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  • Writer's pictureThrive Detroit

Hoarding: My Way

Now that I’m in my sixth decade of life, I can admit to my unique habit of hoarding. Except for a couple of things, I finally stopped in my thirties. 

March essay photo

For as long as I can remember, I have been curious. Learning has always made me happy. I had the telescope, the microscope, and the chemistry set as my childhood favorites. Mom saw to it that I had them all. And books!! Lots and lots of books. I had read about Anne Frank and Nicholas and Alexandra and Homer’s Odyssey and The Iliad by the time I was in middle school. I had to use the dictionary and encyclopedia to understand some of the words.


Sharing what I learned with friends usually resulted in being blown off. So, I learned to be happy keeping it all to myself. By the time I reached adulthood, I had convinced myself that I was not doing any harm by keeping it all to myself, because it was mine to keep. After all, it was not the same as items that could be bought or sold. I had no problem sharing those kinds of things.


In reflection, I can see my hoarding journey clearly. There were beliefs to change, to learn and unlearn. I had to dispel the belief that what I was learning was only for me, and I had to believe that it was of value to others because all of us are valuable. 


Let’s be honest: I still hoard a few things, like books and CDs. Having music saved offline gives me a sense of ownership. I still have a battery-operated CD player just in case MP3 becomes unavailable. And what can I say, there is nothing like a hardcopy book. But now I am intentional about sharing what I learn and learning from others. It is a beautiful exchange.


I’ve also grown more conscious about what it took for me to get to this place of awareness: time and knowledge; willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn; and being able to see myself in others.


This deeper understanding ignited disorder where there once was order. The journey of reordering is one of learning and growth. One of the ways that this manifests is as opportunities to choose between the previous order or the reorder. 


When I worked for the State of Michigan, connecting marginalized families to programs and services, it was transactional. The rules were hard and fast and there was no room for creativity or to draw on what was known beyond the eligibility rulebooks. I was good at it but unfulfilled, so I left and took a pay cut to teach first grade. I taught for one year. I was very fulfilled serving as a lead teacher. When I was asked to take classes for a teaching certification, I was disappointed. I had just invested four consecutive years finishing undergrad and going to grad school full time—with no summer breaks. I was not willing to return to school to prove that I could do something that I was already doing well. I understood that they had their requirements, though. 


My experience with the church I was attending at the time was similar. I taught Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. For me, it was simply relaying established information—no room for interpretation or improvisation.


In my thirties, I realized it was time to leave the church I had attended since my teens. During that season, I also realized that we are each God’s gift to the world, with something of value to share. My next spiritual leader, Dr. Rita Johnson, would be the one to lead me to a deeper knowledge of who I am, God’s love for all of creation, and the opportunity and responsibility that each of us has because of the Divine in us. Way too many of us never come to this knowledge. 


Years ago, I had a dream that I had information that would save the lives of those working at a tech company that had been targeted for sabotage and bombing. In the dream, I knew the company’s leader well, but still hesitated to tell him because of my practice of hoarding information. I didn’t think he would listen. Ultimately, I ended up telling him. He believed me, and they got everyone out in time. But some were injured. If I hadn’t told him, everyone likely would have been killed. I woke up knowing the interpretation. I prayed that all of us would realize that what we have to offer can be life-giving.


Still, it took years to share to the degree that I do today. The challenge continues at times. But my spiritual leader provided me with opportunities to choose, freedom to create, and an environment of love and support. Discovering my unique gifts and talents has had a powerful impact on the journey to know myself. Dr. Rita used her gifts to identify my gifts.


Her guidance through that season prepared me for my current work at COTS Detroit in human development and organizational learning. My place of work is a place of creativity, innovation, and love. If you don’t have someone to help you in this type of self-work, there are assessments online. The Myers-Briggs personality assessment can be informative, and a Google search can yield other helpful assessments.


I’m grateful I had a teacher like Dr. Rita. When she would bring my attention to behaviors that supported my kind of hoarding, I never felt judged or condemned; rather, it made me want to overcome it. The first profile picture on my Facebook page was an image of my face with a magazine covering everything below my eyes. She pointed out that this reflected my practice of hiding, which was connected to not sharing. Once, a visiting minister walked by me in the choir stand and turned around as if I had called her. She shared a message that confirmed that I needed to change, to stop hoarding and acting in fear. Although she did not use those words, she got her point across. As they say, she gave me the business. 


In this second half of life, I’m inspired to share what I have learned from the first half and what I am learning every day. The more I learn, the more I realize what I don’t know and how much there is yet to learn. The more I value sharing, the more opportunities I see to do so, and I see the same acts being done for me.

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