A Recovering Hoarder: On Letting Go (of People). ~ Eleanor Goold

I have a confession to make: I am a recovering hoarder.

This means I acquire and keep things that are no longer of any use.

Even as I child I would forever be stuffing old clothes and broken toys into already overflowing cupboards. Unfortunately, this unappealing habit has followed me through a large part of my adult life. Not only have I kept things of no value or use, but when we recently moved, I found things in our loft which I didn’t even know I had.

I fear I have also done this with certain people and situations in my life.

I have allowed some individuals to remain part of my life for fear of how my life might pan out without their presence. I did this even though I knew deep down they were not only not enhancing my existence in any way, but were actually having a deeply negative impact on it.

I recently found myself in a social situation where someone close to me was adding no positive input at all. In fact, they were doing quite the opposite. I always felt on guard and tense in their presence, as if I had to justify my actions; I never felt relaxed in their company and their lifestyle and attitudes did not resonate with mine.

Where once there may have been a connection, this had long since passed. But being the hoarder I am, I didn’t want to just let go.

I wanted to cling on to some false hope that all would be well and that a shared blood line would save the day.

So when it all turned a bit messy, meaning I was no longer happy to be on the receiving end of their constant criticism and passive aggression, and they were no longer happy for me not to defer to them in all situations, I found myself at a very low ebb.

I was sad and hurt because I had lost from my life someone who was once very dear to me.

This transition from loved one to stranger has been a very hard and bitter pill to swallow, but slowly I have come to accept what is. In times like this there is no point in continually mourning what one has lost. I appreciate that self-reflection and sadness is a very natural process that needs to be experienced, but only for a short while. We must not let it consume us.

Eventually, we must learn from the lessons we are being taught.

We must be grateful that the person or people were in our life, accept their gifts and yes, move on.

It wasn’t until I was changing some rooms around in our house that I truly appreciated how this dark period in my life was actually a brilliant opportunity to redefine my life and progress ever upwards and onwards.

It so happened that the room we were using as a bedroom no longer served its purpose— it was cluttered, at times uncomfortable and certainly not functioning the way it should.

It was dead space.

This led us to having a clear out and really redefining our space. Although some items of furniture were difficult to move, and effort and patience were required, the end result was liberating.

After a bit of a clean up, I really began to feel I could ‘move ‘again.  The mental blocks had been cleared.

It was not until this defining moment that I appreciated how free and happy I really was.

And this is exactly what I had done with my life: I had unintentionally cleared out the deadwood. Before this, I had felt like I was being carried downstream in the rapids but holding on to an old branch in some vain hope that the branch would somehow reverse the flow. Of course it didn’t.

To heal, I had to go with the flow.

From this experience I have learned that sometimes it is in the open spaces that we can begin to feel more fulfilled, free to move and express ourselves. I have learned not to be afraid to shed old skins or have a clear out. Not only is it natural and necessary, but it can also be hugely empowering and liberating.

If you find yourself with people in your life who no longer add any value, or make you feel negative all the time, then do yourself and them a favor—let them go. 

Don’t be a victim of the situation. Be the enlightened student. Be the tempered steel.  Move on. Move Up. Get rid of the ‘space invaders’ and set yourself free.


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Assist Ed: Julie Garcia/Ed: Sara Crolick

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Apr 19, 2015 1:45am

Hi Ana Maria,

Firstly thank you very much for commenting on my article. I hear what you are saying, I really do.

I think we can all at times feel 'ashamed' or drained for feeling the way we do sometimes when people are negative toward us, even when we know it is not our fault. Like I mentioned above, we tend to become tense and guarded around such people, which can make the whole situation even more challenging.

When the negativity becomes a constant, it is very damaging, and if it is someone close to us – I know from experience that finding the right action to take can be very difficult indeed.

From what you are saying it would seem that we have been through similar experiences in as much as we have both realised that there is nothing we can do in certain situations, apart from walk away. And whilst this can be liberating and healing in the long run, it is still a very difficult and challenging path.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experience here, it makes writing the article in the first place absolutely worth it, to know that others have experienced something similar and that by sharing my truth, other people can share their own too.

Here's to you, my friend!

Apr 19, 2015 1:13am

I came home still not knowing what really happened. I knew something did, but couldn't realize even less understand what it really was and didn't have a slightest clue how it would impact or manifest in my life further. The answer on that one I've got when for the first time after that I met one of my "vampires". It happens to be my biggest one. The one who always managed to provoke me this way or another managed to pull out the worst in me and so on and so forth. The ritual was always the same. The vampire would push the button and I would "jump". After, it would walk away fully energized and I would feel empty, destroyed, overflowed with all sorts of negative emotions from shame to blame and backward.

This first time "after" the scenario was completely different…
As first there is no old well known on guard attitude on my part. I felt completely relaxed and open, and even ridiculously playful and curious, something like: "Ok, show me what are you going to do this time."
But almost like it new, the "vampire" wasn't attacking at first, but as time was passing by it started pushing the buttons. Small ones and slightly at the beginning. I didn't react, at least not as I would usually do. I was calm. I was aware of everything that was going on. I could clearly see, hear and understand. Even more, I was responding but calmly speaking my mind what and why I disagree with certain thigs it has said.

Then the vampire starts pushing bigger and bigger buttons, harder and harder. I felt the same. It couldn't reach me anymore. I felt like I was fenced with some invisible but impenetrable fence or even wall. The vampire was persistent. Didn't want to give up, even it was getting more and more nervous every next moment. (Earlier it would be vice versa.) Because of that, that meeting and the conversation lasts for full five hours. I didn't want to be the one who would end it, so finally the vampire decided to go.
And then it comes maybe even the weirdest part. I kissed and hugged my greatest "vampire" at farewell. I wasn't acting or pretending by any means, neither it was some special show of strength. I simply felt that I really still do love that person for all the good in its inside no matter how deep buried it is. And in the same time I was also very happy knowing that this person can't disturb me anymore or pull me out of my rails.
That confused my "vampire" even more. Aware of what it was doing it couldn't understand my behavior. I clearly saw how it wants to be even more angry at me, but couldn't. That was its additional confusion.

Almost the same scenario repeated (maybe just not that intense and certainly not that long lasting) when the second, third and… of my "vampires" appeared. Then I knew I was really free and I really let them go.

More than half a year later a rumor came to me how some of my "vampires" talk among themselves how they don't know what happen to me as I am different. They even didn't say anything bad. Till today, the core word remains (inexplicable) "different", and the biggest change is that they don't shout my name anymore. They whisper it. It seems funny to me now. I know it's not to them. They don't know what to expect from me anymore. I'm not an open book anymore. (At least not for them.) They think they don't know me anymore and, in fact, deep inside I didn't change at all. I am the same one as I was before, but they don't know that.

To conclude, today, even we meet very rarely, I allow them to enter (or better to say, to take a pick inside) my life just as much and as long as I feel comfortable. Not a half inch more. And I'm very happy with it!

Apr 19, 2015 1:11am

Unbelievable, but true I remember the exact moment where I was, what I was doing when it happened. I felt that break inside me like a loud slam of the door followed by unexpected quick and sharp physical pain. Something like people describes a heart attack.
And I know it sounds crazy, unreal or what so ever, but it really happened to me.

In those few seconds or maybe even few tenth of a second, while that pain stroke me the whole novel (Tolstoy's caliber of several thick books) ran through my head with all sorts of questions, answers, and explanations.
In that short time, I heard my inner voice asking me things I would never ask myself consciously, or even less responding to them at machine-gun burst speed clearly and without any doubt or second thought. Questions and answers went something like this:
"Do you know they are hurting you constantly?" – Yes!
"Do you know they would never change?" – Yes!
"Can you accept that or you are going to fight against it another 40 years?" – (Here I had a small pause, but alternative didn't sound any good and the answer slips out unintentionally.) – I just accept it!
"Can you also accept they would never accept you, understand you, like you or even less love you…?" – I can!
"What are you going to do – love them or hate them?" – I can't hate them.
"But they didn't do any good to you!?!" – I still can't.
"So, you still love them?" – Yes, I do.
"And you are going to love them?" – Yes.
"How would you protect yourself then?" – I'm moving out! They can't touch me anymore!
There were more… – But you've got the picture!?!

The very moment when those questions and answers stopped, the physical pain went through me and disappeared like it was never there, (whole in those few tenths of a second) I suddenly felt ENORMOUS RELIEF!

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Eleanor Goold

Eleanor Goold is an experienced and original writer with a passion for her craft. Her engaging content and life affirming, inspirational writing is published across a range of media. You can read more here.