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Help with Hoarding ... advice written by a Hoarder!

I am Zyra, and I am a hoarder. I collect loads and loads of stuff, and I keep it in case any of it will come in useful sometime. When I emigrated from the UK to Panama as a tax exile because of my success in this online business that I run, Storage Units can look like thisI moved house with 38 tonnes of stuff! I managed to squeeze this into two 40ft high-cube shipping containers. To put this in perspective, an average person's international housemoving involves a quarter of that volume, and very considerably less than a quarter of that weight.

I am some help to my fellow hoarders because I approve of hoarding, and also I know how to hoard stuff and not get overwhelmed by it. If you are a hoarder too, well done! I can help you, but without the fussy "ooh you ought to throw stuff away" kind of busybody stuff which some people will be trying to preach at you. It's your lifestyle. If you want to be a hoarder, keep it up!

I say Well Done to Jasmine of Help for Hoarders.co.uk who is reciprocal-linking with this site!

I also say Well Done to Emma of www.hoardinguk.org, who has said what a good idea it would be if there were more Help for Hoarders pages written by hoarders. So, here goes...

I have a system. I know how to organise my hoarded resources such that I can collect vast amounts of stuff and still find things. It's an unusual system, but you may be able to adopt something of this ilk to help you to look after your vast collection.

This is the Zyra's Bazaar Storage System. It was created in 1987 to organise the chaotic stock of Zyra's Bazaar. It soon became a general purpose storage and retrieval system for objects and artifacts of diverse styles. There are various aspects of finesse to Zyra's Bazaar Storage System. One is that stuff is packed into boxes of different sizes according to what will fit, and the items are crammed in to maximise the storage efficiency. A computerised storage system remembers where everything is, and it's easy to recover things (provided you keep your promises to yourself).

The system involves acquiring cardboard boxes from shops. You need to choose good quality ones that are strong, and not too big, but after a while you become a connoisseur of cardboard boxes and know what to choose. Storage Unit SymbolThen, when you've got your boxes, which can be a variety of different shapes and sizes, you number them. The numbering system has in addition a "Storage Unit Symbol". This should be an easy-to-scribe hieroglyph which should have a polarity so you can see which way is the correct way up. My storage unit glyph was created by Xyroth , and the symbol represents a pyramid with a carrying handle. I recommend we each have a different storage unit symbol so as to avoid confusion if ever any of our storage units should meet!

Zyra's Bazaar storage system thus consists of a set of numbered boxes with contents, and a primary computer file list.txt which contains a long list of lines. Each line has: Item name/description , location (which box it's in) , date , and a few other things.

There's also another file stunits.txt which is the list of storage units and their locations.

The system here involves computer programs, which do many things including sorting the lists into alphabetical order, taking command-based input files and generating storage file entries, merging lists together, outputting a "for sale" list, outputting an inventory, but it is possible to operate a similar scheme without using a special data control system. You just have the list of items (item, which box), and the list of storage unit locations. The only basic "rules" are...Another view of some Storage

* All storage units are clearly marked with their identity (symbol and number).

* If any item is put in a box or taken out of a box, the database must be updated to take account of that. No-one shall remove items and fail to update the database.

These "rules" are things which you keep as promises to yourself for the benefit of your self-consistency of self-governing policy. (There are a few advanced rules but these are refinements to the system).

In practice the system is very well organised even though the items are packed into boxes the best way they will fit (ie boxes look as if they contain random items). The crucial feature of such a system is: You know where to find any item in the system. The fact that you can find things means you are in control of your stuff.

Here, Storage Unit 1 (Storage Unit1), was created in 1987, by getting a cardboard box, putting a symbol and number on it, and filling it with various items which were catalogued onto the computer.Storage Boxes in a shipping container

The primary file in Zyra's Bazaar storage system is a list of all the items and which boxes they are in. It also contains other information such as the date the items were packed, etc.

The filing system here also had such things as how much the items would be for sale for, so the public version of the list could be published and sold in newsagents. Don't worry; you don't need to do this!

When you look at pictures of some of Zyra's Bazaar storage system, you may think it is a "Bizarre storage system!" or even that "Zyra's Bizarre!". Whilst this may be true, the fact is that items can be located and retrieved very quickly, even though the storage boxes are stacked up randomly, and the contents of each box are fitted in there randomly. The storage itself is random in the physical world, leaving the organisation being done where it's done best... in the computer! This is remarkably efficient, and provides a storage density which is beyond some people's belief.

Here are the advantages to operating such a Storage System to assist you in your hoarding:

* You can find things. Your computer knows where everything is.

* Stuff takes up less room, so you can get more stuff into the space available. (This is because the stuff is better packed in the boxes, and the boxes can be stacked). Storage density is so high that if you ever need to call for crane drivers, they need to be warned about the weight being vastly more than would be expected by experience.

* You can store things inside other things in such a way that they are packed safely and provide packing for each-other. For example, among my thousands of boxes in shipping containers, the stuffed cat travelled inside a microwave oven, as this provided shielding against it being squashed. Almost no need for extraneous packing materials which take up space.

* You can store more things than you are able to remember that you have got. This is thanks to the miracle of computer data storage, hard disc drives, etc.

* The place starts to "feel better". Thinking starts to work better. Why? There are various theories. It could be purely psychological, or there could be some magical phenomenon as yet unexplained. (Like when radioactivity was discovered, people did not know why they felt ill). Whatever the reasons, I have found the following...

Situation Feelings
Piles of stuff lying about randomly in disorganised heaps with items mixed-up and some buried. Feelings of being slightly unwell, mixed up, or even that there is something influencing action and not for the better.
Same stuff, but packed into numbered cardboard boxes, with all of the items catalogued on computer and available on a list (in my case a for sale list). Feelings of wellbeing, and of being in control of the situation.

Regardless of the emotional situation, I have found that the rational result of being able to find things makes it well worth doing this.Close-up of some Storage

* There is an implicit security. Provided you keep the main files on your computer in a secret location, the whereabouts of the valuable items is unknown to the unwelcome. If you had the misfortune to be burgled, the villains would not be able to find much worth stealing. Even if they ransacked the boxes, they would be unlikely to stumble across anything worth taking. Notice how in contrast this is to most people's houses, where the valuable things are in predictable locations.

Story continues...

How many boxes do you need? Some people need a dozen or so, and some need many hundreds. But you just start and create as many as you need. The range expands as you go on. Make sure you never create a duplicate numbered box. Just keep adding to the list and keep on cataloguing. You don't need to get all of the boxes to start with. You just get a few and keep adding more as you need them.

At the time I emigrated as a tax exile , the highest numbered box which had an actual box with contents was Storage Unit2727, an abridged version of the contents of which is as follows...

2012/01/16,Freeview receiver; Techwood TWD PV2A; with 13A plug but no remote,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Power supply; 12 volt DC 3A from 100-240v euro,0,N,*,@2727,,,2,0
2012/01/16,Telephone receiver with RJ11-RJ11 cable,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Video camera; Elmo; from projector like OHP,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Jar; small; full of useful small components,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,IR Repeater with short cable,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Plug; 3.5mm jackplug with short cable,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Pliers; strong modern,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Cable lead; s-video - s-video,0,N,*,@2727,,,2,0
2012/01/16,Cable lead; 3.5mm stereo jackplug - open-ended,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Denim for repairs,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0
2012/01/16,Scissors; quality but with broken handles,0,N,*,@2727,,,1,0

However, this piece of the list is just an example. The main list.txt here contains about thirty thousand entries for items, mostly in alphabetical order, including all of the items in all of the boxes. Having all of the items catalogued in the same file makes searching for any particular item very easy on a computer.

Also note that the storage unit symbol "Storage Unit" doesn't appear in the ASCII codes, so on computer files the @ symbol is used instead.

There is a crucial thing which must be got right, though: Storage Unit SymbolIf you ever search for an item on the computer data file and then take the item out of the storage-unit box, you must update the computer file! Very important. If ever the computer file were to get out-of-step with the stuff in the boxes, the integrity of the system would be jeopardised.

If other people come to help, you need to inform them of the sanctity of status which "storage units" have. No random going-through of your storage! However, you can permit other people to pack new storage boxes for you, provided the contents are logged to your satisfaction on your computer.

I wish you Good Luck in your hoarding endeavours. If you decide to adopt a hoarding storage system like Zyra's Bazaar Storage System, make sure you keep your promises, and that way the storage system remains intact. If you're just starting such a system, it may seem daunting, but the nice thing is that even if initially it just has a few numbered boxes as islands in a house full of chaos, you are on the way to taming the hoards of stuff, and you'll no longer be overwhelmed by it. Plus, as the boxes start to stack-up, you'll have more room in which to live, or in which to stash more stuff. Your choice.

Also see Advanced rules of Storage