Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee
Houghton Mifflin, April 20, 2010
Fans of the TV show “Hoarders“—have I got a book for you. Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee were the first pair of psychologists to take a serious look at the hoarding phenomenon, something that has been going on for centuries but seems to have intensified in today’s consumer-oriented society. They also happen to know how to make compelling reading out of their case studies. This sensitive, empathetic book gives hoarding a human face and will make you think about your own relationship to the objects in your life.
Here’s a telling exchange between Frost and one of his patients, a middle-aged woman who has filled her home and storage units with copies of every magazine ever printed and recordings of every TV show ever aired:
Debra’s obsessions with preservation and perfection have become her identity. She is “the keeper of magazines.” If she were to stop colecting or to get rid of them, her sense of self would be lost. When I asked her about this, she said, “To stop would make all those years a waste of my life. It would make my existence invalid.” At the same time she realized the cost. “This has ruined me, ” she said. “I’m smart and creative, and I could have been happy. But I’m not anything. I have done nothing. I’m collecting life without living it.”
A trailer and an interview with Randy Frost, both of which include some astonishing visuals, after the jump.