Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Hoarding.

Hoarder Car Edit Resized
A station wagon is packed and parked outside 2nd Avenue Thrift.

In the last few years, the term “hoarding” has been a booming part of vernacular with regard to mental disorder. This is due in large part to the  look into those affected through TV shows such as Clean House, Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. But in the grand traditions of saving, collecting, thrift and clearance shopping, a grave situation much like those horrifying hoards on TV is not entirely uncommon.

In a struggling economy where bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment are at an all-time high, an eye for frugality and a thrifty resourcefulness are typically positive attributes to possess.

However, I also have certain qualifiers… a test, if you will. If tBut when it comes to the seemingly endless variety of items found at the thrift store, estate sale or flea market, how does the average secondhand shopper know what limits to set?  And just how much stuff is too much? 
It’s a quantitative term, signifying a spatial reality, the words “too much.” But at what specific number is the border between collection and hoard crossed? 5…25…50?

As for me, I have varied interests in music, movies, books, hobbies and decor. And this hunger is in part, satiated by the diversity thrifting brings to the table.

As a diehard thrifter and vintage enthusiast, I can find several reasons justifying an impulsive secondhand purchase. For instance:

  • It’s vintage. It’s kitsch. It’s completely bizarre.
  • When and where will I ever come across something like it again?
  • It’s dirt cheap.
he following criteria isn’t met, I cannot in good conscience make the purchase.

  • Does the item serve a purpose? And will it likely be used for that purpose regularly?
  • Do I have a space that could be reserved for the item without difficulty?
  • Is the item appealing beyond the low price? Or is it a “must-have” just because it’s a can-have for the low price?
Of course there will be exceptions to these personal shopping habits. After all, every shopper begins with good intentions: finding affordable goods that serve a purpose.

And this is exactly why thrift stores serve as a potential danger for the shoppers who just don’t know when enough is enough. The goods are cheap and potentially useful, when kept contained to a reasonable amount. But for the compulsive shoppers who buy, buy, buy without cleaning and purging unused items already in the home, it’s a virtual black hole.

This is especially true if he or she identifies as a crafter. Crafters, artists and creatively inclined folks see the world a bit differently. Items at the thrift store don’t just have a purpose…they have a desirable aesthetic and potential re-purpose.

And I am all for breathing new life into tired items and for healthy creative expression. But when there’s too much stuff and not enough space, the up-cycling or re-purposing of those goods is a task never completed.

This seems to be the cycle of a hoarder who has thrifted too much.

If you haven’t yet subjected yourself to the scares of excess acquiring and saving through the safe distance of the television,  I suggest that you do (if nothing for the visual shock).

After witnessing floor-to-ceiling piles, bags, boxes and crates of “treasures” as they are often referred to by the subjects of Hoarding: Buried Alive, my stomach drops. My eyes nervously dart around the room, scanning the amount, size and space of my own possessions for early signs of hoarding.

I have the sudden urge to clean.

And since it’s that time of the year for what must be universally known as Spring Cleaning, the issue of hoarding cannot be discussed at a better time.

Today I tore apart the garage, cleaning and sorting. Tomorrow I’ll be working on the bedroom and upstairs hall closet.

So I guess I answered my own question. Perhaps the best weapon in the battle against hoarding is prevention.

What are your thoughts on hoarding as a mental disorder?

Do you worry about hoarding tendencies?

What rules or limits do you set to monitor your shopping?


Unknown said...

Hoarding is very much a mental disorder. Watch enough of those shows and you'll see it very clearly. What you suggest is the healthy alternative (spring cleaning) they can't do the healthy alternative, which gets them in that position in the first place. I guess if I worried about hoarding, I'd ask if it is impossible for me to get rid of an item, ANY item. If the answer is no, then you need to clean.:) That's the defining, difference.

monogirl said...

I do worry about my hoarding tendencies, especially since I have family members with hoarding issues and I have OCD issues as well. My curent rules are I will only buy stuff of really great quality and I have a one thing in, one thing out rule. Sometimes out means reselling and sometimes it means donating, but I manage to have about 4 big purges a year. I feel another one coming on at the end of May when I have a couple weeks off.

Jackie Jardine said...

@ Dhamma: I think I'm addicted to those shows. It's a train wreck that I just can't look away from. I always am able to get rid of something in donations, trash, giving it to friends. So I guess, I'm in the clear...for now.

@Monogirl: It could be be especially worrisome when there's a family history of disorder, I'd imagine. God knows my family has some issues as well. I like your idea of one-in and one-out when it comes to monitoring your item flow.

Thanks for the comments. Next post I hope to have some helpful advice for cleaning and purging, which is a task I'm working on right now!

Vanessa said...

I've gotten better with my thrift store and yard sale impulse purchases. The hardest one to overcome is that nagging voice that says, "It's a unique item- where will you find another like this, you can't leave it behind!" I ignore the voice and only purchase what I have space for at home or could really resell. I dumpster dive very infrequently or the house would overflow!

Speaking of which, need to get all the antiques into my shop and out of my house or I'm not allowed to thrift this weekend! It's all about limits!

Jackie Jardine said...

I hear that little voice too, Van! "Buy me. I'm cheap and unique. You'll never see me anywhere else." It's tough, but we'd be in big trouble without limits.

I'm trying to organize a neighborhood yard sale, a great big community event to get rid of some stuff and make a few bucks. So far they don't "have anything to get rid of." I kind of doubt this to be true. Who doesn't have any junk!?

Lynda said...

Hi. I'm your newest Follower. This post hit home for me. I am a crafter and thrifter and hopefully I will start selling my finds soon. Funny that I read this post today after sneaking away at lunch to check out the Goodwill. I did find a vintage, metal doll's bed that I had to have. Thanks for the interesting blog post.

Jackie Jardine said...

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog, Lynda. I think being a creative, resourceful person sometimes has its burdens when it comes to secondhand shopping. I think as long as we are honest with ourselves when it comes to our budget, our spatial reality at home and some good logic, we'll be okay. Soon I'll be posting some advice on cleaning and purging. And by the way, thanks for being the 50th follower. Now we can start giving away freebie gifts to a lucky follower!

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank goodness, it's not just me.

Anytime I need to declutter all I have to do is turn on Hoarders and stuff leaves the building.

While I agree it's a mental disorder I also believe by virtue of what we do we are one tragedy away from turning the corner into Hoarderville.

Jackie Jardine said...

I hear that. And it seems every episode...thrift shopping is mentioned. Yikes! Sometimes I'll tidy up and organize....while I'm watching Hoarders, ha ha.

<3Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting!