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I want you to imagine a room piled high with plastic bags, plastic boxes, newspapers, magazines, clothes, pizza boxes, craft projects, toys, Christmas decorations.  It’s so piled up with these items, that you had to crawl in or step over huge piles.  You’re not sure what you’re really sitting on because all the furniture is also piled high with stuff.

Some of you may realize that I watch those shows about hoarders a little too often.  It’s true that I have a sick fascination with these poor people and their dysfunctional lives.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, these people suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that prompts them to hoard items to the point that their homes are completely dysfunctional.  Some of these people eat in their cars and shower at a local gym because their kitchens and bathrooms are completely unusable.  Many of them have not had anyone in their homes for 10, 15, 20 years.  Most of them hold down jobs or small businesses and somehow manage to remain clean and normal looking.

But they have an insatiable desire for more and more stuff.  Many of them spend thousands of dollars on things that just end up in the pile, or on clothes since they can’t find, literally, anything to wear.  Many times, these people began hoarding as a reaction to a significant loss, such as divorce or death of a child or a parent.  They typically feel a strong sense of shame, but they still can’t stop.

This tendency to hang onto what can best be called “junk” is so common that it is likely one of you or your relatives is a hoarder.  I had a cousin who was a hoarder and my own mother displays these tendencies.  I can’t stand thrift stores or rummage sales, but I manage somehow to have too much stuff myself.

When they do finally have someone in their home, on the show, I am glad that television is not smell-ivision because you can see the repulsion on their visitors’ faces.  Many of them cough, some even wear masks, and one building code official actually threw up in the yard after going inside.  It is not only junky, it is dirty and disgusting and in some cases, ready to be demolished because it can’t be cleaned.  

I believe that most of us have our own, internal junk pile.  If we could let others into our minds, others would look at some of the things we treasure and ask “why do you want to hang on to that?”  We all hang on too long to memories and react too much to our past rather than what is going on in our present.  We let either past glories or past mistakes influence current decisions.  We may feel intense shame over things that others have long forgotten or never cared about in the first place.

It’s time to let go of our mental junk piles.   It’s time to live our best lives right now.  There’s no getting back or going back to some “glory” days.  This is what we have and we need to make the most of it.  For me, my days in Germany were some of the best of my life.  At times, I have missed it so much that it has felt physically painful.  But what I try to realize is that what I loved about it the most was the sense of adventure that I felt there.  The sense of learning, the chance to see things I’d never gotten to see before, such as thousand-year-old cathedrals.  So when I find myself thinking about it too much, I tell myself that to refocus on what the here and now has to offer me, how I can use that experience in Germany to find that sense of adventure, even in a different setting.

What’s in your junk pile?  What’s holding you back from interacting more fully with other people, from enjoying your present, from living your best life right now?  What sense of shame is making you think you have to hide some part of yourself?

What’s in your junk pile?

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