It is true there are various degrees of hoarding. Some may have a shoe fettish with a closet big enough to make Imelda Marcos jealous. Others may hoard parts and scraps and fill entire warehouses with their junk. But it is a serious sign of trouble when you have so much stuff in your home that you have to burrow tunnels through it to make your way from room to room.
That’s exactly what one U.K. man did for over ten years. Gordon Stewart, 74, was found dead in his home last Friday after apparently becoming lost in his own maze of junk and died of dehydration. Without knowing more about Mr. Gordon, other than what is told in the original story at The Sun, it is hard to know why Gordon accumulated stuff with such intensity. It is not clear what his motivations were–environmental, economic, or just plain eccentric. Either way, it was a sad end.
What Motivates People To Become Hoarders?
For some, hoarding is the symptom of some deeper psychological problem such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or depression. Others turn to hoarding because of an anxiety that things may be needed in the future, but when the time comes they will lack the financial resources to acquire them. And then there are those who have deep sentimental attachment to things and simply can’t bear to part with them.
Aside from the extreme example of Mr. Gordon’s demise, there are plenty of other health reasons to avoid hoarding. Obviously, there are physical dangers including trips and falls, particularly dangerous to the elderly. There are more hidden dangers such as mildew, dust and rodent infestations to contend with.
A Fine Line Between Stockpiling and Hoarding
For a brief time I was enamored with coupon clipping and stockpiling. I even joined a site called GroceryGame.com where people participated in forums to show off their impressive stockpiles of 37 tubes of Crest toothpaste, 12 boxes of Cheez-Its, etc. I was impressed, and thought the idea of stockpiling household sale items, particularly things like cleaners, non-perishables and toiletries, made a lot of sense. After all, these were the days when food inflation was the scare of the season. I thought stocking up now would save us from spending more money for the same item down the line.
What I discovered was that the line between stockpiling and hoarding blurs pretty quickly. After all, how many $1.49 toilet bowl cleaners does one family really need? I dedicated an entire shelving unit in our garage to our stockpile, and soon it was taking over an adjacent shelf.
Inside the house we used two metal racks to hold our food finds, but we were never good at rotating stock and lost a few items to expiration. We concluded that the mental energy required to manage all this stuff was not worth the cost savings to acquire it. In the future if we needed a can of cream of mushroom soup we would go buy one (or two or three–still good to have a backup of some things). If we happen to have a coupon and can save a little extra, great. If not, we don’t sweat it. We control our stuff, and we don’t let it control us.