Collectors' Items

Recently, I have found myself more and more working in the homes of people who may have hoarding disorder. I say people who ‘may have’ because I do not know of a confirmed diagnosis. Based on the volume of stuff and accumulations of categories of items saved, it sure does seem that way.

Just as often, though, I am working in a high-end home, apartment or condo and sorting through, shall we say, ‘excess’ stuff. Although the volume of belongings does not exactly fit the description or definition of hoarding, it can sometimes feel the same way.

What do these two scenarios have In common?  Lots and lots of stuff, of course. And I have to ask myself, do the people in either of these scenarios have a similar mind set? Are they driven by some invisible force that manifests itself into something so visible that it’s physically difficult to walk through a room?

The site of a hoarding situation is probably etched in people’s mind as seen on TV. Complete with piles of things saved over the years, it often includes debris that causes unsanitary and unsafe conditions. While this may be the more popular view, it is not the only view. In the case of a high-end home, perhaps the item that is being hoarded is clothing, shoes or decorative figurines. While the visual of these items doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of hoarding, the behavior behind the collection may qualify as such.

If a person has taken the time, for instance, to flatten out empty boxes of cereal, but does not then put them in the recycle bin or trash, why not? On the other hand, if a person buys so many pieces of clothing, for instance, that not only is every closet and drawer filled to capacity, but the clothing is strewn about furniture throughout the house, what is driving the person to buy more? In this case I often think, if I had limitless money, would I spend it this way?

In full disclosure, I am not a therapist of any sort, nor have I received specialized training to work with people with hoarding disorder. These are merely observations that raise questions in my mind. What causes hoarding, and what causes the collection of so many things? It’s serious and complicated stuff, and I’ll leave that to the experts.