Monday, May 07, 2007

Confessions of a Compulsive Hoarder

Channel 4 produced yet another interesting documentary last week. This time, it was the called "The world of Compulsive Hoarders" examining the lives and trials of those who just can't throw things away.

This is to be distinguished from the untidy and lazy. Compuslsive Hoarders are often anything but lazy devoting hours and hours to organising their "stuff".

Naturally, for dramatic effect the programme focused on a few extreme cases. There was Roy, a retired accountant who drove his wife to despair by filling their 9-bedroom house with junk. Then there was loner Bill, who lived in horrendous squallor after collecting even his neighbours rubbish. Bill was more clinical than the others although was obviously on the same spectrum. Hoarding is not only confined to eccentric Brits, so there was 78-year old Lloyd from Los Angeles who took to collecting old bicycles after loosing his job as a computer programmer. At its zenith, Roy's collection of bicycles had reached around 5,000 and he was forced to sleep outside his well-sized home due to lack of space inside !

The message of the documentary was ultimately postive- compulsive hoarding is a condition but is treatable.

For my own part I think I should "confess" or recognise my own tendencies in this area, albeit much down the spectrum from Roy, Bill and Lloyd.

Compulsive hoarding has a "genetic" element in 85 % of cases or at least 85% of cases are in people who have a similar relative.

My father was a self-confessed hoarder and as a family our relatively frequent house moves used to be near military in scale moving huge quanties of stuff by multiple removal lorries.

My childhood memories are of unusually full rooms and of organising garages and lofts to accomodate the overflow. We had veritable columns of items as random as electric fires, suit cases, kettles and tea pots. We had enough blankets for an army to spend the night not to mention more positively a near public library of books.

My father did throw things away but there is no doubt he was slower than normal to do this.

I inherited some traits in this area and as well as sorting through much of his collection in recent years I have had to recognise my own hoarding tendencies.

Newspapers are a near genetic weakness in our family. Since the arrival of Mrs. Donatella my newspaper piles have been much reduced although some of the collection remains !

Of course hoarding, or collecting in its more benign variant, can be interesting in the long term. From my father's collection I have newspapers covering major events from the 1940s until the 1990s. If he had thrown his newspapers away like everyone else there would be no collection today. (although probably they would be largely accessible by internet now).

However my collection of air luggage tags and electronic hotel room keys from my travelling days are probably a bit unnecessary ! At the time, as someone who had not really flown that much, it seemed an interesting memento of my many work-related flights to keep some tangible record. Now I think I'd do better to take a few photos instead !

I am coming to realise that all material things perish and though familiar with the hoarding mind, it is ultimately rather short sighted as well as absorbing of huge amounts of time and energy best spent in the present rather than the past.

This issue finds common ground between the trendy practitioners of feng shui, the teachings of the Buddha or are best put in the Bible (Matthew 6:19) ""Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."

Anyway better get off to tidy the "spare" room !

1 comment:

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