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January 28, 2014


Wait until all of your stuff, your things, have embedded chips and are hooked up to the internet of everything and can communicate with each other and be commandeered remotely by diabolic forces.

In the not too distant future, you'll leave the house after straightening up, taking stuff to the curb, and to Goodwill, and it'll be like The Sorcerer's Apprentice, your teacups, your broomsticks, your personal devices, tablets and IThings, your personal drones, your unused household robots and small appliances will rearrange themselves into chaos and the ones you got rid of will find their way back into your life without you knowing and maybe even find your new residence and move back in.

Your waffle-maker will fiddle with the house thermostat.

Each of your socks will be able to self-activate and instead of the problem of losing one sock and its counterpart orphaned, each pair of socks will have a third sock over for footplay while you're out shopping for more socks.

One sock was a mystery throughout modern history.

In the future, three socks to each pair will haunt.

The behavior is not new so much as newly recognized. In the past few years, I have dealt with first my mother's estate and the my father-in-law's. Both my parents and my wife's were children of the Depression. It is only a mild overstatement to say that "they never threw anything out." It certainly felt that way.

They behaved that way because they grew up when stuff, even critically needed stuff, was hard to come by. So when they had something that was still usable but no longer needed in its current use, they put it aside against the day when they needed one of those again. Both my wife and I found things like a large coffee can (do coffee cans even exist any more?) full of assorted washers. And another full of (unmatched) nuts and bolts. And so on and on and on.

That certainly sounds like what Dr. S calls compulsive hoarding. But in their case it was merely a reasonable reaction to the conditions of their youth, retained long after the conditions of their world had changed.

I suppose the people who actually have a problem (disorder) are those who grew up amid affluence, but still developed the urge/need to keep stuff that they no longer actually use. In my case, I like to think it is a matter of having absorbed the attitude at my parents' knee. But perhaps it is, at least in part, just an unwillingness to put in the time and energy to go thru and triage what I've got.

Store your stuff in a cool, dry place.


Hoarding is definitely not a trait that suddenly cropped up in the 21st century. I had two relatives who were compulsive hoarders, both of whom died in the late 20th century (and one of whom had the "goat paths" that is considered to be a hallmark of the condition).

It is likely that you are right that prior to the proliferation of consumer goods, a fair number of hoarders were people who hoarded money. I am willing to bet that there were a fair number of the type we see today, too, who probably didn't throw away things like worn-out clothing and broken tools. We just don't hear about them because they were poor and thus beneath the notice of the people who kept the records.

I wonder also if miser-hood has become so common we don't even see it any more. I think most people who can save a substantial amount of money - money that might do more good being given away or spent wisely. This is considered responsible and good. Is this new, a product of an era where many have more income than they need for day-to-day necessities? Or is run-of-the-mill saving fundamentally different from being miserly?

Triage on your existing stuff is tough. I take the approach now to be brutal with anything coming into my space -- do I need this item right now? No? Straight into the bin, recycling or charity shop box, then. I culled my existing DVDs repeatedly, losing 10% per time, on the basis that if I do ever want to watch any of the marginal movies again, I can buy them again, and it'll cost a few quid.

The mental weight lost by discarding stuff - specifically the boxed, mass-manufactured stuff that is easy to get back - is remarkable.

Interesting to note in that old illo of Mr. Krook, that he's got a CAT perched on him.

Because that's certainly the modern stereotype crazy-cat-lady/hoarder.

Makes you wonder about viruses transmitted from cats that alters human behavior.

" large coffee can (do coffee cans even exist any more?) full of assorted washers. And another full of (unmatched) nuts and bolts."

Coffee can's do exist, but are increasingly rare. I can't recall the brand at my local store that sells in cans, but I know one does...mostly because I'm constantly surprised.

On the washers and nuts and bolts, maybe useless maybe not. I keep a small supply of random fasteners as well, and they regularly come in handy.

Not the entire collection, of course, but its hard to predict which one specifically you'll need.

A little more relevant to today's world (although becoming less so), I keep a box of computer and A/V cables. Not every one I come across, but one or two of each type.

I learned this after desperately needing an ethernet cable. I went to Best Buy (still open after 9!). Yeah, it was like $20. $20 dollars for something that I had thrown dozens of away!

Since then, my cable collection generally comes in use once every few months. A VGA cable here, an RCA cable to hook up a dusty VCR, etc etc.

Hoarding was high-profile stuff still in the 17th century. The Swedish nobility made very extensive recordings of the estates of the deceased noblemen and women. The recording was extremely punctual: it actually listed, in addition to real property, jewelry and money, all minor items. Even broken buckets and like were recorded and valued.

Nowadays, of course, the common person's record of estate will only state: "other common househokd items, no sell value". The beneficiaries would be really anal-retentive id they listed every piece of scrap separately. For a 17th century noble family, however, composing such list in extreme detail was a point of social competition. Because these records were archived nationally, you could show off by having a few quarto-sized books listing your scrap.

thompson, those are the same things I tend to keep - fastening hardware and electronic cables (must be an engineer thing), though I'd add other electronic materials to the list. The thing is, they don't take up a hell of a lot of space. They're in drawers or small containers in my garage or basement. They don't interfere with my life. Overall, I'm pretty minimialist.

My wife, on the other hand - Oy vey! with all the stuff. Mostly, it revolves around my kids - toys, books, clothes, arts supplies, party supplies. The argument always ends up with me being the guy who hates everything, as opposed to the guy who simply wants a reasonable amount of the stuff around.

If one of my kids digs out a toy once a year and plays with it, it must stay. My argument is that they'd be just as happy with half or a third as many toys, whether or not they like having all of the toys they have to some degree.

When she complains that the house is messy, or that the kids don't somehow manage their toys and books, I just bite my tongue.


I'd agree. There are some other electronic or mechanical things I keep around. I'd say the quirkiest and least justifiable on my part would be stepper motors/DC motors from printers.

I rip them out of printer that fails before tossing it.

In my defense, I use them for various hobbies...but not to the extent that I need a box of them.

Also in my defense, its a fairly small box in a closet.

My wife and I are also pretty minimalist (we don't even own a microwave). I think that it is partly driven my our work situations, which requires us moving regularly. If it wasn't unpacked in the last year...well, we probably don't need it.

Wait, keeping fasteners counts as "hoarding"? Surely you jest! Why, that's just common sense advance planning.

You never can tell when you're going to need that metric M3.5 left-hand thread titanium bolt, but if you do, you'll be really glad you kept it.

Finding it in the midst of the other 50kg of crap? Better not to consider that part of it.

Snarki, if you only have 50 kg of other stuff, you are definitely not a hoarder! Now if you have 50 kg of misc. bolts, or 500 kg of other stuff, they maybe you are sneaking into the range.

Perhaps the disdain that hoarding is now viewed is actually indicative of conspicuous consumption: I'm so rich, I can live in an empty house and when I need something, I can go out and buy it! (or send the help out to do so)

As for the Japanese example, I'd imagine you had that wabi/sabi esthetic esthetic, where you wanted to reduce your attachment to material things, merge with a highly stratified society, so that you got the same effect with the upper class seeking to reduce karmic attachments. This also imho got a boost from sumptuary laws, so that the merchant class, that did have money, had to come up with roundabout ways of displaying their wealth, which again merges into the wabi-sabi esthetic.

I do not feel that comparisons to the hard times of the 30's is quite apt. Standards of living have been generally rising for about 200 years. Absent criminal sanctions, hoarding behavior appears to have grown apace, what with cheaper consumer items and more disposable income encouraging this behavior.

Myself, I have tried several times to clean out the garage, yet still find a way to have 10 ea. #4 Phillips head screwdrivers laying about. And I won't even discuss the toxic waste dump of accumulated partially used wood stains, paints, thinners, caulking, and adhesives.

Clutter. It is the price we pay for progress.

My only hope is a house fire.

quick note, 4 comments got caught up in the spam folder, including a nice comment by a newbie, SeeMoreGlass (ha!) at 12:11. I apologize for typepad's random jihad on comments that shouldn't go into the spam folder.

I'm a keep sake hoarder. When I die my nieces will be stuck with throwing my life in the garbage, a life of diaries, scrapbooks and small treasured objects attached in my mind to people animals and places I loved.

I'm usch a keepsake hoarder that I built, back when I was on a cabinetmaking jag, furniture just for the storage of my treasures. The reassures proliferated of course and spilled out on to the other furniture and out on to the deck.

Oh well, it's my house.

I've been involved in a different kind of hoarding: rescuing over one hundred dogs from a fake rescue. The fake rescue was out in Forks, the Twilight town, now notorious for he failure of the city officials to act on extensive evidence of cruelty and neglect. It was the proliferation of lawsuits and investigations of consumer fraud that forced the handover of dogs to legitimate rescue. The hoarder and his mother have disappeared, taking somewhere between six and with them dogs with them. If you are ever in the position of needing to turn an animal inot a rescue make sure that you visit the rescue--go and look at it yourself. Hoarders have learned that by claiming to be rescues not only can they get lots of animals, but people will throw money at them too.

A post on hoarding that doesn't mention the Collyer brothers?


The hubby and I used to joke that I had a "Collyer mother." Like wj's parents/in-laws, Mom grew up in the Depression. As a result, she never threw anything "perfectly good" away, even if she had no conceivable use for it. I couldn't get over the pile of useless crap she dragged with her when she moved to OR toward the end of her life to be closer to us. At one point, the movers dumped a bundle of red metal tubes on the floor of her new apartment. I couldn't figure out what this represented, so I asked her. She replied, in a "isn't it obvious?" tone of voice: "that's the frame for the wading pool you girls used in Atlanta."

I was two years old when we left Atlanta, and forty-five at the time the movers lugged in that bundle of tubes. I was stunned: I couldn't believe she'd been dragging something so useless and obsolete around for 4 decades - and even paid to move it to another state.

After she died, it took me two weeks to empty her apartment out. She had a two-bedroom place, with one room packed from floor-to-ceiling with boxes. They were filled with all kinds of decrepit stuff. I estimate that 80% - 85% of it went straight into the dumpster.

As for me and the hubby: the less we have, the better we like it. We've relocated 5 times in the last 15 years, and get rid of a little more each time we do so. It's a good feeling.

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