We all hoped a pandemic would not happen in our lifetime, but it has. Will part of its aftermath be that it creates a whole new generation of entrenched hoarders?
Just as governments are going to have to be more diligent about stockpiling essential items to be better prepared for future pandemics or other calamitous scenarios, it feels sensible to do this in our personal lives too.
At the very least, have some reserves of toilet paper, which statistics showed was the first item to be emptied from Western supermarket shelves when the news of coronavirus hit. If that’s important to you, it will be comforting to know you have some extra rolls on hand, and – more importantly – some supplies of edible, non-perishable food substances too.
Richard and I discovered first-hand what it’s like to have no supplies at all. Arriving in the UK from Australia in early March 2020, shortly before lockdown in the UK, we had only our clothes, a few other items we brought with us in our suitcases, and the furniture and equipment in the self-catering holiday apartment we are renting. We managed to buy some fresh food locally and to order some dried and canned items online, but it was challenging to find places that still had stocks and delivery was painstakingly slow.
We’ve been living like this for just over 100 days now. Supermarkets are well stocked again, but experts warn there may be another surge of infections this winter. We’ve found a home to rent that we can move into in a few weeks’ time, and we’ll have a lot more storage space there than we have at the moment.
So the question lingers, how prepared do we need to be going forward?
Events have shown it is certainly wise to build more resilience into our lives. Nothing as extreme as doomsday prepping, but we do have a few more packs of nuts and a bit more canned and dried food than we used to have last time we lived in the UK. If lockdown happens again, or if one or both of us gets sick, we’ll be able to self-isolate without starving. But that’s as far as we’re taking it.
The downside of hoarding
The food rationing, human suffering and death tolls of the two World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s have left deep imprints in the human psyche. Each event gave rise to a generation of hoarders who held on to things, just in case something like that ever happened again. It was seen as normal and necessary at that time and could so easily happen again now.
What needs to be understood is that people who hoard do not thrive. Keeping things out of fear is not a recipe for a happy life. History has repeatedly shown that the people who do well when times get tough are those who are able to quickly adapt to new situations, not those who are paralyzed by fear or burdened with possessions. Keeping a few extra stocks on hand is a wise precaution. Keeping massive quantities of things “just in case” they are needed creates clutter that will hold you back.
The reason why any kind of clutter is a problem is not just the space it occupies but also the stagnant energy that accumulates around it, which in turn will stagnate the energy of your life. And the longer you keep clutter, the more it will affect you. It’s a downward spiral, as I explain in my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui:
Clutter accumulates when energy stagnates, and likewise, energy stagnates when clutter accumulates. So the clutter begins as a symptom of what is happening with you in your life and then becomes part of the problem itself because the more of it you have, the more stagnant energy it attracts to itself.
The solution is only to keep around you the things you love and need, and at the moment, some extra essentials too, to be more prepared for emergencies. But don’t allow that to mushroom into keeping more of everything and stockpiling things you will probably never need or use. Knitters have a name for this. They call it S.A.B.L.E., which stands for Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. It refers mainly to the stashes of yarn that many obsessed knitters acquire that they will never live long enough to use. It can also be applied to other things.
What you can do
The best approach is always to intercept before a problem develops to unmanageable levels. If you are in the early stages of creating emergency stashes that could get out of control, a reality check may be all that is needed. As with craft clutter, a great solution is to designate a finite amount of storage space for each type of thing in your home. When that space is full, if you want to acquire something new then make a firm rule for yourself that something old has to go. In the case of food storage, what this means is that you designate a certain amount of cupboard space for it and no more. Then you eat your way through your reserves before they go out of date and only replenish what you’ve eaten. It’s the only way to make sure the quantity you’re keeping does not endlessly increase.
If the coronavirus situation has triggered deep-seated anxieties and your urge to stockpile is getting out of control, you will need to go deeper into your emotions and work through your fears. That can be difficult to do on your own because you can always convince yourself that something may come in useful someday. If you need help with this, an online session with one of our certified clutter clearing practitioners can really help. They have the objectivity and skills to guide you to make better decisions and develop strategies that will work for you.
If you are one of many millions of people around the world who are now working from home instead of from business premises, it is even more important to keep your space clutter-free. It can feel stifling to live day after day surrounded by too much stuff. You will start to feel like you cannot breathe. So don’t delay. Start tackling the problem today.
Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2020
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