I look around my office and see bookshelves so stuffed that one of them is now on a diagonal, unable to stay even under the weight of the double layer of books. Other shelves have decorative items in front of the books: various types of Star Trek collectibles, a mug that belonged to my mom, some trays I used to use when I was still food blogging, a Pez or two, a candle that’s been sitting there for a decade. These are not good signs—and they’re not the only ones.

I have shoe boxes of photos (honest-to-goodness printed photos), a closet full of boxes I haven’t opened in years, drawers full of things I might need but haven’t needed yet, power cords for who-knows-what devices, and yes, the boxes from the aforementioned Star Trek collectibles, because they look so cool.

This is all starting to make me nervous, especially now that everyone’s talking about spring cleaning, so I’ve gone to an expert source: the Mayo Clinic website. It’s time to find out if I’m just messy or if this is the real deal.

The nice people at the Mayo Clinic compassionately use the term “hoarding disorder,” and provide some of the signs and symptoms.

Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there’s no space.

I’d say I used to do that, which is how I ended up with all this stuff. As of late, I’ve learned to stop myself before acquiring NEW things, so that’s progress. Right?

Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with your things, regardless of actual value.

Guilty as charged. I’ve written about it, too. Without digging around, here’s what’s in my immediate sight line that fits this description: an old laptop (from 3 laptops ago), a non-working digital picture frame (a gift from someone I love), and a pillowcase for which I have no appropriately sized pillow (but I bought it in Amsterdam, so it’s special). 

Feeling a need to save these items and being upset by the thought of discarding them.

I think I’d be okay with losing everything I just listed above, to be honest. I might fight you over the Star Trek boxes, but just writing this might drive me to get rid of the electrical cords, the picture frame, and the pillowcase. There’s more that wouldn’t elicit tears, but probably a lot of stuff that would be challenging and really shouldn’t be.

Building up of clutter to the point where rooms become unusable.

No issues with rooms, but do closets count?

Having a tendency toward indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing

It’s more of a combination of exhaustion and being overwhelmed. I’m great at planning and organizing other things, but can’t seem to muster up a concentrated effort to turn my home office into a pleasant place to hang out in. I feel like I wouldn’t know where to start… which reeks of indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, and procrastination.

What else?

They say that “excessive acquiring and refusing to discard” items will result in disorganized piles or stacks (guilty), possessions that clutter walking spaces or rooms and make them unusable (no), unsanitary conditions due to trash (no), conflict with people who try to help (no!), and difficulty organizing that results in losing important items (no).

And they’re very kind about separating hoarders from collectors, which is nice, because I DO have a lot of Star Trek stuff.

So… where do I net out?

I definitely have some hoarder tendencies. I was working at A&E when Hoarders premiered, and I remember being relieved that I wasn’t that far gone but nervous that I might be headed down a bad path. While I didn’t relate to the people who couldn’t throw away garbage or had dozens of cats, I still related to that feeling of being overwhelmed by it all. I think the best conclusion I can come to is that it’s not too late to start pitching what I know I don’t need, and the sooner the better.

Just not too soon. Okay?

About Laurie Ulster

A transplanted Canadian living in New York, Laurie Ulster is a freelance writer and a TV producer who somehow survived her very confusing adolescence as the lone female Star Trek fan in middle school. She writes about pop culture, lifestyle topics, feminism, food, and other topics for print, digital, podcasts, and TV.

View all posts by Laurie Ulster

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