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?