Faces of Hoarding

Hoarders and hoarding have become dramatized by reality TV shows. But hoarding is a more complex problem than reflected in the television shows. Despite the claim if “reality” these shows are often dramatized portraits of hoarding disorders. The reality of hoarding is both more mundane and more serious than the reality reflected on reality shows.

The faces of those with a collection or hoarding issue don’t match the TV stereotype either. As part of a panel during the day, four members of the western Massachusetts group shared their stories.

  • Karen talked about how she used stuff as a buffer from people – to the point where clothes piled on her bed and table reached so high she no longer used them and basically lived and slept and ate on one sofa … then described how she realized she wanted people in her life not just stuff and how that turned out to be the first step of many small steps back from a hoarding disorder.
  • The oldest of the group at 89, Lil described how losses of her patients to AIDs in the 1980s started a cycle where she started holding onto “things” to the point where others can now no longer enter her home. She has recently stopped adding new objects and now works in small baby steps to give away and clear collected objects.
  • Carol calls herself a collector and confesses her challenges with getting rid of anything that has a personal meaning or represents who she is. “It may look like clutter to you, but I know where everything is!” she said. She has taken the first baby steps of sorting books, rocks, and other items into boxes to leave and boxes to stay.
  • Star moved over and over again as a child, never having a “space”, and responded as an adult with a sense of needing to buy everything in the fear that if she didn’t, she’d never have a chance again. She recently began focusing on a professional goal and baby step-by-baby step removing the items from her collection not related to her core professional focus.


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