Friday, February 26, 2010

Eight Reasons People Hoard

Compulsive hoarding in a private apartmentImage via Wikipedia

The last few weeks I've been watching Hoarders on A&E. Hoarding is an obsessive-compulsive disorder in which the person collects and hoards anything and everything.

From watching the show, I've come to the conclusion that there are about eight reasons people hoard.

1. Some people have had great loss in their lives and do not want to lose anything else. Therefore, they keep everything.

2. Objects are memories for many people. They fear that without the object, they will not have the memory.

3. It appears that some people start collecting things. Collections could be stamps, dolls, coins, antiques, or any other object that interests the person. These collections become obsessions and eventually everything becomes a collection.

4. The objects hoarded often have a use or future use for the hoarder. An old broken vase can be fixed and used again. A rusted tub is just too good to throw away. Objects can and must be reused. It is a waste of valuable resources to send them to a landfill.

5. Hoarders may think that the objects they collect can be sold at a future date. They believe these objects will provide future income for them and that they will only become more valuable with time.

6. Some people are compulsive shoppers. They accumulate so much that soon there is no room in their homes.

7. To let go of an object means losing control of that object. The hoarder may worry about what happens to the item once someone else possesses it.

8. Some feel that the item will be needed. Perhaps there is some piece of information in that newspaper that they will want to refer to at a later date. Those magazine articles will provide useful information, so the hoarder may keep every magazine and newspaper.

I, personally, am not a hoarder (at least I don't think so), but I do have a problem with clutter. I think that every teacher does. There are always stacks of books for research and for making lesson plans, tests and quizzes. There are piles of papers that need to be checked. There are calculators, computers, and grade books. And there are report forms for absences, tardies, parent contacts, discipline, and state reports. Teachers not only have this clutter problem at school, but it usually carries over to their home, as well, since a large portion of the work must be done at home. I think most teachers just consider this as a clutter problem, however, and would never consider it hoarding. I can see how it could become a major problem, though. There are times when it just all seems overwhelming and for the compulsive hoarder, it would be. But for the rest of us, we just keep picking up after ourselves.

I have wondered when watching the television series where this problem starts. I know that it is a mental disorder and there is some evidence that depression may be involved. I wonder how early these tendencies towards hoarding show up, especially with the large number of children on anti-depressant medication.

I think about some of the students I had in class, and I think I can almost pick out the ones with the potential to be hoarders. Some were perfectionists who would do a paper over and over trying to make it perfect. Of course this is impossible, and I wonder if hoarders might start this way. They want everything to be perfect. They want that control. Since things are never perfect, perhaps they just give up. They can at least have control over the mess.

Another indication would be to look at a student's notebook or locker. Some hoarding behavior already exists. Of course, at the end of the school year, they must clean everything up. I often wonder how difficult it is for some of those children to throw things away. Maybe they just pack it up and take it home with them.

Every child with a messy, packed locker, however, is not a hoarder. Most are just lazy and messy children. I shudder to think what their rooms look like at home.

Sometimes I think my mother still feels that way about me. I do have clutter, but I have a very small house. I try to keep it neat and clean, but occasionally the mail will pile up or the DVDs get strewn about. My mother has often said, "You need a bigger house." My reply has always been, "No, I just need less stuff." I believe we could all benefit from a little less stuff.


  1. My grandmother was what I would call an organized hoarder LOL. But then again her husband was a milk man who back then was more barter and trade for goods than money and she had to raise 10 kids through the great depression. You saved everything out of a need for survival. This trait was then passed down to my mother who in turn ended up very ill and raising 4 kids on her own when my father fled not being able to handle her illness anymore. It was very frustrating for us growing up because of the craziness of what she felt she need to save and with her being ill, the responsability to try to clean the mess always fell on us kids. She saved everything including rocks from the garden we kept that was an acre large! Yes that is a lot of rocks! When my grandmother died, my mom then took a lot of my grandmothers things, not all but was a small moving truck full, to add to her own hoarding collection! She is just now starting to be willing to let things go but indeed it is a mental issue with deep rooted feelings of "need" to the hoarder. There has been times where there was just a tiny walk path through the 3 bedroom house.

  2. To Rainbow Rivers: My mother-in-law saved everything. She kept the living areas clear, but the upstairs was filled with all the memorabilia she had saved. Every game her children had, hundreds of scrapbooks, bags of old Christmas bows, ribbons, and wrapping paper. She just couldn't throw a good bow away when it could be used later (even though it never was). When she died, my husband and his brothers and sisters had to go through everything. It took weeks and weeks. She was definitely an organized hoarder. Every time I go into our garage, I think my husband inherited a lot of her tendencies. Last time we bought a car, it had to be a subcompact, so that it would fit in the space. He brings stuff home from work that they have thrown away. He says it's good and we might need it sometime. I really think 50 old flashlights is probably enough.