you give away today? 

Amanda DeWitt is a freelance writer, coach's wife, and mom. She completed her bachelor’s at Dallas Baptist University and holds a M.A. in media and communication from Dallas Theological Seminary. When she's not typing away at her computer, she's chasing her two little boys or watching her husband coach high school football.