Saturday, June 18, 2011

‘Underneath Every Hoarder Is a Normal Person Waiting to Be Dug Out’


In 1947, Erich Fromm, a humanist, psychoanalyst and philosopher, developed a theory of character that divided people into five “orientations,” mostly determined by their relationship to stuff. He characterized four of these — the receptive, exploitive, hoarding and marketing orientations — as part of the “having” mode, which is focused on consuming, obtaining and possessing. (The fifth orientation was “productive,” which focuses on experience and human connection.) Fromm specifically linked the hoarding orientation to the Protestant work ethic and the American merchant middle class and argued that this orientation is characterized by, among other things, being “constipated and squinty.”

You have to wonder what Fromm would make of A&E’s “Hoarders” or TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive” or Animal Planet’s “Confessions: Animal Hoarding” or any of the other reality shows on which discreet cameras follow psychologists, professional organizers and specialized cleaning crews into the terrifying homes of people possessed by an uncontrollable need to buy, collect or keep every old magazine, novelty bunny purse, errant pen cap, fast-food wrapper, thrift-store find, broken lamp, stray cat, marked-down sweat pants, newspaper clipping, commemorative snow globe and/or petrified dog turd that has ever crossed their threshold..." More

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