Are you a hoarder?

There is a TV show on A&E called Hoarders. Have any of you ever watched it? I’m not sure what night of the week it comes on, but I happened to watch several repeat episodes while I was cleaning house one afternoon last week. (I know, kind of ironic, isn’t it?) 

A is defined as a person who has a need to acquire things, but fails to use them or discard them. A&E says its program is about people whose hoarding has gotten so out of control they are on the verge of personal crisis. 

One episode was about a woman whose children were taken out of the home by the Department of Social Services because her house was considered unsafe and unsanitary. She had to clean up in order to get her children back. The therapist and a cleaning crew came in to help get the job done. The work was slow as the hoarder had to touch every piece of junk before she could decide if she could throw it away or not. And, in most cases, she could not. At the end of this episode, the woman’s house is clean, but her garage and basement are stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of the stuff she could not part with and Social Services is not convinced that her home will stay clean for long and she does not get her kids back. 

In another story, a woman had convinced her second husband (the first husband had divorced her over her hoarding problem) that they could never get their current home cleaned up and should buy a second house so they could start over! Eventually, they would clean up house one and sell it, she had promised. So, now, strapped with two mortgages and two out of control houses, she asks for help. Ultimately, the crew of helpers left after barely making a dent, although, the woman said she would finish at her own pace on her own. 

In another episode, a man spent a week and only got his dining room table cleared. Even though his wife had fallen down the steps the previous year resulting in a broken leg because of all the junk stacked there, and even though, she promised she would leave him if he did not get his mess cleaned up, he could not. 

In all of the cases I watched, the hoarders felt overwhelmed and ashamed and really had a strong desire to get a handle on their compulsive behavior, but could not. 

I admit it. I really don’t get it. I do not understand how people could live in such filth and why they have a need to keep so much utterly useless crap. It made me realize, though, that most of us have our own compulsive behaviors.  I am quite the opposite of a hoarder. I must have order in my house. I keep the spices on the spice rack alphabetized. My silverware drawer must be organized and only hold a matching set. There are no wire hangers in my house and clothes must be hung facing the same direction. All of the clean towels and wash clothes must be folded in the same way with the fold facing out and stacked in their appropriate places in the linen closet.

A couple of months ago, I was losing sleep because my sock drawer was a mess! Well, okay, honestly, I wasn’t losing sleep over it, but I was thinking about it everyday. Browns were mixed in with blues and some had no match and I couldn’t just reach in the drawer and pull out what I wanted. It felt very satisfying to clean it. (I do not remember now the exact count, but after I threw some away I had over 30 pairs – more than I could wear in a whole month! Maybe, I’m a sockaholic.)

I have no problem getting rid of stuff. My general rule is that if I haven’t used something in a year, I must not need it and out it goes. The junk gets thrown out, and, I pile the quality stuff in the workshop, planning a future yard sale. I have never actually had a yard sale as I can’t stand the accumulating clutter, so I gather up those things and give them away a few months later.

This is not to say that I am a neat freak. I am far from it! My floors can get dirty, the furniture can get dusty and I usually have a stack of clothes piled on the dresser by week’s end. But, I do clean the inside of my refrigerator every week and straighten the kitchen pantry shelves every time I put groceries away. The more I write about it, the more I realize that people must think I’m  a tad crazy! I am truly a compulsive anti-hoarder. 

I see a reality TV show in the making; people who throw things out only to discover later they need them! 

I’ve got other compulsive behaviors, too. But, I’ll save those for another day!

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36 thoughts on “Are you a hoarder?

  1. My ex used to be an absolute neat freak. Then she worried that it was obsessive, so she deliberately left one mess: The cutlery draw. There was no segregation of the utensils. It was chaos, but she loved that she let herself have that one thing.

    Personally, I don’t care. Hell, I wear only black socks just so I don’t have to sort them.

    • I keep saying that I am not a neat freak, but it appears that the people that know me disagree! What do they know? And, I do not know how I got so many socks. When I first started straightening my two sock drawers, I was thinking that I needed some dark green socks, but then, after counting up what I had, decided against it. I’ll fess up to being a sock-a-holic, but otherwise, I am as normal as the next guy!

      • Cindy, Sorry I haven’t kept up with your site. I really enjoyed this articile. Sometimes I think I’m crazy for being so neat. But I do not lose sleep for the sock drawer! LOL! Madeline

        • Haha! I can promise that I am not losing sleep over the sock drawer(s) anymore! But, my file cabinet, that’s another story!

  2. Shannon – yes, your grandfather was cheap but he was also a perfectionist in that no matter what he did it had to be done completely his way. If a project would take the average person 2 hours, my dad would take all day ….and his would be the best! Or, he would stir his coffee for 5 minutes to make sure the sugar was dissolved. There are a lot of things about him that were “just a little strange, a little off.”

    I can remember after my mother died and Dennis was living in that little house by himself. There was not a thing out of place and it was clean beyond anything Nanny ever did. Do you really need a stack of old newspapers 3 or 4 feet high??

  3. linda, I think he wanted every last drop because he was cheap…from what I hear. Also, I always felt nanny was kind of a hoarder. I used to steal her neat nic-nacs.

    • I think that generation held on to stuff because things were not so easy to come by then. You couldn’t just go to the all night convenient store to pick up a package of rubber bands. My grandma still has a whole drawer full of rubber bands and those stupid little twisties that close the plastic bread bags.

  4. Naps are not allowed at mom’s house….one could spend their time more productively by cleaning and straightening! Tee hee!

    • Article is a good read and a good reminder for me not to let myself get too carried away! I was actually a professional organizer in my previous life. I had one client and gave it up!

  5. Did you see the episode where they found two dead cats in that lady’s house? She said last time she saw her cats was ten years prior! It is such a sad show but every time it is on I have to watch it!

  6. Cindy, I am with you re: clothes and linens! My husband teases me that everything in the refrigerator has a short expiration date is GONE if left more than a week or two and he says I have “eagle eyes” for crumbs left on the counter. I hate clutter! My mom has tons of knickknacks everywhere and I think I grew up wanting to be the opposite. But, hoarding and our need for order are really based on the same thing: the need for control. Hoarders express their control by accumulating and keeping things, while we express control getting rid of and ordering things.

    • You hit that nail right on its head! A hoarder and anti-hoarder are really quite the same, the difference being that one is ashamed to have guests over and the other is not (although, the other still stresses and scambles to tidy-up to get EVERY little thing back in its place before the guests arrive).

  7. I go through our apartment once every six months and toss stuff and/or take it to Goodwill.

    When we moved into this apartment in 2008, I threw out 3/4 of what we owned. To tell the truth though, by now I can barely tell. I probably can go through after Thomas moves out and get rid of stuff again and make a huge dent in stuff. It needs to be done.

    I don’t get how people can live like that either. I’m like Bill Cosby’s mother in his “Himself” dvd from the early 80s – one upside down shoe in a room and the entire house is a pigsty.

    I should email you the pictures I took of my pantry a while back …

    • I had a lot more stuff when we lived in bigger houses, too, but now we live in a small house. It is much harder to keep our small house organized!

      • we lost a lot of storage space when thomas moved in last june. i can’t wait to reclaim it. f’ex, i had to put the christmas tree and all the bins with decorations in our walk-in closet so he could have closet space. now i have NO closet space. our walk-in is now a pray to god you can get in there when you open the door space. lol UGH

        “It is much harder to keep our small house organized!”

        i find it just the opposite. the townhouse we moved out of before we moved here was 1025 square feet. this apartment is 950 square feet. there’s less storage place and less creativity on putting things away – but that also means less stuff gets kept in the house. if something isn’t useful it goes into the garbage or is taken to goodwill or is given to someone who’ll use it.

        • My problem is that if I find one new thing that i must have, my house is maxed out and something else has to go! It makes me think long and hard before buying something new!

  8. Obessive/compulsive disorder runs rampant in our family. Dad would get a can of beer and pour it into his glass and hold the can till every last drop and I mean every last drop came out of the can (sometimes took a few minutes). He also would look for something he lost endlessly, all day, in every nook and corner of the house. He would become obsessed! He was also the best maker of potato pancakes (so thin you could read through them -a necessity with a large family to feed) and he made the best fudge in the world! If he would wash a fork (for example) he would clean in between the tines. We always called him a “character” but think about it, he was maddening! You must have some of dad in you since you are a perfectionist! What I would give to see that “crazy” dad again!!

    • Brian and I were raking the yard on Saturday, and Brian said, “Your dad would not be happy with the way you are raking. He would have gone back over it again to get every leaf!”

    • I can only go “up” when changing channels on TV with remote control. I can also only go “up” when listing to radio in the car. And I can never skip a station or a channel even if I know that there is a commercial playing and I cannot skip to station 5 if I know a good song is playing if I’m on station number one, I have to push station 2 then 3 then 4 in order to get to station 5. Weird!

        • In that case I would have to hit the ‘up’ button 204 times….unless somebody else is changing channels then THEY can skip, but I can not. I do not have 214 channel on my TV though. I go up to channel 67 and we begin on channel 2. So worst case scenario for me would be to hit the ‘up’ button 65 times.

  9. Yes, Cindy – the truth is out. You’re a neat freak!

    My Father is a hoarder. He grew up in England during the Second World War, with food rationing, etc., and he still has that attitude of not being able to throw away something that could have value or could be used at a later date. After much persuasion, he’s a little better now than he used to be. In the past, when the rest of the family have thrown something out, he has been known to rescue it.

    Sad thing is, I do constantly fight some of the same urges myself. Our house is certainly not neat and tidy. Actually, I don’t like a house to be TOO neat, but at times, ours gets to the stressful stage. You’d hate it!

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