When my great-grandmother died in the mid-90s, we found a number of questionable collections in her house, including a paper bag filled to the brim with meticulously cleaned-out egg shells and a very toxic jar of mercury she had drained from old thermometers. In short: She was totally a hoarder. Had she lived to see the age of reality television, we could have put her on A&E's Hoarders, which tracks the lives of people who obsessively collect and can't bring themselves to throw things away, even to the point of creating dangerous, trash-filled living situations.
Though its not yet considered an official disorder, somewhere around 5 percent of Americans, or 15 million people, struggle with compulsive hoarding, as Bonnie Tsui noted in her in-depth look at the science of hoarding in Pacific Standard.
After years of being lumped in as a category of OCD, in May, hoarding will officially be recognized as its own distinct disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard tome of afflictions used by mental health professionals to classify mental health issues. The first systematic study of the disorder wasn't published until 1993, as Tsui points out, but like the amount of junk in my closet, the field is starting to grow.
Though the research is still preliminary, studies have shown hoarding is related to cognitive differences in processes like decision-making, sorting and categorizing. In fMRI studies of people with hoarding disorder, the areas of the brain associated with decision making lit up more when making choices about material objects, showing more emotional engagement with items than usual. Another study found that hoarders find it more difficult to make decisions about their own possessions than someone else's.
Bad news for me: It's probably genetic. Bad news for all of us: it seems more prevalent in the U.S., where we sure do love our stuff:
There are even different types of hoarding:
Though the problem is getting more recognition, researchers are still working on an effective treatment. The cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat OCD has shown itself fairly useless when it comes to hoarding, and the treatments that do exist are expensive, involving months of work with clinicians and home visits.
And hoarding may even have somewhat of an upside, too:
The whole piece is definitely worth a read over at Pacific Standard.
People keep stuff for two reasons,
1) Its just a hobby they enjoy.
2) The day after they throw something out as junk a situation pops up where they wish to god they had kept it.
Why oh why didn't you follow your instincts and to hell with the psychologists?
Hording, like just about any other human activity, is benign in small amounts, but problematic in the extreme.
I think hoarding can occur for many reasons.
I wonder how many hoarders were attorneys in their younger years.
I wish I had kept a magazine from September 1985 or videotaped the news on September 1st of that year. It would have proven that sneaky people can change our history right under our noses without us even knowing about it.
I learned a very hard lesson that year.
Once the press is controlled by a single company or an oligarchy, history winds up being whatever the companies want it to be rather than what actually happened.
One's memory is generally not admissible in a court of law when one's memory conflicts with the written record. The written record is usually accepted as truth even if it isn't accurate.
There was a Good Wife episode in which this sort of game occurred. A lawyer realized that he had made a mistake on a critical piece of evidence to his case, so he altered the evidence so that his evidence would be admissible in court.
I wonder how much that happens in real life. I know I have witnessed this sort of game personally on at least two occasions.
Sometimes hoarding is a good thing. It can keep politics honest.
Sovereign individuals, not governments
My father and two of his 5 siblings hoarded. I have done so somewhat but at my wife's urging I relented and gave away a forty year book collection.
So I read this article to find the "scientific reason" as stated in the title. None was given.