Has anyone commented that you are a hoarder? How did that feel to you? What about any other label someone used to describe you? The way we react can be due to any number of factors, yet like so many things – it’s not a simple black or white question. Were you even thinking about how we label people when you saw the title “Labeling” or were you thinking about labeling things?
Yet, have you found yourself struggling to find a concise description of a category or a file? I see this most often with people when it comes to their files- ‘what should I call it?’ There are so many words in the English language that we can choose from – the file we have on our car could be labeled – Car; Auto; VW; Bug/Beetle; Old Beater; His/Her Car; and on and on.
If labeling something that stays the same can present a challenge, it’s fascinating that trying to label people is so common. To state the obvious, people are more complex than a collection of papers! This is where it’s worth considering how labeling both helps and hinders you.
I continue to be dismayed overall by the overuse of labeling people as a “hoarder” – it’s so popular that it’s easy to use it to describe anyone that has “too much stuff.” And “too much stuff” is a subjective – depending on who uses the hoarder label for other people could be someone that has overfull bookshelves in every room. When it’s applied in the subjective way, someone with stuff that is viewed as too much by someone else – there’s no recognition of the objective criteria that defines hoarding.
Educating people can be part of what I do – and I will share the standards for what defines hoarding. When someone has been categorized as a “hoarder” by family, whether it’s done seriously or by repeatedly “joking” around, identifying with that can hinder the organizing efforts. It can be important to know that simply because someone else has defined them as a hoarder doesn’t make it accurate. The same thing applies when someone is applying that term to themselves – and this is also growing in frequency – it’s not limited to other people defining them. And it’s just as inaccurate – technically.
The way people react to the label being applied to them – whether it’s self-applied or comes from others – can vary too. As I’ve said, I find the term overall to carry negative connotations, and many people feel similarly. Yet, other people (not oblivious to some of the term’s negativity) appreciate that the term gives them a frame of reference – a place to begin understanding what they have been struggling with.
I’ve even been known to refer some of my own behaviors as “hoarding tendencies” and can relate to aspects of the hoarding criteria. So is there value to identifying parts of a label that resonates with you? I think so, as it can then offer you some perspective.
Whether you’ve been objectively labeled with some term or not, you can still use the education and knowledge to support you in creating the life you want. For example, in Buried in Treasuresby David Tolin et al, they talk about how creative people are and how the ideas of how they can use things can get in their way of getting rid of having so much. I resonated with that – I have all these creative ideas and now as I look at my own collection of hobbies and crafts, I ask myself to try to be realistic and what are the pieces that really matter.
A label may or may not apply to us objectively, yet there’s no stopping any of us from using the tools for our own benefit. So, if there is a label that has been applied to you – externally or internally – see if the tools and approaches for handling that label can support you and pay no more attention to the specific label than will help you.