Friday, August 28, 2009

Hoarder Culture

By: Ann Leary

They've found another one. It's been all over the news. They keep showing footage of her standing in front of what seems to be an ordinary suburban home, but when the front door opens, her awful secret is revealed. This sweet, innocent-looking granny hasn't seen fit to throw anything out since the Nixon administration. She's a hoarder and her grown-up children have ratted her out. It's a disease, they say on the morning news, on CNN, on CNBC -- a disease that creates chaos for those around the hoarder. How did her life get so out of control? To find out, I'm told, tune into Oprah (orDr. Phil) later today.

News about hoarding used to be a wake-up call for me and I'd spend the next several days trying to unearth my office from years worth of old manuscripts, bills, wrapping paper, empty hamster cages, sports bras, Easter baskets, dog bones, waffle irons, soccer cleats and magazines. Oh, and catalogs. Hundreds and hundreds of catalogs. Now, I'm so far gone that when I see a fellow hoarder being carted off, my eyes dart from side to side and my heart races. Is that a car I hear pulling up outside? A news van? Oprah's limousine? I envision myself being led outside to a waiting team of behavioral psychologists, while men in haz-mat suits and gas masks bravely enter my home.

I'm really not as bad as the people who end up on Oprah, but I'm getting there. I have children and sometimes they have friends over. Sometimes these friends have parents who pick them up and stop in to chat. I can't bear the shame of a messy home, so I do the only sensible thing. When I learn that somebody is about to arrive at my house, I run around grabbing newspapers off the floors, cable bills out of the sink, dog bones off the sofa, socks and sports bras off the kitchen table and I toss them into the only downstairs room with a door -- my office. Then I close the door. When the person arrives, they see a relatively tidy home. I'll sort out my office later, I tell myself. And the years go by..." More