It is guesstimated that nearly 48.9% of the U. S. population suffers from this condition!
WHAT IS ESS?
Excessive Stuff Syndrome (ESS) is a debilitating syndrome that has been known to cause mild to severe anxiety, elevated stress levels, and a sense of overwhelm and despair.
WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
It is estimated that nearly 48.9 percent of the U. S. population suffers from ESS, more than half female aged 40 to 80+. Common contributing factors for developing this syndrome include:
- Strong desire for creativity
- Interest in arts, crafts, or special hobbies
- A love of reading and learning new things
- Special interest in collecting
- Underdeveloped or non-existent storage and organization skills
HOW DOES ESS DEVELOP?
ESS often begins in childhood with the onset of SSS or Saving Special Stuff, typically in small-to-medium sized containers or special drawers.
Those afflicted by SSS experience strong tendencies to save things that interest them, based upon one or more of the contributing factors listed above:
- Books about interests (common to all forms of SSS)
- Post cards
- Mail advertising packets
- Postage stamps
- Magazine photos
- Badges and buttons
- Magnetic cards to stick on fridge or file cabinet
- Keychains from trade or home shows
- Any items containing attractive visual representations of the interest focus.
HOW DOES ESS MANIFEST?
As children grow, so too do their interests. Often, growth and expansion of the interest will lead to the next stage of development, SSNS or Saving of New Stuff. The further the syndrome develops, the more precise, sophisticated, and necessary the Required Stuff becomes.
The books become larger or more accumulated and here now may be subscriptions to magazines that must be saved. Posters and charts become valuable and cherished.
Friends and family members, often unknowingly, enable the development of SSNS through gifts of activity kits or implement sets. Once the activity is adopted, there follows a need for more supplies and implements.
Other Contributing Factors to ESS
SSNS can also develop from interests that necessitate the need for special clothing such as uniforms, costumes, identity apparel (special clothing for meetings or events), footwear, head gear, and equipment. As the child grows, the need for larger spaces in which to store it all increases.
If the contributing factor of a love for reading and learning is involved, there may be the added tendency toward accumulation of:
- More books
- Magazine subscriptions (as noted above)
- Mail-order kits and learning programs
- Binders or scrapbooks for collecting loose pages, instruction booklets, and clippings from magazines and newspapers.
HOW SSS and SSNS DEVELOPS INTO ESS
The leading contributor to ESS is the attachment to keeping the things collected from the onset of SSS into adulthood.
A primary triggering factor of ESS begins to emerge in the teen years, from about ages 15 to 21. This is the time when teens begin to consider moving away from home to attend college, go to work, or explore their options. It is a time when one must consider what they will take with them and what can be parted with.
This is also the time when the patient becomes highly susceptible to the triggering factor of ESS known as TIIS or This Is Important Stuff.
The main symptom of TIIS is an inability to discern the Truly Important from the Possibly Unimportant. The patient may begin to experience feelings of great attachment to the Special Stuff Saved from the blossoming of their special interests as a child.
That first activity kit project becomes symbolic of their life-long love of their interest of choice. The young adult feels a great need to keep this object either on display or in a place of safekeeping.
There may be collections of instructions and how-to clippings still to be tried out that cannot be parted with yet. There may still be activity kits not yet assembled. There are still things to be explored.
HOW ESS ESTABLISHES ITSELF
The TIIS factor plays a large part in the decision-making process that arises out of the SSS and SSNS phases. Each and every item, piece, part, document and scrap must be put through the TIIS test. Is This Important Stuff or Is It Not?
The more the interest has established itself in the young person’s mind, the more difficult it becomes to determine Important from Not Important Stuff. Typically, the patient undergoes such stress and sense of turmoil that a decision is made: This is ALL Important Stuff.
All the Important Stuff is then boxed up and moved to the new location, and often, to new subsequent locations.
It is at this point that a definite diagnoses of Excess Stuff Syndrome can be made.
HOW IS ESS TREATED?
There is no known cure for ESS. Treatment can include Resolve Development where the patient decides to close the eyes and toss things out, or seek the help of a trusted friend to support this treatment.
Another form of treatment is to develop the skill of Storage and Organization. which can be both a solution and the trigger for a secondary from of ESS known as CSC, or the Collection of Storage Containers.
CSC can mask the manifestation of ESS by creating a false sense of control by appearing to have organized and controlled the spread of ESS by having a Place For Everything, and Everything In Its Place. This can lead to an aggravation of the original trigger of SSS (Saving Special Stuff), which in turn exacerbates CSC. This can develop into a self-perpetuating and chronic ESS condition.
Chronic ESS can be a very debilitating condition. It can develop into an actual behavioral health diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifesting as a condition known as Hoarding.
This could ultimately require Professional Psychological Treatment if your ESS goes beyond this tongue-in-cheek article describing the condition in a light-hearted manner. (See Disclaimer below).
OTHER SUGGESTED TREATMENTS
With that in mind, there are other milder treatments that really could be applied in less serious cases of ESS:
- Scanning paper documents and photographing childhood projects and saving them to computer, discs, jump drives or cloud drives
- Building and dedicating a small museum or section in your local public library or community center devoted to your interest for the education of friends, neighbors, and future generations
- Donating your collection to a youth group or club
- Cashing in on your stash by offering it for sale at an online sales website
- Holding a special garage sale for others interested in your stuff
These treatments could trigger one beneficial side-effect. Seeing your Special Stuff going to people who will greatly appreciate it and give it a good home can bring about positive results, and possibly even cure your ESS.
There are also some mind and brain balancing techniques that can help:
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also called ‘Tapping’
- Support Groups and Talk Therapy – explore your thoughts about your stuff and its meaning with others who have ESS
- Home Organization Coaching
- Journal Writing Therapy – working out your thoughts about ‘stuff’
The last one has worked well for this article’s author. It was an ESS near-meltdown during a studio organization session that sparked the article. Writing it out led to the list of suggestions for help with this insidious syndrome, and possibilities for its treatment if not a permanent cure.
If you suffer from ESS or its trigger or secondary conditions of SSS, SSNS, TIIS, or CSC, try out some of the suggested treatments to see if they help.
This article is not intended to diagnose or suggest treatment for OCD or any other related disorders, nor is it intended to belittle or ridicule such disorders. The “conditions” described above are not real conditions but developed out of the author’s imagination.
This article is strictly intended as satire and actually pokes fun at the author herself. Suggested treatments are based upon the author’s research into mind-body healing techniques that can help to deal with the issues of Saving Special Stuff and Excessive Stuff Syndrome.
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