Do you have a secret drawer in which you stock plastic shopping bags, a case full of pens or a pile of random papers (magazines, bills, flyers etc.)? If the answer is yes, then it’s because there is a little (or big) hoarder in each and everyone of us.
For those of you who are not too familiar with the term, a hoarder is a person who is unable or unwilling to throw away unneeded objects, because of a feeling of attachment or the impression that one day they might use them. These objects are often mundane items, which, in time, accumulate to a point where they occupy the entire living space, becoming a health hazard. Hoarding ranges from very mild to extremely severe, in which case it is called “compulsive hoarding” (it’s not part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum though).
In this article I will talk about the severe case of hoarding and why I think everyone should become a compulsive hoarder.
In today’s society, even mild hoarding is considered an unacceptable personality trait. People who are mild hoarders are looked down upon and criticized. But what are they blamed for?
Here’s a number of reasons why hoarding is bad in general:
1) it causes a cascade of other issues that affect them and their family;
2) it is a bad habit acquired as a form of coping mechanism, like smoking and eating one’s nails;
3) represents a health hazard from the accumulation of old items that make it difficult to clean up;
4) the person is unable to control and organize his/her space, thus life in general;
5) indicates poor work performance;
6) it’s a sign of depression... and so on.
Take these problems to the extreme and you have a compulsive hoarder. These people not only have a house full of random things they seldom or never use, but they are living in a dirty, unsanitary, disorganized space that increases the risk of injury, illness and even death.
"So, what are you saying B., should I just start collecting random junk in my house? Are you trying to make me sick and ruin my life?"
"No, no, no! I would never do that! Please bare with me for a little while! Before I start explaining why becoming a compulsive hoarder is not bad but might actually be the best decision you’ve ever made, let’s look at the reason why there is such a thing as <compulsive hoarding> in the first place."
Let’s look at the causes. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the reasons why people hoard are because they perceive objects to have a sentimental value, to be useful or valuable (in price), to be unique or irreplaceable, to be a memorabilia (they remind them of a person or event) or they simply think it’s waste to throw away. Hoarders seem to have severe anxiety, depression, a mental or physical difficulty in cleaning and organizing. They have a hard time making decisions and are almost always isolated from their family and society in general.
Alright, now that you’ve read the official reasons, here’s my own two cents.
The reason why there is such a thing as compulsive hoarding in the first place is because obviously the system we are living in… is flawed. We live in a strong consumerist society. Every single day we are bombarded with commercials telling us to buy-buy-BUY! Even though we don’t really need so much stuff anyway, we are still told to constantly buy new and “improved” products!
And to make things worse, all of our stuff was built to intentionally break down or deteriorate after a certain period of time, just so we can use more money and buy a new product every year or so. Why? So companies have more money to pay their employees, their greedy CEOs and their hungry shareholders. I mean, let’s face it, have you ever heard of an annual company report in which the board says “Good job everyone, we’ve achieve this year’s financial goals, next year let’s continue to earn the same amount as this year!”…?? Of course not! What’s the point of having a company if sales don’t continue to grow every year… until, well, forever… right?
So tell me, in this case, is a hoarder at fault for being a “good” consumer? He might be naive, but a bad person? No.
"But the problem is not buying and consuming, it’s about storing!" I hear you shout.
"Right! Storing. Ok… so, now tell me… what’s so bad about storing? What’s so bad about keeping things for later use? You store things, too, don’t you? You have a closet and a storage room, even a garage full of who-remembers-what, don’t you?"
So is a hoarder bad for storing something (s)he thinks might come in handy some day? No.
Where IS the problem them?
Storing too many things and never using them! some would answer.
That’s right! Storing too many things, never using them and never throwing them away either.
So we’ve discovered the problem: The inability/unwillingness to throw things away/ to make garbage! The inability to find the reason why an object is unimportant/invaluable. The unwillingness to throw away something that might have value depending on how you use it. The unwillingness to fill the landfills with possibly useful stuff. The unwillingness to let go of a fond memory regarding that object. The inability to understand what is so wrong with an object that it “needs” to be thrown away and forgotten. The unwillingness to accept the hopeless death of an object, once created from the planet’s resources by humans beings to serve other human beings.
Do you see where I’m going here? Here’s a hint: a hoarder cares more about his/her stuff… than you and me.
A hoarder unconsciously attaches meaning and hope to each and every object they come to own. A hoarder unconsciously respect the creator, the materials used and the fact that it was created to serve our comfort.
A hoarder looks at an object not as if it were a mere boulder. When a hoarder looks at an object, (s)he sees it for what it really is: a living thing. An object that was once earth and water and other raw materials, an object that was planned and/or built by a person, an object that once served a purpose and was part of his/her life.
Isn’t our idea that once an object has deteriorated or lost its original purpose then it must be discarded, thrown away, eliminated, killed, forgotten – isn’t this a far worst idea than being a hoarder? Isn’t our “buy-consume-dispose” society far worse than a world where all objects are important and valuable, no matter if they can perform or not?
I, for once, am disgusted by myself. I have been judging these hoarders as being creepy and disturbed. Yet, with a sunken hear I realize – I am the monstrous one! I throw away anything without thinking twice! I am not grateful for those who have put time, sweat and maybe even tears in making something. I am not grateful for the earth that has given us the resources to enjoy the comfort that all these product bring.
Now, do you see why we should all become compulsive hoarders? Because we should all start valuing objects more than the big companies tell us to. We should start seeing beyond the design, use and “trendiness” of a product. We should start thinking about the entire life of a product. What it was made of, who made it, why they made it, and most importantly how will it end up after it stops performing.
We should all have the right to know more about the birth of a product so we could value every millimeter of it. We should attach a memory to each and every object, so we can use it at its full physical and emotional potential.
For example, instead of buying 10 pairs of cheap T-shirts every year, why not buy a strong, long-lasting T-shirt that represents your personality perfectly, a T-shirt you love so so much, either because it was bought together with your loved ones on a trip,or because it has your favorite artist printed on it. Either way, having 3 great-quality T-shirts that we love, rather than cheap 10 T-shirts we don’t care so much about, can make us the perfect “new-age compulsive hoarder” – one that does not end up with a mountain of trash in his/her house, but which knows the value of things.
Also, when the T-shirts are too worn out to wear them any more, this “new-age compulsive hoarder” reuses the same T-shirts by transforming them into rags. When they can no longer be used as rags, they can be used to insulate a wall inside a new house that’s being built.
In conclusion, a compulsive hoarder is not a bad person, because valuing an item so much that it’s impossible to throw away is not a bad thing. We should all value each and every one of our belongings. But in order to avoid stocking piles and piles of them, we should just buy less of the same thing and reuse them after the objects no longer serve their initial purpose.
So my advice is: Be HBR! Hoard – Buy Less – Reuse 🙂
So, did you decide to become a new-age hoarder?