Television programs and popular media are forever trotting out one-size-fits-all popular misconceptions about hoarding. If we had £100 for every ‘miracle cure’ someone suggested, we might be able to cruise the Mediterranean Sea from Malaga to Beirut.
We decided to out some of these misconceptions, and to air the actual truth. That’s because we consider it demeaning to push round people into square holes, and to pretend they could stop hoarding if they made a few simple changes.
Deprivation is the First of the Popular Misconceptions About Hoarding
‘Poor old so-and-so’ people used to say. ‘They went through the great depression when they had nothing and they can’t help themselves’. Nowadays these linear thinkers speak about hoarders having grown up poor. That’s absolute spam because many people in that peer group have never hoarded
There are two important fundamentals here, as we dig deeper into popular misconceptions about hoarding.
# ADAPTIVE HOARDING is where people keep things because they know from their personal history they will come in useful someday. They are being efficient and do not want to waste.
# MALADAPTIVE OR COMPULSIVE HOARDING occurs when there is no intent to use the items in future according to Psychology Today. There are many reasons for this, and complicating factors that make stopping hoarding even harder.
Significant Loss is the Second Popular Misconception About Hoarding
The second misunderstanding is assuming people hoard because they experienced a serious loss in the past. Once again, while this may be true of some, it certainly does not apply to every hoarder.
Moreover, many people who have experienced serious losses, including bankruptcies never turned to hoarding. However, Psychology today believes a series of small losses may eventually put the victim on the ‘path to hoarding’.
They speak of a phase where the person begins to gradually build up an accumulation. If they don’t ‘process these items’ – and there is a repetition – then their hoard gradually grows.
This trend associates with coping strategies of denial, distraction and avoidance. ‘If a person engages in these strategies long enough, the accumulation can feel insurmountable and become overwhelming,’ they say. This is a critical moment for reaching out for help.
Situational Pressure and Misconceptions about Hoarding
The third of the popular misconceptions about hoarding involves something happening to us that causes us to hoard, no matter our personal preferences. The two main possibilities are:
# AGING WITH MOBILITY ISSUES: A person becomes old or less physically able to look after themselves including putting out items for recycling. They are scared of asking for help, because they fear a social worker may decide they need to move into care.
# INHERITING THE POSSESSIONS OF A LOVED ONE: Discarding the keepsakes of a dearly departed loved one can be extremely painful if other family members can’t help. Sometimes there may be a sense of being a custodian of an important past.
In both cases it’s possible the items may form a hoard. However, in this case it may be possible to reverse the hoarding. Many of us have done this in the past.
Therefore, we conclude that none of the three popular misconceptions about hoarding are absolutely true. However, each is an important piece in the puzzle of hoarding and why we do it. More in the next post.