HOARDING. A REALITY CHECK
Whoa! Before you start thinking you have some hideous ‘hoarding’ disorder because you have a garage full of stuff… a little reality check.
Are there more than one million Australians who can be classified as having a serious issue with hoarding? Are one in 20 of us bordering on having an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with our stuff?
I very much doubt it.
That’s the statistic that’s been bandied about over the past few days, making people feel guilty about the stuff they have. I’m prepared to say that’s a wildly inflated number.
Wendy as host of the ABC-TV series, Stuff.
Now, I am no clinical psychologist, however I did spend a year researching this very topic for a four-part documentary I wrote and hosted called Stuff which aired on ABC-TV in 2008.
By now I know quite a bit about objects and that our relationship with them is complex.
There’s a lot of joy to be had in our material possessions, that’s what the series said. Thousands of personal responses to my series convinced me I was on the right track.
Like this one from Georgina: “Thank you, Wendy! By the way, on the topic of childhood possessions, I still sleep with my teddy bear from when I was born and I’m almost 17!”
Truth is, the accumulation of stuff is right there in the old DNA.
Every human society on earth has owned stuff. It may not be the sort of stuff we have now – the plastic busload of Barbie dolls, 17 pairs of black shoes and bottom drawer full of dead mobile phones – but it was stuff nevertheless.
No-one quite knows when it becomes ‘hoarding’ and a mental illness.
Not even clinical psychologist, Dr Christopher Morgan, director of the Melbourne Anxiety Clinic who was a speaker at the “Pathways Through the Maze National Hoarding and Squalor” conference held in Sydney over the past two days.
I was watching his interview on ABC-TV Breakfast this week where he called for more research and funding on what can be, for some, a debilitating condition.
But, I repeat, that is not you or me with too many books and a pile of busted printers and computers in the spare room.
As for those crazy ‘one million Australians have OCD’ statistics? Recently Dr Morgan was reported as saying: “It’s been a largely under-diagnosed and unrecognised condition. There have been estimates… In Australia we’re not sure but it’s certainly over 100,000-200,000.”
That seems to be more like it.
I spent a lot of time unpacking our relationship with our objects in my own research. (And I hate that ‘unpacking’ term, but in this case it’s apt.)
There are many things to think about.
Objects bring us great comfort. Enjoy your stuff. It’s yours. You’ve earned it.
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