Frost and Steketee also mention that Irene has trouble making decisions about what to keep and what to discard. While everyone has the problem at various times, it is an extreme problem for Irene and other hoarders. One of the ways that the authors train the hoarders who come to them for help is to teach them to make decisions. They have the hoarder analyze how s/he feels after s/he discards an object. S/he rates her level of anxiety immediately after s/he discards the object, then at various times over a week. The hoarder eventually realizes that while s/he initially cannot live without the discarded object,s/he will get over it quickly. This realization is an incentive for her/him to discard more items.
I was recently listening to WNYC and heard a segment about a new book called
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. While my initial reaction was dubious (it seemed to justify dumping sugar in my coffee as well as the muscular Christianity of the Victorians), I soon realized that Baumeister is a reputable social psychologist who based his theories on many different studies. Chapter 4 of his book is entitled "Decision Fatigue", a problem that is affecting most Americans and not just American hoarders. The WNYC discussion can be found here:
I draw parallels between Stuff and Willpower in my next post.