Holy Crap! That’s a lot of STUFF!
(a.k.a. Compulsive Hoarding)

This is just a snapshot of some of the pictures at plonkmedia.info/crazymum/ ! There are a lot more disturbing ones on that site! I was just blown away by these pictures! What the %$#^? How can someone live like that??!!

Turns out, this is a form of psychological disorder called Compulsive Hoarding and could be related to Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Here is an ABC Health News Segment on compulsive hoarding. I am pretty sure all of us have a little bit of hoarding behavior, but fortunately in my case, I also can’t stand clutter. So every once in a few years (usually when we moved apartments), I would look around the house and make huge piles for Goodwill. Now that we are in a house and don’t move anymore, maybe I should make it an annual habit to clear out the unused stuff!

So, anyway, how do you differentiate normal "collector" behavior from "compulsive hoarding"? According to this paper by Karron Maidment RN, M.A., Program Coordinator/Behavior Therapist at the UCLA OCD Intensive Treatment Program, compulsive hoarding is characterized by

  • The acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value. Compulsive hoarders have an obsessive need to acquire and save many objects, and tremendous anxiety about discarding them, because of a perceived need for the objects for their apparent value or an excessive emotional attachment to them.

  • Living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed. For many hoarders, it gets to a point where there might be only a narrow pathway that connects each room, and the rest of the house is piled several feet high with clutter. It becomes impossible to use many areas of the house for their original purpose. (i.e., If your home is starting to look like the one in pictures, it's time to stop shopping and take a good look around to assess the problem.)

  • Significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding. Because of their desire for perfection, compulsive hoarders frequently take a long time to do even small chores. An inordinate amount of time may be spent "churning" -- moving items from one pile to another but never actually discarding any item nor establishing any consistent organizational system.

Based on a couple of earlier shows on Oprah, here is a list of Tips to Overcome Compulsive Hoarding. I have copied the main points here, but please look through the linked article for more details.

  1. Just because you can think of a use for an object, doesn't mean you need to keep it.

  2. More is not necessarily better.

  3. Categorize items into piles. (Sell or donate some of the piles)

  4. Don't over think.

  5. Learn to get past some of the imperfections—it's ok to make mistakes.

  6. Follow the "OHIO" rule: Only Handle It Once.

  7. Be brave.

  8. Understand what you're afraid of, and recognize when your fears are irrational.

  9. Be patient.

  10. Keep the ball rolling.

  11. Be strict with yourself.

  12. Know when to ask for help.

If you or your close ones are suffering from compulsive hoarding, it may severely compromise your ability to stay on track financially (among other things). Here are a few resources to start with, to determine if seeking professional treatment may be necessary.

Wow! That's a lot of stuff! I still haven't gotten over those pictures!!!

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English Major said...

My assigned roommate freshman year of college was a hoarder...I think she could have been diagnosed with OCD. It was pretty scary, and I moved out after first semester.

ispf said...

English Major: Wow, I can imagine how that can be a bit scary! I get so claustrophobic when I am surrounded by too much stuff. I am glad I was quite lucky with my roommates!

Golbguru said...

Oh yeah ! holy crap it is!
Man, I thought we students are the worst of the lot, but it's comforting to know that there are people who will compete with us. :)

Earlier, when I shared room with 3 other guys..one of the guys was almost like this...and the situation used to go above our threshold every month-end or so...so the rest of us simply started throwing away some of the random stuff he gathered. He never realized it and we were happy too. :)

ispf said...

Golb, You should have sold it off on ebay instead of throwing it away :) And, if it bothered your consience, you could always buy him a six pack every now and then :)