At what point does a collection become hoarding? All of us at one time or another had collections whether of stamps, books or plates.

“People collect and save objects as a hobby in virtually all cultures,” the authors point out.

There are three major themes that were discovered by Lita Furby, a pioneer researcher in the field of ownership and possessions. She pointed out that when we have possessions we get a feeling of power. They also, she pointed out, can offer us a sense of security. Lastly, they can give us a sense of self.

But the authors of “Stuff” go a step further and point out it can also become a psychological problem. Where the point is reached where collecting becomes hoarding is handled in this study.

The book starts out with a story of the Collyer Mansion where on March 21, 1947 at 10 a.m. the police arrived at the brownstone mansion in Harlem. They had a crew help them using crowbars and axes to get through the front door. They then forced open an iron grille door to the basement. “The door was full of a wall of newspapers, tightly wrapped in small packages and too thick to push through.” They found Homer Collyer, 65, dead. They could only get to him as they walked through a labyrinth of tunnels, some with traps. His body was sitting in a chair with his hands on his knees.

Much later they located his brother buried in trash. He had tripped over one of the traps and suffocated.

Most hoarding is not that extreme. But hoarding is hoarding. You may know someone who hoards. That someone may even be you.

Hoarding is not something we tend to notice until it becomes extreme. The authors write, “Hoarders tend to be ashamed of their disorder and unwelcoming to those who would interfere with their activates.”

Both authors, Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, are experts on the subject of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Frost teaches at Smith College and Steketee is the professor and dean of the School of Social Work at Boston University.

What we need to ask ourselves is: Just when does collecting become hoarding? Does it really matter how much stuff a person owns as long as it doesn’t interfere with his or her health or happiness or even that of others? This study will help you answer that question.

One response a person can have to reading this book is to clean out their house and other areas of stuff that isn’t needed such as bills that are already paid and acknowledged. It is a start in the right direction.

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