Should I Bring it Home? : 7 Questions to Ask Yourself

November 13, 2015 by

shop1When Elaine is called in to help people who hoard, and are OVERWHELMED, she often finds that they cope by acquiring and saving things to soothe themselves and fill a void in their lives. The “things” have become their primary positive focus and a source of comfort, security, and stability.  The “things” are their friend.  The more things they have and the closer they keep those things around them, the better they feel.

Some hoarders keep everything that comes into their area of control.  This is called Indiscriminate Hoarding. These individuals generally acquire and hold onto things with no limits until they are discovered and influenced to reduce their collection.    Those who continue to hoard never wake up one day to say “Gee I think I have enough.” There is always the next deal, the next find, the next “just in time,” “just in case” acquisition.  Given enough time, if Indiscriminate Hoarders are unidentified and untreated, they will go on to create personal and public health and safety hazards.  Hoarding is a compulsive behavior and therefore if nothing changes, Indiscriminate Hoarders will continue compulsively.

But is it possible to break these compulsive acquiring habits? Is there something that you can do before you push the “BUY” button online, or put that purchase in your shopping cart? Is there something you can do before you stop on the side of the road to pick up a “great find” that someone else has discarded?

You can start by asking yourself 7 questions to honestly assess whether you should bring the item home:2_pro-dumpster-diver-750x400

  1. Do I need it now or in the near future?
  2. Do I have others like it that I could use instead?
  3. What makes this item special and unique?
  4. How would my life change without it?
  5. Can I sleep on it, and wait to make the decision?
  6. If I’m acquiring it for someone else, have I asked first if they want it?
  7. Have I got things for other people and not delivered them? Can I find and give the things I have already, instead of buying more?

In Elaine’s experience, when you feel compelled to have anything, this is a danger sign because it strongly influences you to ignore the other options that you have, but don’t explore. These other options are:

  • Not acquiring
  • Acquiring only after you discard proportionately
  • Acquiring less
  • Making a list of things you need and are looking for, and only acquiring those things first; in other words, no impulse purchases
  • Sharing purchases with a close friend or neighbor, and also sharing the storage of them; for example, gardening equipment, kitchen equipment, snow blower, etc. Some clients have started doing this and find that it really works for them.

Compulsive acquiring is like being lost at sea without adequate fresh water to meet your need.  You are surrounded by water but no matter how much you consume, it will never, and can never, meet your need because it is the wrong thing.  Continuing to use this strategy to meet your need, can, and will harm you.  No matter how many nice/useful things you get, those things will never meet your needs or make up for the void you feel.


Check out for more information about hoarding and watch for the new book entitled Clearing the Path: Take Back Your Life When Your Things are Taking Over by Elaine Birchall and Suzanne Cronkwright COMING SOON. Follow us on twitter @Clearingthepath or Facebook at Clearingthepathbook.


About the Authors

Elaine Birchall MSW RSW

Elaine is recognized as the leading Canadian expert in the field of Hoarding. With over 20 years’ experience as a community based and clinical social worker, she has provided training and consultation to individuals, families, professionals, and community organizations across North America and internationally. In the last three years alone, Elaine has assisted 212 clients/families and over 130 peers, and offered more than 80 training courses and workshops on hoarding to individuals and professionals in North America. She is sought after as a keynote speaker and her work has received frequent acknowledgement in print, radio (U.S.A. and Canada), and television media, including features on W5, Canada AM, and 16x9 The Bigger Picture.  She recently hosted a six-part series with Canadian regional TV, Channel 22 in the Ottawa area.

Suzanne Cronkwright

Suzanne is a successful technical writer, editor, and instructional design professional with over 30 years’ experience in both high tech and government in Canada. She is recognized for her ability to translate complex technical subject matter into simple, clear procedures. Working with Elaine on Clearing the Path has provided a wonderful opportunity for Suzanne to fulfill a lifelong dream of using her writing skills to “make a difference” in the lives of those around her.