A fascinating insight into hoarding

I am a semihoarder. I don’t have rooms and rooms of junk, but I don’t like to throw functional things out (nor have I sold much stuff on eBay).

My house isn’t bursting at the seams with unwanted stuff – but we’ve all seen those houses on the news (or perhaps know people who have collected hundreds or thousands of old magazines in case they want to refer to an article later.

Anyway, there’s an online support group for hoarders, and they’ve got a “bulletin board” type function where such hoarders can share about why they hoard. It makes for kind of depressing reading. Here’s a sample.

“I hoard items and also buy defective items in the supermarket or department stores because I tend to imbue personality and feelings onto inanimate objects. When I see a dented can or a perfectly new shirt missing a button I feel extremely sad for the item because I fear that no one will want it and it will not serve the purpose for which it was created due to a small defect… so I buy it. The mentality is similar, I suppose, to people who adopt lots of homeless pets or children (by the way, I also have 6 cats). If I cannot buy the item or if I make a point of consciously passing the item up, I am guilt ridden for days. Sometimes I think I buy these things just to avoid the guilt of feeling I have “abandoned” an item or “rejected” it by failing to provide an opportunity for it to “fulfill the purpose for which it was created.” In the last few years I have developed rules for what I allow in my house and tend to buy things online where only new and perfect things are sent though the mail… thus avoiding the defective items sometimes seen and found in stores. I suspect my manifestation of hoarding is due to being an only child raised by an ambivalent single parent who abandoned me in many ways and on many different occasions. I suspect I’m attempting to “rescue” the child I once was by projecting unresolved feeling and issues onto items that would be deemed by others as “imperfect” and thus “unwanted.””

“This is weird, but for me about half of the hoarding problem stems from problems with how other people will view me. I can’t stand for others in my apartment to see me bringing groceries or supplies in, nor can I stand to be caught taking garbage to the tip. It seems to be predicated on the idea that if people see what I bring in, consume, and discard, they will assume that I’m spendthrift, selfish, wasteful. I know that one bag of trash a week isn’t all that much, but I’m still petrified of being seen with it. As though I hadn’t made full use of the things I purchased. Anyway, I believe that I have to sneak the trash out of the building after all my neighbors are asleep… if I don’t manage to stay up until three AM, the trash bag just sits there. At times, this has resulted in as many as ten trash bags awaiting disposal at an “inconspicuous” time. Nor can I stand to have identifying information (addresses from junk mail, e.g.) in my garbage. What if the bag were to break? I’d be associated with it. Which results in large amounts of paper standing around until I can go through and remove anything that might implicate me. It’s not so bad if I can get the trash out in reasonably short order, but once it builds up, it becomes a horrible problem. I can’t just take six bags to the tip. Have to sneak them out one at a time, two or three days apart, so no one will know that it’s me who suddenly deposited all this junk. Sometimes I try to disguise the problem by using different colored trash bags, on the theory that they won’t be associated with the same household. I know this is nutty behavior, but I really can’t seem to get a grip on it.”

Umm. Wow.