Saturday, August 7, 2010

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

I will admit that I have developed a fascination with hoarding after having watched an episode of Hoarders on TLC. I rarely catch this show, but am totally absorbed by the people featured on it when I do catch it. The condition of hoarding has been getting a great deal of attention lately and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee has been a popular book at the library as well. I have been waiting for it for a few months now.
Frost and Steketee share a great deal of research they have accumulated about hoarding as well as many case studies. These case studies are fascinating, as is the information.
A few things I now know about hoarding:

* the condition of hoarding is related to gambling and kleptomania
* hoarders are often highly intelligent and/or artistic
* hoarders find comfort in posessions
* hoarders suffered a loss or a traumatic event
*there is a genetic component to hoarding
I wavered between fascination and disgust, and also between finding ways I am like a hoarder, and then ways where I certainly could tell that my idea of clutter was nowhere close to that of the cases presented. I could also recognize some behaviors in others that was documented in this book, yet I cannot say those people are true hoarders. It seems the difference is that hoarders are unable to lead a normal life because their things get in their way.

Stuff opens with a completely fascinating case. The Collyer brothers were wealthy hoarders, recluses who rarely left their home. When rumors circulated that one of the brothers had died, authorities eventually went in to the house. Or they tried to go in to the house. After attempting to enter through several doors and windows, they were finally able to gain access through an upstairs window. There they found newspapers stacked eight feet high, leaving just two feet of crawl space between them and the ceiling. Eventually crews were hired to clean up the mansion. The figures are staggering. Fourteen grand pianos, an automobile, and many more mountains of trash were thrown out.

Just recently has this behavior disorder come into the limelight. While I am sure some people view this as an entirely controllable type of behavior, Frost at one point likens it to a drug addiction, and research does show that there is a way that people who suffer from hoarding can be treated for their disorder.
After reading this book, I would like nothing more than to begin eliminating my own clutter.
While the cases shared in stuff are amazing, they are also frightening, and I have no desire to ever have a problem such as this.

To read more about the Collyer Brothers click here.


Meg said...

Hoarding is definitely strangely fascinating -- I watch "Hoarders," too! It makes me so sad for people who are obviously in need of mental help... it's definitely a sickness. I would probably find this book very interesting, too.

Serena said...

I think my aunt is a hoarder...but shh, you didn't hear that from me.