Compulsive Hoarding and Shopping

Addiction, Compulsive, Hoarding, Kristin Bell

Gah! Sometimes it seems like I am nothing but a bunch of psychological disorders! Then I find out that I have even more disorders that I didn’t even know were disorders! haha. Kidding…sort of.

I just read the book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee and I have to give it a big thumbs up! Of course, I wasn’t just randomly interested in this subject. Lately I have been concerned about my hoarding tendencies and my compulsive shopping tendencies. I know I have a lot of “STUFF,” but how much stuff is too much and have I crossed into hoarding territory? Of course, I thought it was funny that I would buy yet another book in order to think about my hoarding habits which center largely around a too-big book collection. But, am I a bibliophile or a hoarder of books, or both? Can you collect and not be a hoarder?

Well, the Stuff book gave me a lot to think about. The book is basically a bunch of case studies strung together with interesting research and odd bits of information and insight that the authors/researchers have gained over the years studying hoarding. I know that I’m by far not even close to the worst case out there, but I do have hoarding tendencies for sure.

Actually, I didn’t even really know that there was such a disease as “hoarding” until I started watching the A&E Hoarders shows. Then TLC came out with the show Hoarding: Buried Alive, and I also have found the Style Network’s Clean House show to be illuminating. When I first started watching Clean House I was really surprised, because there were people who lived with clutter just like I had! Growing up, I thought my house was the only house with a clutter problem. The problem was mostly my mom’s clutter, but now it is my stuff too. Our clutter doesn’t seem to be as bad as some others, but there is a definite issue, and Stuff talks about how it is most likely a hereditary thing as well.

My mom and I are two very different kind of clutterbugs. My problem is tied largely to overshopping for the amount of space I have and buying too many books, clothes, cute things and other stuff. Some things I don’t really have a problem getting rid of, but I have a really hard time getting rid of books and stuffed animals. My stuff is also a lot of “collection” stuff. Collections of shoes, books, CDs, movies, cute stuff, Hello Kitty stuff, Starbucks bears, Starbucks cards and other random treasures. My mom, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a lot of collections other than her photos and the furniture she got when her mother passed away. She tends to have random stuff piled around in what we call her “magic room.” I’m not even really sure what is in her magic room, but it is messy. My messiness comes from not having enough space, but when I have space my organizing is a bit OCD-like. That is part of the problem with my collecting too, because I get irritated if I know there is another part or thing to be collected, but I haven’t collected it. Because of space and money issues though, I’ve had to put the brakes on the collecting. It is still hard for me though, because I think I am a compulsive shopper.

I don’t often share my collections with people though, because I am ashamed of having so much stuff. It is embarrassing for me to be so materialistic and I hate to think of myself as a “hoarder.” The word has such awful connotations. Materialism in and of itself seems to be such a “bad” thing as well, but as much as I try, I don’t think I could ever be a minimalist.

Anyway, reading Stuff has given me pause, and I did start clearing out a lot of the stuff that was in my room. I got rid of probably 40 bags of stuff and I have more to go. I think what has really helped a lot is watching the TV shows that deal with clutter and hoarding issues. They have seriously helped me to think of all this “stuff” in another way, especially the show Clean House where they get rid of peoples’ stuff in a yard sale and then redo their homes. I’ve tried thinking of things like “does this make my life better and more livable, or does it just get in the way, even if I think I need it or that it has some use?” A part of me feels bizarre just throwing away or giving away perfectly good stuff, but I am at the point where I need to do it, so I’m trying my best and I’m trying to learn what all this stuff obsession is about at the same time. I guess there is some reason why stuff can turn into more than mere things!

3 thoughts on “Compulsive Hoarding and Shopping

  1. I watch those shows to Kristin………Interesting topic. Me, I like to keep things uncluttered because it helps me to keep my head together. It’s the garbage hoarders that really puzzle me…like real garbage…..things I can understand………….for whatever reasons. It’s gotta be emotional. Thanks for sharing ……Bon

  2. I can relate with your story.. I also have that kind of problem.. because I am also a compulsive shopper.. what I do for this.. is to stop thinking of new stuffs to buy and whenever I go to malls I make make a list of things to do or stuffs to buy.. (just the important stuffs of course.)… but sometimes I forget it.. whenever I saw lovely pair of sandals ..

    anyways, I think I should watch that tv shows you’ve said.. thanks for sharing this.. love your post.

  3. Kristin,
    I really enjoyed reading your story. You sound as if you’re cleaning up your act, but I’m in the process of trying to find people who have overwhelming collections that they’ve found to be an addiction they can’t stop. Not necessarily a hoarder, but someone addicted to collections.
    If you know of anyone, can you pass this casting call along? We compensate people for appearing on the show.
    Yours truly,
    Tracy Ullman
    Casting Producer, 20 West Television


    Are you hooked on your hobby? Is your compulsive behavior on the verge of becoming an addiction?

    A major cable network is looking for people who can’t stop playing video games, working out, waxing, tattooing, eating strange foods, redecorating their house…you name it. The more unique, the better.

    Each half-hour episode will profile two individuals who are engaged in uncontrollable behaviors affecting their lives and those they love. This non-exploitative program will share compelling personal stories and may provide medical and psychological perspectives on why patients struggle with these issues.

    To be considered, or for more information about this production, please send your name, age, city, current photo, and a short description of your behavior and it’s impact on your life to:

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