Customer Reviews for

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

Comprehensive and Compassionate View of a Serious Illness

Hoarding, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, is one of the last taboo mental illnesses. The suffers and their families generally hide the problem from friends, co-workers, neighbors and even other loved ones because of the shame associated with the problem. I...
Hoarding, an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, is one of the last taboo mental illnesses. The suffers and their families generally hide the problem from friends, co-workers, neighbors and even other loved ones because of the shame associated with the problem. In Stuff by professors Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee, the authors explore the causes, manifestations, and therapeutic treatment of the condition.

Hoarding is defined "not by the number of possessions, but how the acquisition and management of those possessions affects their owners. When hoarding causes distress or impairs one's ability to perform basic functions, it has crossed the lines into pathology." Certain traits are associated with hoarding: perfectionism, indecision, and strong attachment issues to "things." Interestingly, many hoarders are creative and intelligent individuals who are able to see the potential for items that most would discard as trash. Unfortunately, however, this "gift" leads hoarders to be unable to part with newspapers, magazines, old clothing, plastic containers, slips of paper and much, much more.

Treatment for hoarding is vastly more complicated than simply a forced cleaning of hoarders' homes. As the authors explain:

One of the worst experiences for someone with a hoarding problem occurs when another person or crew clear out the home . . . . [B]ecause of the hoarder's difficulties with organization, the piles often contain much more than trash. . . . [U]nder the decades-old newspaper may be the title to the person's car or the diamond ring she lost years before. These scenarios almost always leave the hoarder feeling as if his or her valued possessions have been taken away, which may be the case. Beyond this, most hoarders have a sense of where things are amid the clutter. When someone moves or discards even a portion of it, this sense of "order" is destroyed. We know of several cases in which hoarders have committed suicide following a forced cleanout.

So what does work? Based on the case studies in Stuff it appears that hands-on therapy where the therapist guides the hoarder through the thought processes to discarding their possessions is the best method. However, this is no easy feat. According to Drs. Frost and Steketee, a combination of "[c]ontrolling one's thinking may take a lifetime of effort for people with serious hoarding problems.

I highly recommend Stuff for both suffers and their family/friends (as well as for those who are simply curious about the condition)! While it may not "cure" the problem is does compassionately and thoroughly explain a profound mental illness.




Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 20, 2010), 304 pages.
Review based on a borrowed library book.

posted by LegalBeagle on May 9, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

WOW!!! This is a scary idea, people's stuff is taking over lives.

Well that was disturbing. I see lots of people I know and a bit of myself in these pages. I have a hard time getting rid of things so that I have a set of rules for new things coming in the house. Something comes in, something goes out, or the new item goes back to wher...
Well that was disturbing. I see lots of people I know and a bit of myself in these pages. I have a hard time getting rid of things so that I have a set of rules for new things coming in the house. Something comes in, something goes out, or the new item goes back to where it came from. The idea of living in a house or apartment with halls created by piles of papers and junk scares me. My kids have to do that same thing and I clean out there rooms a few times a year to be sure they are not collecting to many things and especially garbage(Lego boxes, old school papers, instructions and boxes to items they bought that don't need to be kept.)
This was an eye opening look at how bad Hoarding can get, scary scary scary. This makes me want to spend my next day off cleaning out things we don't use much any more. I will bring less into the house this holiday season. We all need experiences more then we need more stuff. Stuff has to be dusted,cared for,organized,and it takes time from us, but experiences make only memories.

posted by bookhimdanno on December 18, 2010

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