Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hoarding and Security

A re-occuring idea in Stuff is that hoarders hoard as a way of creating a safe environment. Frost and Steketee have one patient who had been sexually assaulted in her own home. She began to fill up the room where the assault had taken place with hoarded items. Eventually the room became so full that she no longer could enter it, and moved onto other rooms. She married, had children, and sought help only after her house was too crowded for her family.

Madeline, Ashley's mother, began to hoard after her own mother threw out items in an attempt to clean up Madeline's room. When Madeline first married Ashley's father, she rented a studio apartment where she stored her hoard. After Ashley's father divorced her, Madeline could no longer afford the studio. Instead, she filled her house with her items. When Ashley went on vacation, Madeline took over Ashley's room, and Ashley returned to find it full of hoarded material that she could not move. Ashley was forced to sleep with Madeline until she could get away to college; Madeline then stored more clutter on Ashley's side of the bed.

Both these examples demonstrate that the hoarder needs her/his hoard to be secure. The hoarder views these items as treasure, and feels a sense of security within the hoard. The needs of other individuals, whether children, spouses, or pets, are immaterial in relation to this need to feel secure.

American society places a great emphasis on possessions. Back in the 1980's t-shirts emblazened with "He who dies with the most toys wins" were popular. What you own defines your worth as a person. One of the most horrifying moments (to me) in the wildly successful first "Sex and the City" movie was when Carrie was given a closet larger than my studio apartment to hold her designer shoes; she was successful because she could not only afford dozens of pairs of pricey footware but could also house them in style. While most hoarders are not piling up designer handbags or clothing, they do define themselves by their possessions, even if the value of these items is not apparent to anyone other than the hoarder.They are what they hoard, and having it around them makes them feel secure.

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