Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding & the Meaning of Things

It's interesting that this book review comes after my selection for Poetry Wednesday and the issue of contentment. I think the two subjects are intimately intertwined, but I have yet to see any books, studies, or articles discussing the relationship between contentment and our (America's) continual pursuit of stuff.

There is no question we in America are blessed - or is it a curse? If you’ve ever watched Hoarders on A&E or Peter Walsh on TLC’s Clean Sweep, you know that some Americans are buried under their stuff.

Now Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee delve deeper into hoarders attachment to their stuff in Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. Frost and Steketee keep this from being a dry, textbook look at hoarding by taking readers into the homes and lives of many of their clients. Throughout the book, they give us somewhat of a history of hoarding (who knew it’s been a problem for centuries and not just decades?) and the story of an infamous pair of brothers in New York whose home could only be entered through a third-floor window.

I found this book quite interesting, and a little bit horrifying. I have a small (and now, not-so-secret) fear of becoming as attached to my possessions as their clients. So I continue to clear out my house of things I don’t need anymore.

As I was reading this book, my other reoccurring thought was, “How do I help my children from becoming hoarders?” Fortunately, the authors include a chapter about children who hoard.

Unfortunately, they don’t offer much hope for the recovery of hoarders, especially if they’re forced to clean out their houses. The authors recently started working with children hoarders, so while they’re hopeful children will be more open to therapy and recovery, they don’t have much hard evidence that hypothesis is true.

This is not a self-help book designed to help you get your stuff organized and sorted. This is more of an analysis of people who hoard and their relationship with their things. I picture this book being used for a college-level psych class, although it is very readable for the average person (like me). If you have a hoarder in your family, this book will help you understand them, their attachment to their things.

1 comment:

Kris Livovich said...

Oh, stuff! This looks like a good book, but in the mood I have been, we would be living in an empty house in no time. I really like all your book reviews, Michelle, it gives me some great ideas.