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 hoarder 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!