Hoarding: A Mental Illness

The New Yorker December 15, 2014 “Let It Go”

are we becoming a nation of hoarders whose houses reek with a stench of old, rotting stuff?

Joan Acocella’s mother’s hoarding habits are symptomatic of dementia 

for example, storing dishes in cabinets in other rooms because kitchen cabinets are used for other stuff 

before her death, she favored disposable food containers over the food in them – for storing small stuff 

when children clean stuff out, parents feel grief and anger and eagerness to fill the newly vacated space with new stuff

but children clean stuff so no one can come in and ask that their parents be moved to a nursing home – a strong possibility for their own health and safety

2013 – American Psychiatric Association declared storage habits a diagnostic feature of a mental illness  called HD – hoarding disorder 

HD is “a persistent difficulty in discarding possessions regardless of their actual value to the point where the person’s accumulated things congest living areas and impede their intended use” 

commonly hoarded stuff includes books and magazines, and hoarders tend to be energetic collectors of “valuable stuff”

who refuse to let go of stuff  they have and exemplify Freud’s anal character 

hoarding stuff presents a major threat to public health 

1993 – Frost and Graves wrote an article entitled “Behavior Research and Therapy” and in 2010 Frost and Steketee Hattie wrote “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” 

Sandra Felton founded Messies Anonymous patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous as a therapy for eliminating clutter –

which she says is “if not an actual sin, a failure of self understanding” 

repulsive cases of real-life people Homer and Langley Collyer  and Big Edie and Little Edie Beale of Bouvier fame  

led to TV shows such as “Hoarders” which ran six seasons on A&E in 2013 and “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC in 2010 

I imagine these shows were like those horrendous zit-popping videos – so gross one can’t help being sucked in to the madness and be driven to clean candle-burning minimalism 

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