What do hoarders have in common? Why, too many things to list!

I have a close friend that has been dealing with a very ill parent for almost 3 months. As she has been talking with doctors, learning about her parent’s illness, etc., she has also been cleaning her parents’ house. She told me the other day that as she and her aunt and uncle were sorting through the laundry room and kitchen that her uncle said, “We should call American Pickers!” She said that she replied, “As long as you don’t say, “We should call “Hoarders.””

I grew up surrounded by hoarders, or at least by people who were on some part of the hoarding continuum. Usually, they resided toward the “keep everything” end of that continuum. I have noticed a commonality between the people who I know that tend or tended to hoard — they lived during the Great Depression.

Matt said that his mom was a hoarder, but she tended to hoard food more than anything. She used to describe to him how she often went hungry during the Great Depression. And she (like Scarlett O’Hara) vowed not be hungry again. My mamaw and papaw tended to hoard, but I don’t remember it being food as much as just “stuff”. My mama has said that she doesn’t ever remember going hungry growing up, though a meal may have consisted of potatoes cooked two different ways and three different kinds of beans. So, maybe what each person hoarded was based on individual experience.

I also grew up hearing certain phrases over and over from my hoarding friends and family. (Ok, I don’t know that any of them were ever officially diagnosed as hoarders, but if looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.) As things were put onto shelves, or into drawers, or into sheds, they would say, “We could probably fix this.” Or “Someone might be able to use this.” That last statement was a much used one. Because one thing that I did learn about Depression-created hoarding — it was a community-based practice. You kept a lot of stuff because your neighbors and family might need something that you had — it would have been selfish to throw something away.

Matt's Uncle's Doorbell -- This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt’s Uncle’s Doorbell — This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt and I were talking about hoarding this morning over breakfast and about whether the Great Recession that we have been in (is it over?) the last several years will jump-start another round of hoarding in people. I think that a certain generation of people born in the 80s and later have definitely grown up in a disposable mentality — everything can be thrown away and replaced, much different from the mentality of my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Will the recent years of job loss and unemployment and falling consumer confidence and global recession create a compulsive need to keep stuff?

Matt and I don’t hoard — instead we just don’t buy. When we married and merged two fully formed households, it took months to donate, sell, recycle and throw away the excess to create just one household. So, now we think about everything that we bring into the house. And we don’t hang on to stuff that doesn’t work, or that we don’t use, or that doesn’t fit, etc. We try to find another home for it.

And maybe that is the new mentality. Limit what comes in to begin with, but don’t hang on to what you don’t need.

3 thoughts on “What do hoarders have in common? Why, too many things to list!

  1. We tend to be like you guys, very careful about what we buy (except with books…). But we have friends who are hoarders in the clinically-diagnosed sense. I always thought it a form of hoarding when people buy things they clearly don’t need for the sole reason that “it’s a bargain” or “two for one”. If you didn’t even want one, then why two?

    • Matt calls that the “hippopotamus thermometer” syndrome….buying an hippopotamus thermometer because you find one on sale even though you don’t have a sick hippopotamus (or even an hippopotamus, period). We know a lot of people that have a lot of thermometers.

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