Friday, August 13, 2010

Hoarders of the Heart Unite!

I was completely engrossed in Oprah's two-part expose on the secret lives of hoarders last week. Thursday's show introduced the audience to a lady who lived in a nice middle-class neighborhood in a large house that was completely filled with STUFF! And I mean completely filled! She and her husband navigated their way through the piles by creating paths that reminded me a lot of deer trails through the woods. In their bedroom, they could hardly find the bed through the piles of clothes, and hadn't seen their fireplace in years. Their basement was infested with mice and flees that lived amongst the clutter. Their grown children hadn't been to their house in years and their grandchildren had never been in. Their stuff had completely taken over their lives.

I was completely zoned in on the show, but during commercial breaks, I'd rush to a drawer or closet and begin purging and organizing. I was that affected by what I saw. It made me want to take immediate action to reclaim order in my own life where things had gotten a little scattered about.

After shocking the audience with the vast amounts of stuff- clothes, gifts, craft supplies, papers, everything you could possibly imagine- Oprah introduced the experts. One guy was a professional organizer. He had a British accent and could get a little tough from time to time with the woman. (He's showing a little tough love in the picture up above) I actually thought he had incredible patience to even be able to go into a house like that and begin to tackle the mess. But every now and then, he would tell the woman that she had to set a limit on what she was going to keep. For example, in one room, which was filled with gifts that had never been given to whomever they were intended for, he told the woman she had to put the items she wanted to keep in plastic bins. But she had to set a limit for the number of bins that she would keep. He suggested she keep six bins (which I thought was a lot!) and the lady's expression on her face was absolutely twisted with panic. She bumped the number up to eight, then ten, then twelve. Finally, he started to get impatient with her, and scolded her for not sticking with a number. She began to cry- both out of self-pity and shame.

But the professional organizer was full of helpful hints. Not only was the limit idea a great one- and one that I want to implement in my own life! But, he insisted that the things that you do have that are valuable should be treated with honor and respect. This revelation came about when the lady discovered her father's wallet, one of her only pieces of memorabilia from her dad, underneath a pile of junk that needed to be trashed. She broke down into hysterics when she found it and the organizer guy was really gentle while he explained that an item like that should have a place of honor in the home.

After this kind of footage from the on-site sorting going on at the lady's house, the camera came back to rest on Oprah in her studio with a psychologist who specializes in this type of behavior. He explained that hoarding behavior is a mechanism of control. The person who is keeping everything thinks they are controlling their life by piling up stuff, but, in reality, the stuff ends up controlling them. This woman had seen her whole life get clobbered by her piles of stuff- her family could not spend time in her home because there was literally no room for them, and her children refused to let her grandchildren be exposed to such mess.

Before Friday's show, I went to Target and stocked up on some organizing supplies. Some bins, a plastic drawer organizer, and a shoe organizer that was buff enough to hold Andy's boots. While Oprah revealed the beautifully organized home (after thousands of man hours of work, three semi truck loads of stuff being taken away, and a complete home make-over courtesy of Lowe's and Broyhill furniture), I sat on the floor and again organized and purged. By the time the family was touring their beautiful new home, I knew where everything was in my apartment. All my drawers were organized, my closets and cupboards were in order, even my refrigerator and freezer could have been opened on Oprah and I wouldn't have been ashamed!

I was quite proud of myself, I guess, but as the week has gone by, God has revealed that I am, in fact, a hoarder of the worst kind. My house may be immaculate, but I hoard things in my heart.

At small group on Wednesday night, we read Ephesians 4:31. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every kind of malice." I couldn't help but see the similarity with this instruction and the British organizer guy's reprimands. I could imagine him peeking into my heart, looking at the piles of anger and resentment that I've been shifting around for the past year, and saying "Whot ahh you dewwing with ahll of theese stoff?" Nothing good. That's for sure.

When I saw the beautiful new things that Lowe's and Broyhill had provided for the hoarder lady, I had a brief thought that she didn't "deserve" all that help. She had made the mess and been "rewarded" with this brand new, beautiful, organized home. But then I realized that the only way she got that was by humbling herself before Oprah and the rest of the world. We all thought she was a slob, we witnessed her emotional break-downs, and thought to ourselves, "at least I'm not that bad." What a vulnerable position to put yourself in. But her reward was great. She got a lot of help from a lot of people, and, in the end, her family rejoiced with her at the new home they could enjoy together.

Having a dirty heart is so much the same sort of thing. No one wants to own up to it. Everyone wants to say, "oh, I really have put all of that behind me." And maybe some people have. Not me. I'm a hoarder. Yes, Oprah and the rest of the world, I have junk that I need to get rid of. But I need more than the British guy and the psychologist and hefty organizational tools from Target. I need the Holy Spirit.

I read this really encouraging story this week, right in the middle of this heart-hoarder diagnosis. It was about a woman who was on the mission field in China in the 1930's. She was basically back-stabbed by another missionary, and she was ticked about it! I was really impressed that, even back in the day, people who served as missionaries in China got ticked off at one another. Not that I'm glad that there was conflict, but I'm glad that people owned up to their own nature. Anyway, the lady didn't want her mission work to be affected by her anger and resentment. So, she pled with God to "prove His power" by delivering her from all resentment. I like to think that she basically asked Him to help her take her bad junk to the dump. And He did. Plus, He did a make-over that rivals what I saw on Oprah, he gave her heart rest and happiness.

So I want that. I want rest and happiness. And, no, confessing to the internet doesn't really do a whole lot. But this comes after I have confessed this attitude to God. And, in the hope that humility and vulnerability can be an encouragement to others. Because, let's face it, who is not just annoyed by those "I've got it all put together" Christians? This is the best that I've got. A mess that needs to be taken out. A place where I've stored up bad thoughts that needs to be overhauled and replaced with new, worthwhile ones. That's all I've got people. It's not a two part Oprah special, but it's true.

Another hopeful verse that comes to mind, while exposing the mess and asking for help, is Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Help me not hoard, Lord, but to store up treasures (neatly organized and useful) that you find valuable and that give life.

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