The three stages of hoarding are first acquiring, then cluttering, and finally an inability to discard things we no longer need. The first step has a great deal to do with the value public perceptions put on consumer goods.
The third stage is a process so secretive most hoarders don’t fully understand it themselves. The middle one, cluttering, is a bit of both. Let’s turn over the page and discover more.
Before we begin though, it’s important to understand that hoarding is a spectrum like so many other aspects of personality. Using a different example, we all sit somewhere on the line between introvert and extrovert for example. Neither is right neither is wrong.
The Spectrum of Needs: Social Acquisition
Research Gate says we acquire possessions because of the value they provide us. However they make a distinction between their public and private value, because the latter evolves during the hoarding phase.
The public value is the social esteem, or public approval of owning a particular product. Hence a brand new Mercedes Benz may raise our status in the neighborhood, while a battered old Nissan may have the opposite effect.
Marketers go to great lengths to attach social value in their advertisements. It’s a trick they play on our minds: A trick that lures us into buying the least nutritious food because so-and-so endorses it.
Perhaps this is why we end up acquiring things we later hoard because we have no use for them? Let’s find out more, this time about cluttering.
The Spectrum of Needs: Cluttering
Francois Rabelais was a famous Renaissance scholar who delighted in turning things on their heads. Sometime in the 16th Century he said “Nature abhors a vacuum”. If we have a clear mantelpiece in the lounge, we clutter it with things and we find it strangely difficult to tidy up later. The authoritative journal of the US National Library of Medicine has the following to say about this.
De-cluttering is not a natural thing in the absence of pressure. Children should be taught to de-clutter or else they may need therapeutic training in later life. Clutter is not an obsession and it can be untaught. However hoarding is a different matter.
The Spectrum of Needs: Obsessive Hoarding
People who clutter do so out of habit. However hoarding is driven by an obsessive impulse to give nothing away. Scientists advance two different reasons why a clutterer becomes a hoarder.
In the first instance they may have a physical brain disorder following injury. Others may however develop the symptoms after an emotional disorder leading to deep depression. There is no real hope of solving this until we can fix the causes. The best that medicine can offer is various serotonergic antidepressants.
Psychologists believe hoarders hoard, because this takes the pressure off elsewhere by satisfying an impulse. Perhaps we should leave them alone unless this behaviour risks their health and safety, or that of another person. Most times the behaviour is not antisocial and the neighbours have no idea what is happening next door.
Landlords should however have the right to intrude within reason if their property is at risk, or the benefits of other tenants are impaired.