Monday, December 19, 2011

Hoarding~~A Lifestyle Or A Disease?

According to Owen Kelly, PH.D hoarding is a characteristic of 15% of the people that are diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD). Hoarding is a pathological or compulsive type of behavior characterized by:
  • acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others (e.g., papers, notes, flyers, newspapers, clothes)
  • severe cluttering of the person's home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space
  • significant distress or impairment of work or social life

I have always found interesting people who hoard objects for no apparent reason. At least that reason is not apparent to us but to the hoarder I am sure it makes perfect sense. I have had personal contact with hoarders and have listened, with interest, to stories relating to hoarding.

I am the polar opposite of a hoarder. If I see no value on any object it will find its way t the garbage. Probably my age has something to do with my approach to 'stuff'. As I have aged, and with my ever changing economic status, my outlook has changed from a 'plan ahead objective based attitude' to a more 'live in the moment attitude'. That is why I was surprised to learn that hoarding was prevalent in the older population.

The 'cat lady' we always hear about is an 'animal hoarder'. Who knew!

I have been in homes where the home owner collected(hoarded) bicycle parts and there were no working bicycles on the premises. This particular gentleman found and purchased bicycle parts. His reasoning was that when bicycles became the main means of transportation again, after our oil supplies were exhausted, he would make a fortune in helping with bicycle upkeep and repair. The man was in his 70's and our oil supply will certainly outlive him but he was convinced he was right.

I have also read that hoarders can be organized and unorganized but to the untrained eye there would be no difference. One actually has to watch the behavior of the hoarder, who will call themselves collectors, to tell them apart. For instance an organized hoarder will walk through his 'collections' and never step on them even if they are strewn at their feet. An unorganized hoarder will step haphazardly on what he has collected.

I personally have seen hoarders save just about anything under the guise of 'collecting'. Things like fast food wrappers, used plastic cups, news papers, building supplies both new and used and kitchen utensils.

When ever we build modular shelves or a children's toy, at Christmas, there always seems to be pieces, like screws or nuts, left over. I know a man that has several cabinets, in his garage, dedicated to the storage of those pieces. He even moved them to a new home a few years ago.

Some commonly hoarded things are:

  • Written/Printed Information.
    Meaning: Papers, Magazines, Notes, Letters, Publicity, Ads, Bills, Books and so on.....
    Since the Internet, e- mails are also hoarded, either online or printed out.

    The remarkable thing about the keeping of written/printed material is that it actually is rarely ever read but is just stored. The safety of knowing it is there seems to be enough, you can go back to it at all times.

  • Items That Are Commonly Bought in Larger Quantities.
    Meaning: Soap, Sugar, Salt and so on.
    These may be purchased in large quantities.

  • Non- Expensive Practical Items.
    Meaning: Elastic Bands, Paper Clips, Plastic/Paper Bags, Used Envelopes, Used Items that Could be Re- Used and so on.....

  • Items With No Apparent Value or Use.
    Meaning: Burned Out Light Bulbs, Cigarette Butts, Empty Cigarette Packs, Wrappers, Medicine Bottles, Empty Lighters, Candles which can't be lit anymore, Broken Electrical Appliances.....

  • Future-Use Items.
    Meaning: Items which may be used 1 day, whether or not this use is realistic or not. The idea of having to buy something you have at 1 point thrown away seems absurd and thus everything is kept.

I personally think that some things are harmless to hoard and the reason for that hoarding may or may not be related to OCD. I know of one person who hoards food in the form of dehydrated items because he wants to be prepared for a food shortage. When one looks at the condition we find our world in this may be a very good idea.

I also know someone that has kept every newspaper they have read for the past 50 years and you can not safely walk around their house.

The thing to remember is that hoarding can many times be a real medical condition and before we try and take any action against a hoarder we need to have all the pertinent information.

Love ya,

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