Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O.Frost & Gail Steketee

Introduction to Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding
and the Meaning of Things by Randy O.Frost & Gail Steketee:

I am not a hoarder, but I several relatives who are hoarders. As a child, I was terrified of our family basement. It was dark, damp, cold, and crammed full of books, old toys, unused construction material, garish china animals, and furniture belonging to relatives who had moved to Florida and died. I was afraid to let my kitten go down into it because there was a chance that he would never return. One day, my mother gazed upon this disorder in horror from the safety of the stairs, uttered the immortal line “I see dead people’s furniture,” and donated most of the clutter to charitable institutions.

Over the years, I’ve spent much time assisting family members with clutter removal and organization. As a result, I’ve become overly conscious of the amount of type of possessions that I do own; I knew I had a problem when my movers told me, as I paid them off, to go buy some furniture. I became fascinated with why some members of my family hoard, and other are neat and minimalistic.

Frost and Steketee revolutionized not only the study of why people hoard, but also how to treat hoarders. While Stuff was written for the general public, they also co-authored a second book, Buried in Treasures that is a workbook for hoarders, their family members, and anyone who wants to help a hoarder declutter. The case studies in Stuff reveal the positive impulses behind the actions of hoarders – impulses that ultimately become twisted and potentially hazardous. This October book discussion will focus on issues – both biological and environmental in origin - raised about hoarders in Stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hoarding as biology? I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose it does start with the human body. Evolution helped design the human body to "hoard" energy - in the form of fat. The "fat" hoarders had a better chance to survive tough environments - cold winters, droughts and habitats with limited food.

Perhaps those first peoples - especially those whose metabolism burned energy fast - hoarded food as a way to survive - burying it like the squirrels. Maybe our bodies haven't caught up to the fact that we have developed deep freezes and massive refrigerators that made ice, placed in enormous kitchens! It is true that often our strengths turn out to also be our weaknesses.

There is such a variety of things people hoard today - as well as a continuum on the road to hoarding. The stigma is strong and anything that demystifies the compulsion to collect and provides concrete ways to help - like the books Stuff and Buried in Treasures- is definitely needed in our society today.