Hoarding is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects. But compulsive hoarding is more than just the physical accumulation and is known to have health risks as well. While the term ‘fashion hoarding’ seems like a trend, the habit of hoarding and clutter is a much more serious subject that should be treated with a great deal of sensitivity.
While showcase documentary series are definite eye-openers to show the world how these people refrain from asking for help and continue to live in unlivable conditions, it’s comforting to know that there’s help for everyone. I always associated to accumulating things with hoarding. I am guilty of throwing the word ‘hoard’ casually around whenever I abstain from any sort of Spring wardrobe cleaning. In my head, if you had more than 7 pairs of jeans, 5 scarves and 3 trench coats, you were a hoarder. My sense of realism and understanding when it came to hoarding was crushed when I watched one such popular documentary series myself. I was shocked to realise that hoarding tendencies were linked to OCD behavioral tendencies which is essentially a compulsion to hoard and keep things, in fear of letting go, because the person is terrified they may lose a memory, or part of themselves if they throw anything away.
It was rather real and devastating to see that people lived in cluttered chaos, converting their bathrooms, refrigerators, showers and gardens to places that guarded their biggest addictions- material possessions. It could be anything from several year-old tin cans, vinyl records, hangers, clothes and a mixture of it all. These people are embarrassed to let their closest friends and family into their homes due to the guilt. In fact they often live in solitude because they don’t want anyone to see them living the way they do. Hoarders need to wade their way through in order to go from one room to the other or sometimes to even open the front door.
Even when clinical help is offered to them from experienced sources they find it immensely hard to let go of things that are rusted and have been lying in the exact same spot for years together. They are in denial about their problem or cannot fathom the fact that they need to seek professional help in order to organize and win back their life. It’s a struggle to watch them fight it and gradually come to terms with their situation with the help of their loved ones. It’s years of emotional baggage that hasn’t been dealt with which has led them to accumulate so many material things. Hoarders literally build a wall of stuff around them to block out their emotional issues.
We often associate sadness with those who have nothing and when we encounter people who are less fortunate than ourselves it reinforces gratitude for all that we have. The homeless person sitting on piles of newspaper under his donated sleeping bag wearing a patched up coat to protect himself from the cold weather suffering as much as the one living in extraordinary abundance next to his pile of newspapers. Hoarding, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is perhaps just as poignant to witness. The difference being homelessness is a problem literally presented to us on every other city street, whereas hoarders are kept hidden behind closed doors, shielded from the world behind stacks of clutter. Their inability to take care of themselves, people and pets that they are responsible for and the entire situation itself makes this condition a disturbing one as well as perhaps a physical handicap and even a form of subconscious self harm. And all of it is caused by one seemingly quite ridiculous thing – an inability to throw anything out!
Words by Shweta Ganesh
Photography by Loo Loo Rose