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The Fine Line Between Having Stuff, And Hoarding

Illustration for article titled The Fine Line Between Having Stuff, And Hoarding

A 76-year-old-woman and 79-year-old man from Chicago who'd been missing for three weeks were found. At home. Buried alive in under heaps of crap. A police spokesman described the couple as "hoarders." Ever worry it could be you?

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Sometimes, it's just so hard to throw things away. Once when my mother called me a pack rat, I explained that I was actually an archivist. Fulfilling the desire to acquire is an American past-time; our TVs, magazines and roads are filled with commercials, ads and billboards. We're a consumer culture, yet we love to gawk when it goes too far: Hence the shows, from Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous to Hoarders, Clean House and Hoarding: Buried Alive.

But just because you save old letters, pictures, magazines and a drawer of T-shirts you haven't touched in 2 years doesn't mean you're on your way to being crushed by your possessions. There's having a floordrobe, and then there's this:

Fire crews had to don special haz-chem protective clothing before breaking down the door of the flat on Monday night.

They were hit with the unbelievable smell, piles of rotting food waste, and trash.

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A commenter on this Daily Mail article suggests that the couple were suffering from Diogenes syndrome, which seems quite possible, but the crux of the matter is this: In a society riddled with disposable clothing, furniture and electronics — where we value those who have the newest/latest/best/most things — don't we all relate to those who take it to extremes?

Buried Alive Under Mounds Of Rubbish: Elderly U.S. Couple Missing For Three Weeks Found Safe By Horrified Firemen [Daily Mail]

Earlier: Do You Own Your Stuff Or Does Your Stuff Own You?

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DISCUSSION

Thanks for this post. I have worried it could be me, though I don't watch any of those shows (I just hear people talk about them a lot in class); but I'm nowhere near the level of my boyfriend having to wear "special haz-chem protective clothing" when he comes in. I don't leave rotting food or trash out or anything. But my problem, I've concluded after many years, is that there's something inside me that prefers my surroundings to be a little messy. Like, things put where society would dictate they shouldn't be: scrapbooking project in the floor of the living room, coat hung on the exercise bike, shoes just...various places. I have a great deal of shame about the mess and freak out when, say, exterminators come in and judge me for it, but every time I clean it up to look normal I feel...weird, somehow. Anyone else have this problem?