I’m reading the Q&A on Randy Frost and Gail Steketee’s recent book, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things (see amazon.com), and the following explains perfectly my own struggle with stuff.
Q: What factors contribute to the development of hoarding?
A: People who hoard often have deficits in the way they process information. For example, they are often highly distractible and show symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These symptoms make is [sic] difficult for them to concentrate on a task without being diverted by other things.
Most of us live our lives categorically. We put our possessions into categories and use those organizing systems to store and retrieve them easily. But categorization is difficult for people who hoard. Their lives seem to be organized visually and spatially. The electricity bill might go on the five-foot-high pile of papers in the living room, to keep it in sight as a reminder to pay the bill. Hoarders try to keep life organized by remembering where that bill is located. When they need to find it, they search their memory for the place it was last seen. Instead of relying on a system of categories, where one only has to remember where the entire group of objects is located, each object seems to have its own category. This makes finding things very difficult once a critical mass of possessions has been accumulated.
How many times have I started to sort only to get distracted by the first object I found? And then I spatially move around to the next object, and the next, rearranging without really decluttering. Fortunately for me and my loved ones, I’ve been able to learn a more efficient system over the years. Above all, I value efficiency. But I also wonder if part of the help has come in the form of electronic storage. All of those papers are now somewhere stored and shuffled about on my hard drive.
What initially prompted me to think about hoarding and identity was not my realization of my own problems. Rather, I was playing games on Facebook and started seeing more and more virtual animal hoarders. My own zoos, farms or whathaveyous tend to be organized but cluttered (quelle surprise!), but recently I cut out the zoo completely and have started selling off the cattle in Farmville. I play for the social aspect of it, but there is a huge part of these games that has to be tied into the compulsion to collect. For every holiday there is a new goal of collecting as many somethings as you can in order to get something else that is virtually really cool. I don’t remember what I’m saving my virtual Valentines for … if it’s a pink cow or the Eiffel Tower. I don’t have room for either one, anyway.
a random Farmville hoarder
Digital hoarding is easily hidden. As I posted a few days ago, all of my paper articles are now going into digital format and getting catalogued into my iPad. I’m not as bad as Jenna Wortham’s account in “True Confessions of a Digital Hoarder,” but my inbox that ties together 4 email accounts does currently have 2418 messages with 80 of those marked unread. This does not include the long list of folders in which I have filed important messages. For Christmas I got an external hard drive … let the hoarding of files continue.
This type of hoarding is relatively unseen and physically shouldn’t interfere with relationships and living well. As far as my computer is concerned, my search functions combined with my filing system work well enough that I can quickly find what I need to do my work. At what point, though, could digital hoarding become a hindrance to a satisfying life? When I’m so compelled to snatch up those online animals that need to be adopted that I can’t do other daily tasks? When I can no longer find that important email inviting me to rule the world? What does digital hoarding mean to you?
Posted in hoarding identity, hoarding in the profession
Tagged adopt, animal, delete, digital hoarding, digitize, Facebook, Farmville, hard drive, hoard, iPad, library, living well, sell