January 16, 2013

Crushed By Stuff

We all have piles of stuff that tend to grow and threaten to crush us.
Could you fit your possession pile into one photograph?
Since 2008, the second most common keyword that leads infonauts to NBA's corner of the Internet universe is 'hoarders'. Uh-huh - hoarders. That seems strange for a simple living, get-rid-of-your-stuff blog. But not so strange.

Like most of us, I am fascinated with the hoarding phenomena, and have done the odd post on this topic. TV shows like Hoarders and Consumed are testaments to our curiosity. 

Mostly I am interested in the 5% of Americans that exhibit hoarding behaviour because they are the canaries in our consumer coal mine. The poison gas that is making them sick is the system that encourages, supports, and rewards unchecked consumption. 

We are being subjected to the same poison gas. Your living space may be neat and tidy, but what does the garage look like? Basement? Storage locker? Are you exhibiting the symptoms of hoarding light?

How To Tell If You Have Hoarding Light 

Do you:
  • have difficulty throwing things away, often for sentimental reasons? 
  • have a junk drawer, closet, garage, basement, or off-site storage locker overflowing with possessions?
  • buy or acquire things that you do not need? 
  • feel like you can not live without your stuff?
  • feel happiness during shopping binges?
  • have stuff that has sat, unseen, in boxes for years?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be exhibiting the symptoms of hoarding light, a commonly ignored condition. You are not alone - nearly all your friends, relatives, and neighbours have it too.

In the more serious hoarding category, is a sad situation that made the news in my area today. A 70 year old man had to be rescued from his house after being caught under a stuffalanche. 

The man had been pinned by hoarded materials, and the fire department had to hack down his front door, cut a path through possessions piled to the ceiling, then locate and free him. 

He is thought to have been lying under the piles for at least 3 days, and if not for a 911 call by a concerned neighbour, would probably have died. 

We are all breathing the poison gas of consumer culture, and are in danger of being crushed by our stuff, literally and figuratively. First the canaries get it, then we do.

But not to worry - help is on the way.

I am the emergency responder that has come to save you from being buried, and I am knocking on your front door. Together we will escape the debris and poison gas being piped into our lives by those who wish to profit from our illness.

Hopefully I will be strong enough to drag you away and out into the fresh air of the simple life. 

And what of the #1 keyword search that connects the curious to the Not Buying Anything blog? Well, that would be 'peace'. 

Dear readers, don't be hoarders, seriously or lightly - get rid of all that stuff (or at least a lot of it) and peace will follow.


  1. Anonymous1/16/2013

    I was in a relationship with a hoarder at one time. It wasn't something that was talked about at the time. I've learned so much since then about the illness behind the behaviour. Although I was starting on my path to simplicity, I have to say that breaking free from that relationship changed me forever. I know how stuff can overwhelm every aspect of one's life. I walked away without anything and have never regretted my decision.

    1. It is very common for family and friends, after frustrating initial attempts, to stop talking about the hoarder's behaviour. The condition is a challenge to treat, and hoarders experience a higher incidence of divorce.

      You walked away without anything, but gained your freedom.

    2. Anonymous1/17/2013

      Indeed, freedom is priceless.

  2. I used to be able to say 'yes' to most of the things on your 'hoarding light' list. Now, although I still feel like I have too much stuff, I am reducing rather than adding to it, I rarely have difficulty throwing stuff away (and not usually for sentimental reasons), I don't have any junk spaces, no shopping binges (although I still get the shopping urge occasionally).

    I'm much happier without the weight of all that stuff on my mind, and I'd like to be ale to fit all of my stuff, including furniture and car, into one photo.

    1. It is an ongoing process, as I am finding out, not to mention a lot of work. That is why I am so careful about acquiring new stuff. It ends up being like a guest that has overstayed their welcome. I have a few boxes that I would love to walk right out the door.

    2. Yes, if you look at a potential purchase as something you'll have to get rid of one day, it rather takes the excitement out of it! Deciding to get rid of something is one thing, actually escorting it out of the house is another...

  3. "If you look at a potential purchase as something you'll have to get rid of one day, it rather takes the excitement out of it!"

    Exactly. I like to think of the entire life cycle of things when considering whether to buy or not. Manufacture, purchase, storage, maintenance/repair, then disposal. Usually, after thinking about it, we decide not to buy.

  4. Hoarding is not so much a symptom of our society of consumption, but an expression of a psychological anxiety disorder where the "stuff" gives the person a sense of security that for whatever reason they are otherwise lacking. For an actual hoarder, peace does not follow getting rid of stuff, getting rid of stuff follows peace. Getting rid of stuff - especially if someone else gets rid of it without the hoarder's permission - without addressing the underlying reason for the behaviour just increases the sense of insecurity. This is obvious after a bit of thought, as what could possibly make a person feel more insecure than the sudden removal of that which they perceived as making them safe?
    I like your blog, but please don't mix hoarding as a disorder in with simply having lots of stuff as it confuses people's understanding. It's similar to when people make out that depression is the same as being sad; it hinders understanding and compassion and makes people expect depressed people to simply "get over it".

    1. Standgale, thank you for bringing your concern up here. I agree with you, and in now way wish to belittle the difficulties that hoarder experience.

      However, I do believe we are all being trained to "hoard" and own more stuff than we need. It is not off/on, either/or. I see it as a continuum just as I see sadness and depression.

      We all possess the symptoms of both diseases, but are all on different places on the continuum. Those who tend toward the extreme end of hoarding or depression, as you point out, can not just "get over it".

      Professional help is required, I am certainly not a professional in any way, shape, or form.

      Thank you for your sensitive, compassionate plea for understanding in these difficult situations. Since social isolation is often one of the results of hoarding, we don't want to further isolate sufferers.

      Rather, we need to reach out and extend a non-judgemental helping hand.


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