Most people have too much stuff; however, there is a big difference between having too much stuff and hoarding. Between TV shows about hoarding and numerous books devoted to the subject, the public has become aware of hoarding as a serious issue.
In Stuff, Randy Frost and Gail Steketee examine the lives of several people with hoarding tendencies and find evidence that hoarding may have a biological basis. Certainly, when food or materials were scarce, humans had a need to amass quantities of anything.
“Hoarding is not defined by the number of possessions, but by how the acquisition and management of those possessions affects their owner.”
For some people, the need to hold onto things is so severe, they feel actual physical pain when asked to let go. Generally, hoarding is based on one of the following beliefs: fear of being without, inability to distinguish value, reluctance to waste and strong personal connection to items. Even though you can prove that the beliefs are faulty, the individual with hoarding behaviors remains convinced otherwise.
One of the most interesting concepts that the authors submit is that their subjects could describe things in “overly elaborate ways, including far too many details and losing the main themes. It seems as though they are unable to filter out irrelevant details. Each detail seems as important as the next.” In addition, these people find multiple uses for the things that other people consider trash.
People who hoard have strong feelings about their belongings and are unable to let go of things easily. The authors remind us that simply clearing out the home of someone who hoards is not a solution.
Although the subject is very serious, the book reads more like a novel. It is easy to read and gives insight into what makes people hoard. What is lacking is how to work with these individuals to help them change their behaviors.