Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hoarding, Willpower, and Possibilities

One of the individuals (Irene) studied in Stuff has trouble throwing things away because to do so would be to limit her possibilities. Frost and Steketee admit that when they experiment in how treat her "one goal of the experiment was to teach her how to tolerate uncertainty regarding unrealized opportunities"(Stuff, p. 42). She needed to learn to accept the fact that she could not take advantage of all possible opportunities. Eventually, Irene learned to give up items although when she did so, she told a story of why she had kept the items. For Irene, "often just telling that story loosened her connection to it and allowed her to let it go"(Stuff, p. 43).

In Willpower, Baumeister and Tierney devote an entire chapter to the to-do list. One of the people they consult for this chapter is man named David Allen, who has come up with the "Getting Stuff Done" method, for which he apparently charges thousands of dollars from celebrity clients like Jim Carrey. According to Allen:

"'When we're trying to decide what to do with our stuff or what movie to see,' Allen says,"we don't think to ourselves, Look at all these cool choices. There's a powerful thing inside that says, If I decide to do that movie, I kill all the other movies. You can pretend all the way up to that point that you know the right thing to do, but once you're faced with a choice, you have to deal with this open loop in your head: You're wrong, you're right, you're wrong, you're right. Every single time you make a choice, you're stepping into an existential void." (Willpower, pp. 86-87).

Each choice will create a new timeline, space/time continuum, etc. In order to choose, people either have to deliberately stay unconscious of the consequences of their choice, or accept them.


  • Is it possible that hoarders are more attuned to this existential void?
  • Are they just more aware of the consequences of their choices?
  • Or, as Stuff seems to imply, are they are unable to distinguish between consequential and inconsequential choices, and treat all of them as consequential?

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