Stuff gone wrong

Posted Tuesday, 15 April 2014

We all need ‘stuff’ – but for some, the instinct for ownership goes badly wrong – so says an interesting piece in the weekly magazine New Scientist. In a 10 page special report on ‘humans’ ambivalent relationship with material goods’ they have highlighted hoarding for special mention.

With up to 1 in 20 people struggling with not being able to throw things away, to the point that their home is unusable, psychiatrist David Tolin from Yale University calls it ‘a disability’. Hoarding to this level is now a recognised psychiatric state and recently distinguished from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Hoarders – according to Tolin’s latest research using brain imaging – have a seriously impaired ability to make decisions. They worry so much about making the right decision that they keep the item to decide later. As the New Scientist article points out, this may not tally with TV programmes showing dead cats mouldering under mountains of unworn clothes, “but” says Tolin, “it makes perfect sense.”

The New Scientist piece rounds off with the fact that hoarding is not a Western society malfunction but manifests in virtually every culture. For hoarders it becomes “an obsession with not losing a piece of your life.”

New Scientist, 29 March 2014