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The Boston Globe Magazine recently featured an excellent story by Scott Helman about the reality of living with hoarding disorder.

ALMOST ALWAYS, the piles tell a story. One man collected thousands of stuffed animals. His menagerie, waist-high in places, covered his bedroom. He’d missed out on a true childhood, he explained. The animals offered a chance to reclaim it. Walking into that room, he could be a boy again.

Another man saved many thousands of church bulletins, family photographs, and obituaries of schoolmates. Earlier in life, he’d planned to enter the priesthood. He’d gone to seminary, fulfilling his family’s wishes. But after realizing he was gay, he left the church, unable to reconcile his heart and vocation. His accumulating mementos became a tether to that life unlived, emblems of a complex relationship with his faith.

A third man installed 10-foot-tall bookcases of cinder blocks and plywood, neatly stacked with hundreds of books organized by subject and author. He suffered from schizophrenia but believed that, if not for his condition, he’d be at Harvard or MIT. To him, the massive library communicated the depth of his intellect. Take the books away and he was just another guy with mental illness.

For these three Boston-area hoarders — and thousands like them in and around the city — their clutter isn’t really clutter at all. The items they collect often assume a magical quality, imbued with meaning and memory. Where others see dangerous, even revolting heaps of junk, hoarders find identity and belonging. Stuff is an extension of the body. Stuff doesn’t let them down like people do. Stuff allows them control in a world that wobbles beyond their drawn curtains.

Read the full story on the Boston Globe website here.

7 Comments

  • I do not know too much about hoarding, except on the TV show, “Buried Alive”
    I am engaged to a hoarder; who has literally taken over my garage & started to place his “Stuff” in my front formal
    Music room.

    He knows that he has an issue, & hope he gets into counseling over this!

    I happen to be a RN; & did not know it is considered a mental illness!
    This may not have any correlation, but his brother suffers from a mental illness.
    Thank you for the article!

    Reply
  • Lori Elsbury

    I have a sister who is a hoarder. She has a large home (4 car garage full ) that is full of stuff. She has built another house (smaller ranch) but has started already with bringing things in. Her husband passed away 6 years ago but this has been going on for over 20 years. Of course she won’t let family help. What to do?

    Reply
  • Wendy

    Unfortunately help is not in every area. I live near Albany, NY and there is No One in this,area that deals with hoarding. Counselors also, especially as far as CBT.. When i would call them it was almost like being contagious. I believe it is bc it’s not curable. 🙁 good luck

    Reply
    • Alex Bahrawy, IOCDF Community Support Specialist

      Hello Wendy,

      You can search for professionals who treat hoarding by using the Resource Directory on the main page of our Hoarding Site. The Resource Directory is located right under where it says “Find Help”: https://hoarding.iocdf.org/

      The search radius begins at 25 miles, but can be expanded out to 200 miles for more results. If you’re unable to find anything in the immediate area, you can switch the search radius from 25 to 50 miles to see what else is available.

      Reply
    • Julianne L Handte

      Dear Wendy,

      I don’t know when you entered your post. I live in Albany, NY. I have been trying to find effective treatment in this area for my hoarding (I am at least a 2nd generation hoarder) for probably close to 25 years or so now. And you are right……….there is nothing around here.

      I have also been looking for a support group for this. No luck. I did get into a couple of OCD groups over the years, but never got to connect with another hoarder.

      Around 15 years or so ago, I came to the conclusion that what I need is hands-on assistance…………….either from a therapist specifically trained and experienced in working
      with hoarders, or from another hoarder who lives within reasonable proximity to my home…………..so that we could help each other with work sessions at each other’s homes. And maybe exchange phone support, and maybe even go for coffee or a meal now and then.

      I really feel this is the only thing that will work for me. And my last psychiatrist (who retired a couple years ago………I am still looking for a new one) finally came to agree with me.

      I would like to get in touch with you if you are willing. I don’t know what the rules and regulations of this site are as to people who post on here making contact with each other. And I don’t know how long ago you posted. Maybe you won’t even see my reply.

      But I’m just throwing this out there……..taking a shot in the dark. Like a message in a bottle. And hoping and praying that the bottle will come back to me.

      Best wishes to you,

      Julianne (called Anne)

      Reply

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