See those magazines? No, it’s not a dentist’s waiting room. Those are mine and they’re just the ones on a coffee table in my living room. Yes, there’s more. But these I’m going to read. That’s what I’ve been telling myself. I keep them neatly stacked and spread them out just for effect. In one of my bookshelves, I have stacked magazines. I end up reading most of them. Some of them are 6 month trial subscriptions, but others like Wired I read religiously and re-subscribe every year. I don’t have a problem committing to reading them, but I keep them. I like to think that I “collect” them, but I’m not planning on opening a gallery soon.
I bring up the magazine issue because I’ve been watching the show called Hoarder’s on A&E. This show scares the living crap out of me. It scares me because I can relate. While the people in the show have really serious problems, I cannot say with a straight face that something like that won’t ever happen to me. And I know the show is presented in an über-sensationalistic manner that will get you searching on Google collecting vs hoarding, but the problem is very serious and very real.
Some of the people in the show are clearly demented. People with trash, expired food in a fridge, fecal matter on floors; they crossed the line of denial to let things get like that. But others that are at least aware that they have a problem, are the ones that I find more striking. I find them striking because their problem at its core level, is the same one I have with the magazines and what everyone has in general with clutter. “I’ll read it later”. “I’ll use this in the future”. Basically a miscalculation on the future use of things. And as many neurologists and psychologists know, were pretty awful at predicting the future.
I’m in no way an expert on the condition and have no idea exactly what separates the pack-rat-clutterer from the full blown hoarder. Its Wikipedia entry states in the characteristics section that, “there is no definition of compulsive hoarding in accepted diagnostic criteria (such as the current DSM), Frost and Hartl (1996) and it’s related with OCD and schizophrenia. I’m taking this as meaning that a hoarder could either be mentally healthy or not. There’s an in depth discussion in this Metafilter thread about some of these issues.
But what I do know is that modern society has taught us very well how to acquire stuff, but it never taught us how to get rid of stuff. A lot of us are not close to getting a letter by the government declaring our conditions hazardous, but that shouldn’t stop us from asking ourselves every now and then why are we keeping something.