Title: Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
Author: Gail Steketee and Randy Frost
When I was at my first job, I used to take this trip home to visit my parents that would require me to drive by this house that had a front yard filled with junk. Tables and tables of used items strewn about the lawn. I was fascinated by the fact that every time I drove by it over the course of years, nothing changed. Snow would come and fall on the junk and yet there it stood. Spring would arrive and perhaps there was more stuff out there, but it never got cleaner.
These people were obviously hoarders with a pretty serious problem.
Years after I moved, I drove by that house only to discover the entire place had been cleaned out and the house grazed. It made me sad to think about the condition of the house and the people who were living in it.
I recently finished Stuff and am still fascinated by what causes people to hold on to seemingly useless items. While watching shows about hoarding, you get the feeling that most people who have let their situation get out of hand live in filth, but I was surprised to learn the percentage of hoarders who actually let it get that bad is minimal. I was also surprised to learn the various reasons behind the hoarding.
Some come from a family of hoarders. Some hoard animals because they think they are doing more good than harm for the creatures. Frequently a traumatic event causes someone to go from messy to the extreme in a short amount of time. One woman was raped in her house and spent the next several years collecting items in the bedroom it occurred so she wouldn’t have to deal with seeing it every day.
I periodically joke my house looks like it’s a tryout for Hoarders But the truth is, I may be a little messy but I am no where near some people with this disorder. I’ve even had someone refer to it as “spartan” which took me by surprise. But I can relate to some of the traits that are identified with hoarders.
Ironically, many hoarders frequently are perfectionists. They want to get the sorting and organizing so accurate that they can’t figure out where to begin and thus don’t start at all. As a librarian, I can relate to the desire to be such a perfectionist. I had to laugh when I discovered the first case study in the book was a woman who worked a librarian. I imagine there are a lot of us with this potential.