Wednesday, January 19, 2011



Hoarding means to accumulate; to store; to gather and keep for future use. Everyone does this to some degree. For instance I buy toilet tissue so that I can always have at least a week's worth of rolls on hand. As they decrease, I buy more so that my supply stays fairly static. We acquire, accumulate, inventory and store things all the time. But hoarders are people who become obsessive about keeping things. They keep things until they no longer have space to live, cook a meal, or pay their bills. They live in squalor, and they risk falling or causing a fire. A common feature of hoarders are vast piles of paper - newspapers, magazines, books, mail, notes, bags, boxes, and lists. Some hoarders accumulate old clothes, rotting food, and stray animals. They are afraid to discard anything that might be useful some day. Simply cleaning out the clutter does not solve the problem. The hoarder will only become intensely anxious and start to accumulate junk again. This obsessive compulsive disorder can make them reclusive, suspicious, socially isolated. They don't want others to see their homes either out of embarrassment or being afraid that others will steal their things. Any effort to help them by shoveling it out and cleaning it up is seen by them as a loss of control and makes them afraid and/or angry. Trying to motivate them to declutter, discard and throw away is met with resistance. They simply are not capable of making the decisions of what to keep and what to discard.

This problem is a growing problem because the population is growing and disposable income is higher.

Some people may not hoard trash and newspapers but they "collect" things until it becomes a problem. Such as collecting dolls, movie memorabilia, etc. It becomes a hoarding problem when they are spending money on their collections to the detriment of themselves or their family and they fall deeply in debt. It becomes hoarding when their collection is taking up all the living space. It becomes hoarding when their collection becomes too much to keep clean and take care of. It becomes hoarding when they can't clean their house because their collection.

I remember when we were looking at houses we went to see a house that was full of dolls. Every tabletop, countertop, couch, chair, the floor, down the hall, etc. It was eery seeing all those doll eyes. The poor lady had one easy chair and a little pathway from the door to the chair and down the hall to the bathroom and bedroom. Otherwise it was dolls. You could see that she had sat in that chair watching TV with a TV tray beside the chair and slept in the bed. That was all she could use of her home because the rest was full of dolls. Now she is dead and noone wants those dolls and her family was going to have a terrible time cleaning it out and getting rid of them, plus the amount of money she had wasted on those silly dolls. It was impossible for her to clean around all those dolls so the house was nasty.

My sister tried to help a little old lady who had become a collector of anything of value. She had paid for storing antique furniture, old clothes, collectibles, her house was full, she owned property all over town and investments in banks all over town. Unfortunately the stuff in paid storage was about ruined due to being stored in places that didn't have central heat and air and mildew and the extreme temperatures destroyed the stuff and, yet, she still wouldn't get rid of it. She'd rather pay the storage. Although her properties were in condemned condition and couldn't be rented out, she would not sell them or at least get anything done to bring the buildings up to a condition where she could rent them. She had a vacation cabin in the mountains that stayed empty and she could no longer go up there but she didn't want to sell it. She was in her 80's and had fallen in her shack of a house and broken her hip but she wouldn't consolidate and either buy a newer place or move to assisted living apartment. So in the end, she was left in her mess. She had plenty of money and assets that could have been sold but she'd rather live in substandard housing and not divest her "stuff" because she was simply another kind of hoarder. She was so suspicious and paranoid that she would be taken advantage of, or stolen from, and would lose control over her stuff. As far as I know she still lives in her awful, tiny house and her stuff is still rotting around her and she still doesn't even know where all her liquid assets are because she resisted getting help. Totally isolated, old, disabled, alone and yet happy in her mouldering ruins. So sad.

Going to yard sales, I've come across some terrible homes. Nice houses but terrible homes!  No matter  how big or nice of a house, a hoarder can ruin it.  Poor housekeeping and laziness can ruin it.  I've seen some nice mansions in great neighborhoods but it's really a waste of the owner's money. One house I saw looked like the photos above where there is only a tiny pathway through the trash and junk. I went to an estate sale one weekend where a woman once had fabulous and expensive things and yet she lived in a house that was built in the 1700's. Some time in the early part of the century they had turned a closet into a bathroom and the back porch into a tiny kitchen. Nothing had been done to that house since then. It was filthy. Like something out of a movie! This poor woman had lived in squalor despite having all those really nice things...crystal, real silk embroidered kimonos (now in shreds), silver, china, furniture (the upholstered pieces were in tatters), etc. It had not been painted, cleaned, updated in at least 50 years. The walls were grimy, the windows opaque with grime, grease all over the kitchen walls, the custom made drapes were filthy, etc. It looked like it had been done as nice as they could do it in, maybe the 1930's and never touched again. So sad.

I'm a big reader and I never got enough books as a child. We went to the library to get books but we couldn't afford to buy books. When I got older and had some discretionary income I began buying books. Very few do I pay full price for. Most of the time I get them on sale or at yard sales, thrift stores, book sales. I don't know why I collected books. Once they are read, you aren't going to read them again. Not when there are thousands of new books coming out every year. I could get anything I want at the library for free and yet I bought and stored books. This photo is NOT my book collection. But I did have books throughout the house and had book cases in my attic stuffed full of books. I've always wanted a big library with floor to ceiling book shelves. When we moved I had boxes and boxes of heavy books to move and store. My Mom and Dad hoard books and magazines too.

These are NOT my books but this picture makes me salivate! But I decided since I didn't have a room for a "library" then I needed to do something. I made up my mind that I would collect ebooks on my website and get rid of the real books in my attic. I picked a time when it wasn't too hot or too cold in the attic. I assembled my boxes. Then I began going through the book cases and tossing. I only kept the books that would be hard to replace because they probably aren't in ebook format. Everything else, I tossed. It took me a few days to fill the boxes and take them down to the porch. Then my husband would load them into the back of the truck. I had the back of my truck slam full of books and donated them to the library for their book sales. Now I collect ebooks (so far I haven't paid for a single book, they were all free) and use the library instead of buying books, even when they are bargains at yard sales and thrift stores. I carefully thought about it, made my plans and worked the plan until it was done.

The Most Famous Hoarders

The Collyer brothers were sons of Herman Livingston Collyer (1857–1923), a Manhattan gynecologist, and Susie Gage Frost (1856–1929); the Collyer family traced its roots to the time of the Mayflower in the 17th century. Homer and Langly Collyer were their sons. They had a sister, Susan, who died as an infant in 1880. The family lived in a three-story townhouse at 2078 Fifth Avenue at the corner of 128th Street in Harlem, NY. Both men were well educated and graduated from Columbia University. Homer's degree was in engineering and he was an adept pianist. Langly's degree was in law and he was an admiralty lawyer. He also tinkered with inventions. Dr. Herman Collyer abandoned his family in 1909 and they divorced. The two brothers, still in their twenties, continued living in the house with their mother. When Herman died in 1923, his wife inherited all of his furniture, medical equipment and books and moved them to the Harlem house. Their mother died in 1929 and the brothers inherited everything. But over the previous fifteen years or so, Harlem had changed drastically. Harlem virtually all black by the 1920s. It was a crime infested neighborhood. By this time the Collyer brothers, though only in their forties, had long since ensconced themselves in their townhouse and would not move. They became known in their neighborhood as two eccentric old men. They were burgled and boys would throw rocks through their windows.

As the brothers' fears increased, so did their eccentricity. They boarded up the windows, and Langley set about using his engineering skills to set up booby traps. Their gas, telephone, electricity and water having been turned off because of their failure to pay the bills, the brothers took to warming the large house using only a small kerosene heater. For a while, Langley attempted to generate his own energy by means of a car engine. Langley began to wander outside at night; he fetched their water from a post in a park four blocks to the south. By 1933, Homer, who was already completely crippled by arthritis, went blind. Langly took care of him.

In 1942 the bank tried to foreclose on their $6,700 mortgage on their home for non-payment. Langly had a tirade and the police were called in and Langly had to write a check for the money to pay off their mortgage. He withdrew again and only went out at night.

On March 21, 1947 the police got a call with the tip that there was a dead man in the Collyer house. The police went to the house but could not get inside because of all the trash stacked up over the doors and windows and the booby traps. Finally a policeman was able to use a ladder and go through an upper story window. Once inside, he crawled through the trash for 2 hours before he found the body of Homer Collyer. He had only been dead about 10 hours and had died of malnutrition, dehydration and cardiac arrest. But where was Langly Collyer? After removing 84 tons of rubbish and 18 days later, they finally found Langly Collyer's body just 10 feet from Homer's body. He had been crawling through his makeshift tunnel in the collected debris with food and drink for Homer, when his tunnel collapsed on top of him crushing him. His body was eaten by rats. Homer, who was paralyzed and couldn't get out, had slowly starved to death. Workers removed a total of 103 tons of trash from the house. What was salvageable was sold for a value of $2,000. Other valuable personal items were valued at $20,000. They found 34 savings account passbooks with a total of $3,007.18. In total, their estate was valued at $90,000. The house had to be torn down as a fire hazard.

Photos from a Google search on "hoarding"

No comments:

Post a Comment