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Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee

2010/09/01

As someone who grew up with a hoarder parent, this book was particularly interesting to read. The authors, a psychiatrist and a social worker, interviewed many hoarders, their long-suffering family and friends. They discuss some historical cases of hoarding, examine various styles and reasonings behind hoarding, such as collecting, foraging, and rescuing. Some of the interviewees are aware that they have a problem with their collections covering all the surfaces in their homes, while others proudly show their collections to the authors. In the first chapter, hoarding is acknowledged to be “composed of a number of discrete factors, some well hidden and expected. But the most obvious factor was the simple problem of accumulation.” They discuss findings from their own interactions — that a sense of emotional attachment drives many hoarders.

The thing that fascinated me the most about this book was that I found myself drawn along into some of the hoarders’ reasoning before realizing that was probably the same path they traveled. I have been guilty of stockpiling, of keeping pieces of something that might be useful later, of storing away scraps of newspapers and magazines; yet this book takes a deeper look at the abnormal extension of these seemingly harmless behaviors, as well as looking at some of the medical research which has been trying to explain why this happens.

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