It was an eye-opener to me when I realized that hoarding disorder can affect any and all ages, sizes, nationalities, and income classes. Some of the symptoms of compulsive hoarding and clutter hoarding are universal, while other nuances of the condition can vary from person to person. There really is no blanket diagnosis that you can set over people where they can fulfill a certain number of symptoms on a checklist, and therefore they have this or that type of obsessive compulsive behavior. No, hoarding is more extreme in one person than it might be in another, and people have varying degrees of attachment to various types of objects. Some people have no problem throwing away old utility bills or receipts from various purchases, while others wouldn’t dare to even think that way. And the same people that may have no issue throwing away financial records would freak out if you asked them to throw away their birthday card collection that they’ve had for 20 years. It’s amazing how much stuff we THINK we need, but the truth is, there’s so much occupying our minds on a daily basis that all the things we’re “saving” for some future time when we supposedly are going to sit down and go through all of our clutter to reminisce or be nostalgic about this or that memory that these items are attached to, in actuality, we’ll probably never look at again. And even if we know that we won’t look at most of those items ever again, we still keep them based on this abstract fantasy that someday we’ll have all the time in the world to actually sort through all that stuff. I’m slowly coming to a reality check that, while spending my time going through old items and enjoying the fond memories of all that they represent sounds great, with a wife & two children, a full-time job, and probably way too much time on the computer, I doubt I’ll EVER actually have the time to fulfill that wish.
I was watching “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, and I almost fell out of my chair when I saw the legend himself, Andy Rooney, talking about his own idiosyncrasies where clutter hoarding is concerned. He was talking about how he keeps old appointment books, old files of things that he intends on reading (article clippings from magazines, etc.), and other “piles-o-files” that he admitted himself he’ll never actually do anything with. I laughed to myself, and my wife said “Sounds familiar?” (trust me, she’s well acquainted with my hoarding tendencies). He said something to the effect that even though he knows he’ll probably never do anything with those stacks of papers and files, it just feels comforting to have them around. I know exactly what he’s talking about. Some people are so tied to their stuff that they have their identity wrapped up in their possessions, and for them to throw away their stuff, it’s almost like every piece they discard is also throwing away a piece of themselves. Even though I have been negatively affected by hoarding disorder, I can be objective enough to step back and say that this is some pretty fascinating stuff.