True Life: Emotional Hoarding.

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It’s true. I am a hoarder.

I hoard memories, emotions, attachments – I hoard moments, photos, passing glances.

I hoard anything remotely tangible that I could possibly want someday. My jewelry box, for instance, is filled with jewelry from “boyfriends” I had in elementary and middle school. My bookshelf is cluttered with favors from weddings and baby showers and my closet contains shoe boxes of things I cannot part with for the significance I attach to the items. I even keep bags and bows that I once received presents in. A healthy fear of superstition keeps me from throwing these things away. What if I jinx something? What if I need this thing someday, this memory? What if I regret throwing it away?

And so I keep things. A lot of things. I’m quite orderly about it, actually. There are no essential swat teams, family interventions, or reality TV shows necessary to help me with my hoarding problem. I store all of my emotions away in nicely labeled boxes in my closet, in my desk, on my bookshelf and most importantly – on my hard drive.

Not the hard drive on my heart. This is not a metaphor. I’m talking about the hard drive on my computer. My Macbook Pro and I have been together now for seven years. During that time I have neatly put away all things that are important to me in neat little folders that identify their place in my life.

This never presented itself as a problem until recently.

Let me preface what I am about to say by adding that – Yes, I understand you can add extra storage space to a computer. And perhaps I should. But when my computer started displaying warnings saying “You have no more space left to save this item,” I began to wonder what it was exactly that was preventing me from moving forward.

I would literally have to stop exactly what I was doing, revisit the past, assess its importance to my life right here and right now, and decide whether I needed to keep carrying it or if I could let it go. Only then could I keep saving things and storing new memories, new emotions.

Wow, okay. This realization was profound to me. I teach yoga and along with that comes preaching the whole concept of letting go of the past. But here I was, carrying around thousands of layers of my past with me everyday as I tucked my laptop into my bag.

All this time I had been neatly organizing and storing things on my hard drive – papers and notes from high school, all of my papers from my college writing courses, fliers I made for yoga workshops, music I used to write, lyrics and poetry and over 3,000 photos (many of which I had extra copies of anyways because they were stored on Facebook). I was storing these things, thinking that someday I may need them, someday I may want them.

Why on earth would I ever again need the book report I wrote on Don Quixote in high school?

The answer is: I didn’t need these things. But I wanted them. They were a part of me and I wasn’t ready to let them go. But here was the problem: I couldn’t keep moving forward unless I let them go.

These stored items kept impeding progress. I would be working on a project and my computer would suddenly stop me mid-track with the message that I needed to delete things to make more space to continue with what I was doing.

This was profoundly annoying… yet, important.

So I started going through the items. All of the items. I deleted thousands of files including photos, music I once wrote, poetry and lyrics – carefully filtering through my folders and choosing maybe one or two items from each of my carefully categorized past to keep… for memories sake.

And like finally resolving some untouched dilemma from the past, I almost immediately felt lighter.

My computer began running faster.

I had literally shed thousands of layers.

Untouched projects I knew I would never finish – I deleted.

Photos from ex relationships – gone.

The emotional angst-driven poetry from the year 2004 – trash bin.

If I couldn’t identify the person in the photo – delete, delete, delete.

And just like that, letting go of the past helped me feel better in the now.

The past will always be a part of me, but I’m realizing that I don’t have to hold onto it with a death grip. There should be no anxiety or fear associated with the act of letting go – It’s okay to throw away the wedding favors, the wrapping paper, the birthday cards. Recycle them, maybe make a quilt out of the hundred or so t-shirts from events that I’ve attended over the years. Create a collage of the birthday cards. But I need not store them at the bottom of my closet just in case I want to read them again – someday.

Set the past free with joy because someday is now.

Be open to the present!

…And don’t forget to empty the trash.

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About Lauren Hanna

Lauren Hanna, E-RYT 200, MSS Candidate, is a social worker by day and yoga ninja by night. It was in Pittsburgh that she first discovered the thrill of yoga and her love for social welfare and animal rescue work. With her cats Lotus and Calia in tow, Lauren hopes to someday combine her love for yoga and animal welfare with her career as a social worker. Lauren likes to dream a lot about saving the world – one puppy, kitten and human at a time. Lauren also loves cobblestone streets, arts & crafts, action movies and writing books with her Grandmother. If she had a billion dollars she'd probably spend it all here. Follow her @laurenfoste.


9 Responses to “True Life: Emotional Hoarding.”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Hannah, thank you so much for this!

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    So funny – I just did this a couple of weeks ago and it's AMAZING how much stuff we keep on our hard drives (sort of like our sub-consicous!). It DOES feel better to get rid of everything you don't need and it's crazy how much we old personal emotions to images stored on our laptops! 🙂

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  3. Misa Derhy says:

    Inspiring! Thanks for it too, Lauren 😉 I think I know what i will do today!

  4. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  5. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I always find it interesting when people do not understand the teaching.
    The past is the past, yes, but it is also part of the present and the future.
    The present is an amalgam of all things.
    It does not mean the past does not matter, as how you react in the present is influenced by lessons of the past.
    But the trend in new age spirituality does not understand the teaching.
    It attempts to teach us to act like callous 5 year olds again.
    The innocence of being a child should not be lost, however the pragmatism of being an adult is to be coupled with it.

  6. Maryellen says:

    WOW! Did this ever speak to me! I'm 71 and have pictures of college boyfriends and everyone I've dated since! I have at least 300 journals (which I fully intended to harvest by using them to write my memoirs), books of my poetry, and a kazillion photographs on my three computer hard drives, memory cards and flash drives. I even have many shelves in the basement to hold containers of all the photos and journals! WHY? It would feel as though I'm negating or diminishing the importance of those phases of my life. I'm afraid my memory will fade and this will be my only link to who I was ' back then'. Yes, it's fear of letting go of all those memories. You've challenged me. I thank you!

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