Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

Book - 2010
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What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper that's ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house? Or Jerry and Alvin, wealthy twin bachelors who filled up matching luxury apartments with countless pieces of fine art, not even leaving themselves room to sleep?

Randy Frost and Gail Steketee were the first to study hoarding when they began their work a decade ago; they expected to find a few sufferers but ended up treating hundreds of patients and fielding thousands of calls from the families of others. Now they explore the compulsion through a series of compelling case studies in the vein of Oliver Sacks.With vivid portraits that show us the traits by which you can identify a hoarder--piles on sofas and beds that make the furniture useless, houses that can be navigated only by following small paths called goat trails, vast piles of paper that the hoarders "churn" but never discard, even collections of animals and garbage--Frost and Steketee explain the causes and outline the often ineffective treatments for the disorder.They also illuminate the pull that possessions exert on all of us. Whether we're savers, collectors, or compulsive cleaners, none of us is free of the impulses that drive hoarders to the extremes in which they live.

For the six million sufferers, their relatives and friends, and all the rest of us with complicated relationships to our things, Stuff answers the question of what happens when our stuff starts to own us.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010.
ISBN: 9780151014231
Branch Call Number: 616.85227 Fro
Characteristics: 290 pages
Additional Contributors: Steketee, Gail


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Mar 23, 2017

This was a compassionate look at the issue of hoarding. It was occasionally uncomfortable to read because it really makes you look at your own attachment to "stuff". This was really interesting and well done.

Feb 09, 2016

Devastating. I read this book right after reading Jessie Sholl's equally excellent "Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding" and finally began to understand not just my own mother's bizarre relationship with the clutter she can never bear to throw away but also my own long frustration and bewilderment. Like other commenters here I appreciated Mr. Frost's accessible writing style and his obvious empathy for his subjects.
Engrossing, disturbing and enlightening. You will shudder with horror when you read the story of Edith, her brother Daniel, and that cockroach-infested leather jacket in chapter nine's cringe-worthy "You Don't Have A Clue."

Apr 16, 2015

This was such a fascinating book! A really nice, accessible mix of anecdotes and science, and still very readable. The authors obviously have a lot of compassion for people with hoarding problems and this comes through in the writing.

mati9 Apr 05, 2014

This book was very captivating. It held my interest throughout, from the fascinating case studies about real people who hoard BIG time to the insightful dissections provided by the authors about why people hoard. While it was frightening to see myself, or at least some of my thought processes, reflected in a lot of the people highlighted I also really came to appreciate what an agonizing ordeal hoarding must be for both those who suffer from it and those who attempt to treat it. Written to be extremely accessible, the authors have made this a very enjoyable read, and one from which we can all learn something.

sammier Feb 23, 2014

A very insightful read on the various reasons that motivate people to hoard. Set out as a series of case stories, the book covers the identification of hoarding behaviour and the treatment and intervention strategies available. It also discusses in depth the relationship between OCD and hoarding behaviour, as well as the points where they differ.

While the book is focused around cases of severe hoarding, I found that many of the points discussed would also be highly relevant to someone trying to deal with a standard sized clutter problem. Areas such as how our identity can be tied up in what we own, how belongings can bring us a sense of security and how the acquisition of items can be used as a means of avoidance all give pause for thought.

ksoles Sep 02, 2012

As a minimalist who enjoys nothing more than purging and reorganizing her closets, the concept of hoarding intrigues me. What kind of people identify as hoarders? What does all their useless, unsanitary stuff mean to them? What impact does hoarding have on a family? What can someone do to break the vicious hoarding cycle?

"Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things" attempts to answer some of these questions by presenting fascinating case studies of real-life hoarders. According to Frost and Steketee, six million Americans suffer from hoarding though the compulsion is still a fairly new field of research. They argue that most hoarders had a childhood of disconnect and isolation and that an early absence of warmth and support leads them to form strong emotional attachments to possessions. Hoarders may cling to their stuff fiercely because of utility, opportunity, fear of error or perfection.

A gripping, non-clinical look at a complex and paralyzing disorder.

Aug 16, 2012

This was a great book. It uses vignettes of hoarders to illustrate traits in common as well as variations within the disorder. One can also begin to grasp that the disorder could exist on a spectrum of varying severity depending upon both genetics as well as life triggers. Quite thought provoking.

Incinerated_Newt May 10, 2012

An interesting book. It's a bit of a slow read and spends a lot of time hypothesizing about the psychology behind OCD and Hoarding, but it is interesting.

May 05, 2012

Interesting for a while.

Nov 04, 2010

If you like the TLC reality show "Hoarders", you will like this book. It's a very interesting read. I would recommend this to anyone interested in psychology.

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