ADHD: Is Clutter Trash or Museum Bound?

I’ve always been curious what stops someone from getting rid of things. Having coached many, many borderline hoarders, I’ve seen the overwhelm this clutter bestows on them. So, let’s talk about purging. I have several suggestions to illustrate this, but as an example, I’ll use the tassel on my cap when I graduated from the University of Tampa.

It is just a thing, with no real use. But does it serve another purpose? This tassel holds a memory, like many items of other “clutter” you hold on to. For someone with a learning disability and dyslexia to have graduated with a concentration in finance, it’s quite an accomplishment. It’s a symbol to me of the event.

Memories like these are the things I want to hold on to, and there’s plenty more where this came from in my Jeff Copper museum. But when does it go from memories and symbols to clutter, and how can you tell the difference?

If you’d like a deeper insight, watch the video “ADHD: Is Clutter Trash or Museum-Bound?” on Attention Talk Video. I’ll answer this question and provide guidance to help you understand what’s going on so you can better manage your own museum.

Check out the video here:


Welcome, everybody, to this edition of Attention Talk Video. I’m your host, ADHD and attention coach Jeff Copper. And today I’m here to talk about purging. Purging, getting rid of things.

I’ve coached many, many, many people that were borderline hoarders, were overwhelmed with visual clutter, just wanted to get rid of things and weren’t. And I was always curious, I wonder what’s getting in the way?

And one of the things that I have found to be very, very, very common is this notion of many things that you have are a memory, or a symbol, or proof of something. And I’d like to illustrate this today by, this is a sash from boy scouts Order of the Arrow. And I won’t get into a lot of detail, but this is a memory for me. I have no use for it, but it reminds me of the first night that I ever slept outside camping under the stars with no tent, only a mat and had the experience with my son.

Never did it before, never did it since, but it’s a reminder. It’s a symbol to me of that event, that I was able to do something, frankly, that I was probably uncomfortable doing but I actually did.

This is tassels from when I graduated and got my MBA from the University of Tampa with a concentration in finance. This, too, is a memory. For somebody with a learning disability and dyslexia to have graduated with a concentration in finance, 18 hours of finance where I think I missed three questions, it was quite an accomplish. And again, this is a symbol and it’s another memory.

This is a necklace that I got for being the High Adventure Scout Master that was awarded to me for mentoring a whole bunch of boys. And this is just a simple scarf. Or not scarf, bandana, with a bunch of pirates on it that has a bunch of memories. One was, it was thrown and my son wore it at Tampa’s Gasparilla Parade. And it was actually part of both my son’s Halloween costumes at one point in time.

My point really is, is these are things that I hold onto. And I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s just like this. And what is this? This is this clutter. Well to me, it’s not. It’s a memory. And it’s a memory that if I let go of this, that I won’t have the visual reminder, and it’s like letting go of that memory. And I’m reluctant to do it.

These are symbols to me that really belong in the Jeff Copper museum. It’s proof to me that I did it. In order to get this, you have to sleep out under the stars. And to me, this is visual proof that I actually got my MBA. I’ve got my All-American certificate from college. I’ve got many other things like that, that are really useless. Don’t really mean a lot of money. And I could take a picture of it if you will, but to me they’re important.

So here’s my point. A lot of times, a lot of that stuff that’s around your house is A, a symbol of your past and proof that you did it. It might be meaningless to somebody else, but it’s important to me. Another thing is, often it can be a reminder of your past, and something that you don’t want to lose track of.

This is a reminder, it’s a visual reminder for me, and it brings back vivid memories. And I don’t want to get rid of it because it’s a memory. If I were to get rid of this, it was like I’ve tossed that memory aside. And it’s too important to me.

And so the reason this is really kind of important is, often those with ADHD I’ve had the conversation about, let’s go through what’s in your house and let’s take a look at it and say, is it a memory? Is it a symbol? And where are we going to put your museum? And it’s been really, really profound for many of them to help them clear some things out.

Because that, discerning is, is this something? What is it? Is it a memory, is it a symbol? Is it proof that I did something and does it belong in my museum? Is a great filter for many to let go of some things or to confirm, yes, I’m holding onto that. And actually sometimes a museum is a shoebox under the bed, or a closet, or garage, or a storage facility.

This simple little attention exercise can be powerful filter to kind of help you understand what’s going on, and beat yourself up for just not holding onto things forever. It also is a good symbol for those that are impacted by others, that have a lot of things to witness that these are not just items, that they are symbols and they mean something to that person. And by acknowledging what that is, it helps you better manage it.

So I hope this was a helpful insight for you, and a tip that you could use to maybe come to peace at some of the things that you’re using, and maybe formalize your museum, if you will, and put things somewhere else for safekeeping. Just for your own peace of mind.

We provide weekly tips here at Attention Talk Video. And if you just hit this subscribe button right here, we’ll send them to you on a regular basis. We do encourage you to comment on the video and share with others. Thanks for watching, take care.

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