Do You Suffer from Excessive Stuff Syndrome?

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
  • Notebooks
  • Calendars
  • 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
  • Notebooks
  • 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.

PROFESSIONALLY-SUGGESTED TREATMENTS

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.

DISCLAIMER:

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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Learn Something New This Week

VirginiaPublicLibrary

My own local public library

It’s Back to School time for the kids and the college students of whatever age.

In a way, I’m glad I finished my degree and don’t have to worry about getting ready for another quarter. In another way, I miss the new learning and the sparking of ideas from that learning that would excite me about whatever I was studying.

You don’t need to be in school or enrolled in any course to be a student of something you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be academic–it can be a hobby or a fascination with something in particular, say gardening, woodworking, playing an instrument, or whatever absorbs your interest.

Studies have shown that curiosity and a desire to learn new things go a long way toward strengthening your memory and cognitive functions. It is said that people who read more, watch educational television or videos, or spend time on a hobby maintain higher brain function into their 80’s and 90’s.

(I do have references on this stuff, just not handy right now. I eventually hope to have them available in some form down the road.)

All you need for exercising your mind is a public library. Free media everywhere on anything you ever wanted to know about. Books, videos, recordings, newspapers, magazines plus digital formats of paper media.

It’s the best of both worlds: free information on nearly anything and everything, in paper and/or digital formats, for people with or without computers.

I’ve been a library bookworm since childhood. But, during my recent studies, I got used to getting books on Kindle, and using downloaded e-books instead of ordering $300 textbooks or $18.00 paperback novels (that’s ridiculous!). We could also download research material to print if we wanted to but I like saving the forests.

Because of that, I hadn’t been to my library in years. I do pick up a lot of books and videos from garage sales but that’s different: you’re not seeking out a specific topic, you’re picking up books that interest you that just happen to be there.

You walk into a library and pick a section related to your interest and BAM–suddenly you don’t know where to start. Me, I always go for the “beginners’ guide to…” or “an introduction to…” if I’m learning something new.

If it’s something I’ve been learning about and want to know more, I’ll look for “techniques in…” or “the (practioner’s) guide to…(interest)”. These would be like the ‘watercolor painter’s guide to flowers’ or ‘the gardener’s guide to organic vegetables’. You already know about gardening but now want to learn to do it organically.

My particular favorites for exploring either new or familiar topics  are the For Dummies and the Everything (Topic) series. There’s almost nothing that hasn’t been covered by someone in any line of work. Many of those authors are university professors or professionals in that area so you know you’re getting good, solid  information–for the most part.

I have read some that confused me because the author of a “‘beginner’s guide” assumed the reader already knew a lot about the topic. If they assume that then why are they writing a “beginner’s guide”? Something I’ve often wondered.

Many authors of these series update their work every year, especially if the subject is one that changes frequently, like the Internet, economics, or social media. Others are timeless, like arts n’ crafts instruction using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries such as fiber arts, preserving, or wood-working.

Your library’s how-to video section is a good place to go too. I find it easier to watch something done than to read how its done. Some of the For Dummies books are also on video, which is very helpful for visual instruction like fitness workouts, Yoga or using the Internet.

If you already do use the Internet regularly, you can find literally zillions of free how-to videos from YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook and other social media sites as well.

Libraries also make use of the Internet to assist people. They offer access to all sorts of online information databases, can help locate media and get it from other libraries, and provide you with your own library ‘home page’ where you can keep your lists of things to look for and manage your loans, returns, and holds.

Now–what’s really cool about libraries: if you don’t own a computer, you can get time at your public library, and if you need to, you can have someone walk you through learning how to find stuff.

No matter your age or learning style, there are many ways for you to learn about something you’ve been interested in–or something entirely new–for FREE at your nearest public library.

So, in honor of Back to School Week, get out there and learn something new.

 

 

 

 

Personal Responsibility & Choice

blondwomanchoosinghealthy

In my studies of health and wellness management, a professor made an interesting statement in a lecture about taking personal responsibility for our own wellness:

“To talk about health only as a matter of individual choices and personal responsibility assumes that we are always aware of the choices we’re making and that we are always free to make them. The truth is that not everyone is in the same position, and there are differences in how we live and the context in which we make our decisions.”

I had to think about this. In this world of information-overload, how can we possibly be unaware of choices?  In this land of the free, how can we not be free to make those choices?  How does this affect our personal responsibility?

First, how can we be unaware of choices? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Lack of facilities, businesses or services that offer health information or healthy choices in small or rural communities
  2. Limited access to health information for low-literacy and non-English speaking populations
  3. Limited computer or Internet access to find online health and wellness information
  4. Belief that natural wellness products and services are very expensive and only available to wealthy people
  5. Confusing information about the safety and trustworthiness of wellness information and products
  6. Medical professional bias that encourages patients to discredit natural health and healing as fake or ‘just a fad’.

From the above list, we can see choices are limited by a lack of quality information in formats and places where people can easily find it. You’re not free to choose if you don’t know you have choices.

Second, what could limit the freedom to make those choices? Here are some things that can limit the freedom to make healthy choices:

  1. Health conditions that prevent eating certain foods, such as trouble digesting vegetables, fruits, legumes, or grains, or mobility conditions that limit movement
  2. The over-availability and convenience of processed packaged foods, junk foods, and ready-to-eat microwave meals that encourage convenience over healthy nutrition
  3. A steady diet of convenience foods that contain chemical additives that may promote carbohydrate addiction, or strong cravings for sugary and starchy foods, which are often mixed with unhealthy fats and oils. This addiction may cause an inability to choose healthy foods because of the strong physical cravings.
  4. Influence from family or friends who believe  natural healing is “bogus” and discourage talk about it, practicing it, or using natural products or treatments.
  5. Lack of sources for quality information and ‘how-to’ instruction.

These examples serve to show that “not everyone is in the same position, and there are differences in how we live and the context in which we make our decisions.”

Take some time to think about whether any of the things I listed affect you, your family or your friends. If you have any of these limitations, think about ways you can overcome them. If you live in a choice-limited community, get together with others and brainstorm ideas for getting more natural health information and services. You may find ways to create some do-it-yourself healthy choices that can empower you toward taking personal responsibility for your health and wellness.

If you’re stumped for ideas or things to do, the DIY Healthy Lifestyles Journal can help you and your groups to discover ways to get around the limitations that keep you from exploring natural health.

Please use the comments box below if you have questions, comments, or would like more information.