Among the numerous bad television shows I watch at night in search of the perfect somniferous effect is an occasional episode of Bravo’s Bethenny Ever After. As much as I realize it’s a dumb reality show, I like Bethenny. She’s honest, says what she thinks, is a bit quirky and tough but vulnerable. She also has the occasional snippet of insight that sticks with me. A couple of weeks ago she was telling her husband she doesn’t want to be the “crazy one” in the relationship. Just because he had a so-called “normal” family life doesn’t mean that he is normal or that her detachment from (his) family is abnormal.
In the episode that was on late last night, Bethenny said her OCD was kicking into high gear and she was feeling stressed about all the food her nanny haphazardly left in the refrigerator. At the same time, she declared her love of her ten or more bottles of juice on the top shelf of the fridge. While I’m skeptical of Bethenny’s understanding of OCD, she had a few insights that have stuck with me. She recognized that she was the one allowing her home to become this way and was careful not to blame anyone else’s carelessness for the clutter and stress. Then when she began her lingerie purge in her closet, she said (slightly paraphrased from memory), “I don’t understand hoarders. For me it’s about control.”
Bethenny was purging her closet to have control over her life – exerting control over her stuff, yet I have always understood that hoarders feel the same way. It’s true that the stuff can take over life and relationships, but stuff is the thing that can be (or is perceived to be) controlled. Those objects invited into the home, however piled up they become, are objects of possession that we have chosen to keep or save. Unlike people, the stuff can’t just get up and walk out on you (unless, of course, the cockroaches take over).
This is really a think-piece… but in the end, perhaps, one purges for the same reason another hoards. It’s all about having control of one’s environment even when it is dangerously out of control. Hoarding or purging are both ways of protecting self. One erases and removes to create space or distance, the other collects and crams and piles to tightly tuck themselves in.