Rod Meade Sperry looks at the lessons we can draw from the tv show Hoarders about detrimental attachment to “stuff”.
Yet another new season of A&E’s harrowing show Hoarders is to begin on Monday night. Described as “a fascinating look inside the lives of people whose inability to part with their belongings is so out of control that they are on the verge of a personal crisis,” the show is a heartbreaker. And exploitative though it may at times seem, the show might be useful on the whole because it helps us put things — and our relationship to them — into perspective. After the jump, SunSpace’s earlier look at Hoarders, for those who want to get caught up. (Or don’t want to have to.)
I haven’t seen anything like Hoarders in my life — and I hope you haven’t, either. One’s thing for sure: it will make you question your relationship to material things.
What Hoarders makes heartbreakingly clear is just how easy it is for the human animal to become lost and trapped by its own possessions, and how this is caused by our untamed minds. When the episode I watched ended — to the left you see a still from one of the subjects’ homes, and honestly, it’s almost tame compared to the overall mess the hoarders create for themselves — my eyes were darting around our apartment: All this has to go! No clutter! No tchotchkes! No bric-a-brac! Maybe I should convert the entire dining room into a nice, spare, furniture-less zendo.
Ah, but this is just the other side of the hoarders’ coin, is it not? Our healthiest approaches to life are not about extremes; they’re about a middle way; the right way for ourselves and our loved ones. The question is, what is that way? It’s hard to study Buddhism, though, and not develop at least a little of the crucial non-attachment that allows us to discern what must stay, and what can go.
In the end, though, it all depends, of course: one person’s treasure is another’s trash, and all that. So what I’d like to know is, what’s your relationship to your stuff? Granted, it’s statistically unlikely that you might identify as a hoarder, but is your approach to your possessions unhealthy, or healthy? Is it working for you?
Here’s a quick poll — and feel free to post a comment to get a bit more in-depth, especially if you have tips that have helped you to make your dwelling space more of a home.
You can view previews from the new season of Hoarders online here. It’s not easy viewing, but it might just be worth it anyhow.
I chose the first option but I actually came to this state at least a year before I started practicing. I did this after I took a seminar on "Voluntary Simplicity". Book and magazines where the biggest attachments I had and I reduced a 'library' of over 1000 books to less than half of that. I applied the same logic to the rest of my belongings and all my future purchases. The logic was – if I haven't used (read in the case of books) this in the past year it goes (trash, donation, sell etc…), if it isn't an essential tool or utility that is likely to be needed it goes, and to keep anything else I asked myself – is this sacred to me? Is it irreplaceable and something that would help others think of me.
I still have clutter in that the stuff that remains isn't always organized well but what I have is much more useful and precious to me. I was able to move into a much smaller home. I spend a lot less money and 'rediscovered' the joys of the public library. When I buy a book now it is only because it moves me deeply and so when I or my guests look at the titles on the bookshelves there is something to learn about me there.
Jamie G. says
I’m a purger… my wife a hoarder… so you can imagine it can get pretty interesting around my house sometimes.
Karen Maezen Miller says
I'm not going to vote, but I'm going to save this post to use later!
I love purging, I feel so light when I do it. The problem is that now that I don't buy what I don't need, I am running out of thing to purge – I guess this is a good problem to have :-). The kitchen and my books are still a bit of a challenge though. I have been decluttering since I made the discovery that clutter makes me feel overwhelmed. Clear open space is like fresh air.
Yo' Jamie, Sylvia, I'm with you, a purger by nature. Makes my family a little nutty since I'm the one captaining the household ship and making the decisions as to what goes and what stays. My challenge is in reining myself in and respecting their attachments.
But my bigger challenge is this….even though I'm a purger and even though I buy only used stuff, doing everything in my power to be mindful, resourceful consumer, I'm STILL the epitome of acquisitive. All the purging and principled consuming in the world doesn't change the fact that I still hanker after STUFF. So that's my dilemma…not having and holding but ACQUIRING.
Ashby, maybe you should accept and celebrate it and go into business. You could buy and sell on ebay or have regular planned yard sales.
We were just in New York and my daughter and I saw the extraordinary piece "Waste Not" by the Chinese artist Song Dong at the Museum of Modern Art. It was a collection of all the material goods that her mother had hoarded over the years because they might someday be useful (as well as her actual house). Very moving, particularly for those of us with parents who grew up in the Depression, who had a very different view of the value of money and material possessions than usa privileged baby boomers. The piece is no longer at Moma, but they have a good multi-media presentation at http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/96… Or see the piece if it's close to you. It's beautiful, fascinating and heart-breaking.
Things are relatively uncluttered at my house. My biggest issue is procrastination though. I know I have too much crap around sometimes but never make the time to take care of it. Oh well… someday… hehe
Rod Meade Sperry says
Some new responses via our Facebook friends:
Joy R: "Just reading this makes me want to go clean out my closets."
Beth R: "I am constantly getting rid of stuff! … (the only thing i "hoard," is music :)."
Teresa S: "i cant watch that show, all that stuff freaks me out. i love my yarn but i end up making stuff out of it and give it away.."
I've gone through so many purges and throw-out frenzies over my adult life. I've always tended to go the other way of hoarders. I love stuff like anyone else but I like to change things around a lot and throw out stuff when I get sick of looking at certain things. What I got out of the Hoarders show, the interviews with the hoarders and what they had to go through to "recover" is that this form of behavior is a form of addiction. This addiction takes over everything much like an alcoholic spending all his or her money on booze rather than food for the family. They are trying to control their lives with hoarding and end up totally out of control – like any other addict who's turned to substances to control emotions, etc. It's paradoxical to lose control while so doing something out of such desperation to keep everything in tow. Sad.
Rod Meade Sperry says
More new responses via our Facebook friends:
Heather G: "When I watch that show I'm motivated + start throwing things away!"
Nalanda LGBT Buddhist Cultural and Resource Center: "one good way to open up to looking at attachments !"
Marilyn N: "Every time I think of keeping a ribbon or container, I think of that show and get rid of it NOW."
There is a difference between hoarding and compulsive clutter. The vast majority of the over-stuffed population are clutterers, not hoarders who will save garbage compulsively. Both represent dysfunctional attachments to stuff, but hoarders suffer from a severe form of OCD and will save even garbage, creating public health hazards.
rivers of poison says
are you talking about China or the USA? or some other country?