(Hoarding as a Disorder, Famous Hoarders Case Studies, and Solutions)
Regrettably, for several years, hoarding has been an out-of-sight disorder. Very little research was conducted on hoarding in the 1980s. However, since earlier 1990s, research scientists, psychologists and clinicians have shown a dramatic interest in the subject. Awareness concerning hoarding has also increased due to up-to-date media exposure. Sufferers, family members, and human service workforce who frequently deal with the compulsive hoarding disorder have also become aware of the problem and its solutions (Steinfatt, 2010).
Compulsive Hoarding: What is it?
Compulsive hoarding can be described as the attainment of and failure to thrust away huge bulks of goods or belongings. This kind of obsessive hoarding is often linked with considerable physical condition peril, working mutilation, and financial impediments. No pragmatic investigation has been conducted to examine the mentioned destructive effects although there are crystal-clear suggestions that hoarding has a negative and damaging influence on people living with or near someone with a hoarding dilemma (Tolin, Frost, Steketee & Fitch, 2008).
Very little attention has been given to the meaning and value of possessions in our daily lives. In 1978, Furby researched on the importance of possessions. It was found out that there are two motivations that derive people to collect stuff. The first motivation is the need to fulfill a desire or purpose with the possession of objects. This is known as instrumental saving. The second motivation is sentimental saving in which the saver thinks of the possessions as an extension of the self. Furby came to the conclusion that 'control' is the central aspect that makes a person own objects in a large quantity. People collect objects because they want to fulfill their desire using something or having control over its use. It is inculcated in human nature to control the environment and possession of objects allows them to do so. The instrumental motivation is high when the availability of object in time of need is uncertain. When an object is always available, the possessor doesn't worry about its unavailability in the time of need. Furby suggested that people acquire things so that they don't have to be in situations when they need something and it's not available (Frost & Gross, 1993).
Hoarding is a unique case of acquisition propensities. It is the attainment of unimportant and useless objects and the failure to discard them. In 1947, Fromm suggested that acquiring things is the central aspect of an individual's character. He describes people with "Hoarding Orientations" to be obsessive, introverted, doubtful, isolated, over anxious and orderly. Some theories consider compulsive hoarding as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (Frost & Gross, 1993).
In 1940, Bender and Schilder described hoarding as a warning sign of impulsions, precursors to compulsive behavior in children. In 1973, Salzman proposed that people with obsessional behavior tend to collect things to gain control over their environment. Adams, in the same year, studied the behaviors of 49 obsessive children. His conclusion suggested that children with obsessions have an inclination to hoard stuff whereas children who are not obsessed but have experienced material deprivation tend to hoard material in large quantities (Frost & Gross, 1993).
It was in 1988 that the most extensive account of hoarding and associated behaviors was given by Warren and Ostrom. Their observations were based on personal experiences and the interviews they conducted with students, colleagues and relatives. According to them, there were four reasons given by majority of people to justify their saving things in excessive numbers. The first reason given by people is that they will need the object in some time in future. Second reason was that the object is so good that it can't be thrown away. Third reason was that holds value and will hold value. The last reason given was that the objects hold sentimental value and can't be replaced or rejected (Frost & Gross, 1993).
Significant disability and poor global functioning have been observed in the compulsive hoarding patients. Considerable higher levels of family, social and work-related disability was found in OCD hoarding patients. On the other hand, non-hoarding OCD patients do not have similar inappropriateness of improper functioning (Sanjaya, Ayers, Maidment, Vapnik, Wetherell & Bystritsky, 2011).
In short, obsessive hoarding can never be considered as a collection of some sort. It is the acquisition of objects which have no value at all or have very little importance. Regardless of how unreasonable that may be, hoarders collect objects with the sense that they might be used or happen to be valuable someday to themselves or others. One of the most authentic examples of such an obsessive state of mind can be best proved by the case of Collyer Brothers. Langley Collyer held on to years of newspapers so that someday his blind brother, Homer Collyer could read them after repossessing his sight. The disposophobia disorder (the fear of disposing off things) is often called "Collyer Brothers Syndrome" (Bobb, 2009).
What the house of a compulsive hoarder looks like?
For a hoarder, saving items and objects is the guarantee of security and an alternative for kith and kin. It is the isolation and intense unconventional behavior that makes the life and dwelling of a hoarder terrible (Bobb, 2009).
Piles of trash, stacks of newspapers and enormous clutter are common sights in the home of a hoarder. The pathetic condition of the rooms makes it impossible for the sufferers to carry out their daily chores including bathing, eating and sleeping. This results in jobs undone and health damage. It is out of the question to invite guests at such places where nothing is on its place. This type of living standard is unfathomable. It is difficult to understand that how can a person choose to live in such depressive conditions where one is plainly buried in the junk (Layton, 2011). The houses of compulsive savers give the impression of being turned upside down. It is too strange a fact that a lot of sufferers who save things compulsively use or look at the collected stuff once in a blue moon. The only thing that keeps them satisfied is to have the things cluttered around "just in case" (Penzel, 2011).
The remarkable point is that it does not take an overnight to fill homes with trash. It takes years for a sufferer to pile up one's house with invaluable possessions. The issue here is not the cleanliness of homes but the cleanliness of mind. It is exceedingly important to change the mindset of the hoarder for whom none of the collected stuff is trash (Layton, 2011)!!
What to Expect in a Hoarder's House?
Hoarders tend to save a lot of invaluable stuff to be accumulated in their houses. This stuff include stationery objects (pen, pencils etc.), rubber bands, old greeting cards, empty boxes, lists, plastic containers, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, junk mail, old appliances, obsolete books and even assorted labels, string, bottles, and bottle caps. In the majority of severe cases, stuff such as old cigarette butts, old cars, used aluminum foil, paper towels, empty match boxes, feathers, fur, used tissues, hairs and useless paper cups were present in the hoarder's house. It is also astonishing that several obsessive hoarders even poke around to find something in other people's trash and take from it whatever appears valuable or repairable. Uncontrollable savers tend to accumulate stuff in large amounts that either creates storage problems, causes conflagration or health risks (Penzel, 2011).
The Most Famous Hoarders of All Times: Case Studies
The Collyer Brothers
Langley and Homer Collyer, also famously recognized as "The Collyer Brothers" were born in New York City in a very prosperous family. The hoarding disorder is also associated with them which is related to the fear of throwing things away and is given the name of "Collyer Brothers Syndrome" (Steinfatt, 2010). The brother-pair is also renowned as the "Hermits of Harlem" who had hoarded their Fifth Avenue Home with possessions, newspapers, and just plain junk. More than 130 tons of material was removed from their house after their deaths in 1947. The little value of the auctioned items piled up in their house fetched only $1,800.
They belonged to a prosperous family with their father and mother working as a gynecologist and an opera singer respectively (Steinfatt, 2010). The brothers spent nine years of their lives (1909 to 1918) in their 2078 Fifth Avenue home with their parents. After their father's death, the brothers lived with their mother who died and left the brothers alone in 1929. Her death disturbed the brothers so much that they confined themselves in an autonomous world of books, pianos, memorabilia and imports for the next eighteen years. In order to simplify their lives, the Collyer brothers stopped using the telephone in 1917 and gas and electricity in 1928. It surely suggests that the brothers deliberately cut off all the links with the outside world. This isolation in the house dissociated the two brothers from the people. They were targeted by the burglars…