Thumbs up for Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee. Nonfiction/psychology.
‘Cause I have these friends…but don’t we all? A unputdownable look into the psychology of hoarding. Told via case histories, it’s sympathetic and in fact heartbreaking, because no one yet knows how to fully help the sufferers of this widespread disorder. Both a horrifying book, in its descriptions of the hoards, and a fascinating one, in its sensitive and wondrous examinations of the fascinating but entirely different way that hoarders process information and memory, and how they make (or don’t make) decisions. Not what you’d expect, and highly recommended to anyone interested in psychology, or anyone struggling with hoarding or a hoarder in their life.
As an experiment, she agreed to let me take something from her home and discard it. She settled on a stuffed toy, a yellow swan, which she’d picked up at a tag sale some years before. It was dirty and ragged but had been around long enough for her to feel connected to it. Although she agreed to let me take it and throw it way, before she let me out the door, she took dozens of photographs: me with the swan, her with the swan, her husband with the swan, my student with the swan. Like Debra (see chapter 5) she was trying to preserve her ownership with pictures. As I reached for the door to leave, she insisted on videotaping my departure and narrating the story of the little yellow swan. I learned that this was standard procedure for her. First she inspected an item to make sure it didn’t contain anything important, then she photographed it, and finally she videotaped it while telling its story. She couldn’t stand to let anything go without such a laborious procedure, designed to avoid the experience of loss. Had she let herself experience the loss, she may have been surprised at how well she could tolerate it, and subsequent attempts to get rid of unneeded things would undoubtedly have been easier.
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