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TMI + FoMO

Hi Friend,

I love a good acronym.

TMI (Too Much Information) is usually used in reference to toilet humour or amorous endeavours shared indiscreetly.

FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) is what all the young kids are talking about and is usually in reference to missing out on parties and general adventures.

But, TMI and FoMO also relate to hoarding. Especially acquisition.

We acquire stuff JUST IN CASE because we fear uncertainty and we keep stuff because WE MIGHT NEED IT ONE DAY in an uncertain future.

TMI

What is not often discussed is the tendency for those who hoard to also excessively acquire and save INFORMATION. Not a real surprise when you think about it.

Many clients tell me that they also excessively acquire information. This may involve buying books and magazines, signing up to Choice Magazine, and scouring the internet so they feel they have EVERYTHING they need to make a decision. Keeping hundreds of tabs open on search engines (guilty your Honour) of every mention of the product or service they’re trying to decide on.

They reason that when they are looking for assistance making decisions in their lives they believe they must gather ALL the information about a topic. Some express exasperation regarding their tendency to always feel like they don’t know enough in order to make even the simplest decisions. TMI acquisition makes me feel sooooo sleepy…

Others believe that knowing everything about a subject before making a decision is rational and necessary in order to avoid making mistakes. However, we’ve talked before about the link between perfectionism and hoarding and the negative consequences. Excessive concern over making mistakes and a fear of negative evaluation from others may plague people with hoarding symptoms and often leads to procrastination and lack of progress in decluttering and leads to acquiring TMI.

So, why is wanting to make good decisions through excessive information gathering a problem? Well it leads to information overload. Information overload compromises working memory and crowds out useful information and slows down other executive functions.

Working memory capacity obstructs other executive functions like adaptable thinking, planning, organising, time-management, self-control, and self-management. Is that an Aha moment? It was for me!

This means that excessive acquisition of information is contributing to other hoarding behaviours and the outcome: clutter. We just can’t make sense of all the bits of information we’ve gathered. Many of us delay purchasing decisions, continue to gather information, while making copious notes (often on the back of envelopes or saved in disorganised digital form) that get lost in the hoard until the end of time.

Others throw their hands in the air and buy all.the.things. Buying all the things mean we don’t have to decide between the Disney Princesses, Harry Potter, or StarWars PJs. We get ALL of them.

We kind of need to teach ourselves how to make decisions and avoid information overload…

As Dr Phil would say (has he been cancelled yet?) “you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge” and being aware of this habit to avoid choosing between options at the point of purchase is a good start.

However, if you are like many people with hoarding tendencies, chances are you haven’t had much practice or experience making decisions and often come home with a T-Shirt in all the colours of the rainbow even though you look ill in yellow.

You probably find it hard to understand how other people can make multiple spontaneous decisions about purchases without feeling exhausted or distressed. The way they do this is by trusting their “intuitive judgements” to make “good enough” decisions in complex real world situations where time, information, and cognitive resources are limited.

The research confirms that taking the decision making process slowly and deliberately often does not improve decision quality over faster more intuitive methods.

Learning how to develop intuitive decision making comes through practice, the incorporation of feedback, and focusing on available evidence and ignoring what is not know, in the moment.

What about FoMO

Research* published recently indicates that this compulsion to over-accumulate information before making decisions is evident in clinically diagnosed hoarding cases in all areas, not only those related to possessions. This made me think that perhaps TMI acquiring might not only related to decision making…

People who hoard might just fear missing out on knowledge even when they don’t need it to make decisions. I’m just spit-balling here. There isn’t any empirical evidence regarding hoarding and FoMO on information that I know about but I’ve heard clients talk about it (you know who you are *stars*).

I’m not young so I remember sitting in the library until 12 midnight to save on photocopying because academic journals were real and lived in the stacks. Now my library is available 24/7 at home, in Melbourne Australia, and virtually nothing is unattainable.

The volume of information and data that is available to us in our hands via SmartPhones in 2022 is overwhelming. When we’ve been used to saving books, newspaper clippings, and magazine tear sheets to maintain our level of knowledge it’s hard to change. I get it.

We used to need recipe books and encyclopaedias. Now we just need a good search strategy and high-speed internet. It’s difficult to adjust to the new normal. Our brains just can’t keep all that available information straight. Passwords prove that!

Many people who hoard feel compelled to keep up with the huge volume of “new” and “best” information out there whether it’s a new cake recipe or the optimal method for composting.

But that’s impossible now.

What we need is a new way of thinking about and accessing information.

Times have changed. Knowing facts is no longer the goal. There’s google for that.

As @little.glass.shelf puts it:

“The problem with FOMO is that while you’re busy trying not to miss out on the next best and the latest and the must haves, you’re actually missing out on something else — life.”

So what are you going to do with all the free time I’ve just opened up? And the space you’ll have when you let go of the 10 year old magazines and newspapers cluttering up the hallway?

Be bold. You’re not missing out on THE piece of information that might change your life you’re missing out on… LIFE.

Until next week :)

Jan <3

*Pushkarskaya, H., Stern, E., Tolin, D. F., & Pittenger, C. (2020). Excessive acquisition of information during simple judgments in individuals with hoarding disorder. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 24(April 2019), 100505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocrd.2020.100505

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