By: Wendy Leung
The story of Guillermo Reyes, who was evicted this month after years of extreme pack-rat behavior, shines a light on a condition that medical experts have been researching since the 1990s.As much as 5 percent of the population are believed to be hoarders, and researchers continue to learn more about this behavior.
Randy Frost, whose book "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things" will be published this month, defines hoarding as excessive buying or acquiring of free things. Hoarders also have difficulty throwing things away and are generally disorganized.
"People who hoard look at possessions differently than most," Frost said. "When we look at a bottle cap, for instance, we think it's useless, it's trash. But those who hoard may focus on the texture or think about putting it in a collage. That object then takes a different hue."
Frost, who teaches at Smith College in Massachusetts, started studying hoarding when a student asked whether the behavior was associated with obsessive- compulsive disorder.
"We put an ad in the newspaper looking for pack rats," Frost said. "We got 100 calls."
The research of Frost and Gail Steketee of Boston University can now be read on a Web site through the International OCD Foundation, a sort of clearinghouse on hoarding.
Jack Samuels, an assistant professor at John Hopkins University, said hoarding was considered uncommon before Frost's research..." More
Mar 31, 2010: Hoarder now homeless
By: Wendy Leung
Eight years ago, Guillermo Reyes was considered a nuisance - a pack rat whose junk and recyclable items spilled out of his three-bedroom home and into the driveway.
Today, he is homeless.
Reyes, 78, a soft-spoken man with a kind face and a slight frame, was evicted this month from a home he purchased with cash in 1976. The eviction came after years of involvement by the city, courts, a court-appointed receiver and lender - agencies that tried to get Reyes to clean up a property that had become a major public safety concern for him and the neighborhood.
But when Reyes' pat-rack behavior didn't change, a loan was taken out on his property for maintenance. Last year, that loan matured and the eviction process began..." More