Yesterday we met Gina, who has it all: great kids, great house, great job, and great husband, who would be even greater if he wasn't such a pack rat.
What's a Quester to do? How can you make progress on your Organization Quest when a member of the household can't let go of clothes they never wear, products they never use, or paperwork that serves no current purpose? And why, oh why would anyone not only keep this stuff, but actually defend it with the fierceness of a mother bear protecting newborn cubs?
Yes, we will get into specific tips. Tomorrow. But first I think it's useful to try to understand the pack rat's world, and his or her relationship to things other people very well might consider junk or trash.
What I've learned is that hoarding is often associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which itself is subclassified under Anxiety disorders. With recent developments in MRI imaging, they have actually documented "a unique pattern of brain activity that was distinct from that seen in either non-hoarding OCD patients or controls," according to Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., Director of the UCLA OCD Research Program at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. You can see the complete article, "The Neurobiology and Medication Treatment of Compulsive Hoarding" on the OC Foundation website, which has a great section hoarding and the effects hoarding has for both the hoarder and his or her family.
Basically, the upshot is that it has been documented that horders have severe differences in brain function in terms of decision making. The article also mentions that "compulsive hoarders had significantly higher anxiety . . . than non-hoarders." Which is to say that Gina's husband is not hanging onto the two-year old agenda from the fire fighters union meeting, not to mention boxes of other, equally absorbing (to him), equally useless (according to her) paper stuff, just to be difficult. What it means is that he's scared: because what if he ends up needing it someday, only to realize he's thrown it out?
According to Randy Frost, Ph.D and co-author of the book, Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding , hoarders share the following traits:
- Problems with information processing (e.g., problems categorizing or making decisions)
- Beliefs about possessions (e.g., a sense of attachment to possessions, or fears of forgetting things)
- Emotional distress about discarding, which leads to avoidance of discarding
Tomorrow we'll get into specific techniques that may help Gina help Matt loosen his hold on his hoard.