Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hoarding: One of the Strangest of Human Behaviors

When I was growing up on a farm, hearing the term ‘Your room looks like a pigsty’,  brought to mind the muddy slop that I knew our pigs loved to wallow in. I knew most animals liked to keep their living areas clean, so the pig was different in its propensity toward filth and slop. Humans are a step above animals so most take great care to keep their surrounding clean and organized, and it is good not only for practical reasons, but a clean environment is a reflection of a person’s love and respect for self, family and others. Hoarders are of an entirely different breed, some have a mysterious and compulsive need to surround themselves with stuff, sometimes filthy, rotten stuff.
One of the most extreme cases was that of the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, from the 1940’s, who hoarded up a four story brownstone in Harlem, both sons of an opera singer and a doctor. The hoard was developed after the death of the brother’s parents, as both discontinued normal life as the hoarding took over. Both brothers were educated professionals when the hoarding began, and both died buried deep within the tightly hoarded building.

Hoarding can be either ‘clean’ and organized or filthy and disorganized, presenting extreme biohazard risks to the hoarder and those who live with, or near them.  Many hoarders are intelligent people, and many have extensive resources, which further confounds the mystery of why a person would hoard.
According to Mayo Clinic, there is no clear understanding of why hoarders hoard, although there are signs and risk factors: