Our Reactions Matter

Have you ever driven past a home in your neighbourhood and thought “look at all that stuff, how can they live like that!” If you have, you’re not alone. For many of us, the unsightly dwelling can leave a feeling dismay at the level of disorganisation. However, the person in that home could be your child’s school principle, the counsellor your friend has been to see or the gentle man who you pass in the street. Each person behind the clutter has an amazing story to tell – a story that would make your eyes water after the first few sentences. You see, hoarding isn’t about the stuff that sits in the yard, or blocks the hallway and doors. It’s a result of a person’s life experience, usually baked in suffering and grief.

Hoarding has become media fodder for many to consume. What we fail to see is the shame the person behind the clutter feels. As a society, we feel free, almost obligated, to comment on that which doesn’t conform or what we don’t understand. With the comment comes great judgement. For those of us who have commented on the neighbours dwelling and asked “how can they live like that!” have we said the same for the neighbour who is so deep in depression and sorrow that they cannot leave the house. You see, these neighbours aren’t that different – both suffer mental illnesses. What can be vastly different is our reactions. We can feel compassion for the sadness of those who suffer depression, yet disgust for those living in clutter. Our reactions matter!