Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding & the Meaning of Things – Book Review

Johanna Bjork, Reference Librarian, reviews this book from the BSC Library collection:

 Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding & the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee (RC 533 .F76 2010).  Check it out!

“Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them.” — Mayo Clinic definition

Do we own stuff or does it really own us?  Frost and Steketee take us into the world of the compulsive hoarder in Stuff.  Consider the Kleenex you’re tossing; for some people with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder, of which hoarding is a symptom), tossing a used Kleenex is unthinkable!  People who hoard often have difficulty processing information and concentrating on one task.  Hoarders develop a connection between possessions and security.  The more possessions they have, the more secure they feel.  Eventually, hoarders turn their environment into a cocoon of sorts — a cocoon of stuff. 

  • Irene, a librarian, finds it difficult to get rid of anything, including work-related items that are being discarded or recycled.
  • Bernadette, a trauma survivor, self-medicates with things vs. drugs or alcohol. 
  • Debra feels she must preserve her past, every little piece of it, because it is her identity. This forces Debra to document every second of her life.
  • Pamela becomes entangled in an animal hoarding relationship.   

For Irene, Bernadette, Debra, and Pamela, being surrounded by their things, cocooned in their worlds, is their comfort zone.    

Unfortunately, these cocoons can destroy their inhabitants.  Piles of possessions can fall, trapping or killing the hoarder.  Bacteria, vermin, and invasive creatures may take up residence and infest food sources and cause disease.  Invasive creatures can chew through wiring, causing fires.  In the case of someone like Pamela, who hoarded cats, disease can become rampant.  Some hoarders even hoard used sanitary products and human excrement.  In addition to the load of bacteria and germs in the environment, bathrooms and kitchens may become inaccessible because of all the stuff.     

Family members often attempt to eliminate and resolve hoarding issues.  A typical, non-hoarder approach is to simply clean up and haul stuff to the dump, thrift store, or recycling center — an approach that may do more harm than good.  In Stuff, hoarders describe the touching, moving, or removal of their stuff as the equivalent of rape.  If this approach is used without also teaching the hoarder how to manage things differently, the hoarder generally collects more stuff.  The cocoon has been desecrated and the inner sanctum must be rebuilt.

TV shows like A&E’s Hoarders, Animal Planet’s Confessions: Animal Hoarding, and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive shed a light on hoarding.

We likely all have something we can’t live without and the thought of parting with it seems inconceivable.  What is your Stuff?

The Space Between Us – BookTalk at BSC

On Sunday, February 6, Dr. AnnMarie Kajencki will lead the second discussion in our 2011 BookTalk at BSC series. 

Our theme this year is “What Divides Us.”  Join us as we continue to explore, through literature, our differences and our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

On February 6, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the BSC Library, we will be talking about The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar.  

In this bestselling novel, the author looks at life in two Bombay households, and shows how India, even now, is ruled by class and social structure, firmly rooted in tradition and the perceived difference between the sexes.  One example of that is the relationship between Sera Dubash, an upper-class Parsi homemaker, and her servant, Bhima. Though they may share a cup of tea and chat like close friends, Sera sits in a chair while Bhima sits on the floor. Yet, even though class separates the women, they are united in their treatment at the hands of men, who consider all women inferior.

Joy Humphrey, in a Library Journal review, wrote that “Umrigar beautifully and movingly wends her way through the complexities and subtleties of these … relationships.” 

The Space Between Us is a very good book and will make for a great discussion!

For more information about BookTalk, check out the LibGuide or call us at 224.5450.

See you on February 6!

Library Hours – MLK Holiday Weekend

The BSC Library will observe these hours during the MLK holiday weekend:                      

  • Saturday, January 15 — CLOSED
  • Sunday, January 16 —  CLOSED
  • Monday, January 17 — CLOSED

Regular hours will resume on Tuesday, January 18, at 7:30 a.m.

Access to the ODIN library catalog and the Library’s online databases available 24/7.


Bismarck State College Mystic Memories

Interested in BJC/BSC history?  Visit the BSC Archives in the Collections section of the BSC Library website and click on the link for Bismarck State College Mystic Memories.   While you’re on the Archives pages, click on the Digital Horizons link, too.  Many BJC/BSC digitized historical records are also available on that site.    

A project to digitize materials from the BSC Archives collection housed at the BSC Library is underway.  Using ContentDM software, library staff members are scanning materials to post on BSC’s website.  Digitization projects have become the norm for college archive collections and help provide access to collections that would otherwise only be available for on-site use. 

Through BSC Library’s project, alumni and other interested persons can now readily find yearbooks and other historical materials online.   As the project moves forward, more and more information about Bismarck State College and its history will become available online.   

To date, all of the Bismarck Junior College and Bismarck State College yearbooks (1941-1981) are available online.  The BJC yearbook was originally called The Markota; in 1951, the name was changed to the Jay-Cee-An.  BSC’s last printed yearbook was published in 1981. All of the issues of Figments of Imagination, BSC’S literary magazine, have also been scanned.


Something new at the BSC Library … we’ve joined the LibGuides community and are starting to create and publish our own BSC LibGuides.  We also look forward to working with faculty to create all kinds of guides for specific courses and assignments.  

Where will you find the LibGuides created by BSC librarians?  Use the BSC LibGuides direct link OR go to the Research Assistance section of the BSC Library website, then click on Lib Guides.  

We currently have LibGuides for:

  • BookTalk at BSC 2011
  • Boolean Searching
  • eBooks and eAudiobooks
  • EBSCOhost databases
  • Health, Nursing, & Psychology
  • How to Cite: MLA & APA

Check back often to see what’s new!

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan – BookTalk at BSC

 Join us for the first discussion in our 2011 BookTalk at BSC series: 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Discussion of Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Discussion leader: Dr. Janelle Masters, Dean of Academic Affairs

Bismarck State College Library

1 to 3 p.m.*

*Note: We will finish a little early so those who also want to attend Conversations at BSC at 3 p.m. can do so.


Mudbound is Hillary Jordan’s award-winning debut novel.  Set on a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1940s, we see a world of racism, prejudice, and hardship through the eyes of six characters, who take turns narrating the story.  Mudbound won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction in 2006.  Barbara Kingsolver, the founder of the prize, said this of Hillary Jordan’s book, “Her characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still.” For more information about the author and the book, visit Hillary Jordan’s website.

 BookTalk discussions are free and open to all.  Refreshments will be served. 

 For more information, call us the BSC Library at 224-5450.