Posted in Miscellany

a new book on hoarding and the meaning of things

In the riveting new read Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, Randy O. Frost, a Smith College psychologist, and Gail Steketee, dean of the Boston University School of Social Work, reveal the world of hoarding disorders. The homes of hardcore hoarders, who represent up to 5 percent of the population, are more trash dumps than living spaces. It is only possible to navigate their interiors using “goat paths,” narrow trails that wind through the mounds of books, old food, clothes, trinkets and containers

The good news is that this is treatable – 18 mo of therapy led to one hoarder’s family living clutter free for the first time in years. Interesting review of the most pathological hoarders like the 200 cat lady, but most of us, I suspect, know people who are less extreme but still hoard enough to make their own lives more difficult than they could be.



Lilian is the author of Web of Angels, a novel about a mom with DID (multiple personalities). She's also the author of the historical novels, The River Midnight and The Singing Fire, about secrets, friendship and motherhood in 19th century Poland and London.

3 thoughts on “a new book on hoarding and the meaning of things

  1. Interesting review of the most pathological hoarders like the 200 cat lady

    My mother, basically. When she died, I was able to fill seven dumpsters with the garbage from her house.

    It’s a really fascinating disorder, not least because “normal” people seem to have a lot more empathy for hoarders than they do for other forms of mental illness.

  2. It is a fascinating issue and one that has so many layers.

    I’m a researcher for the series Confessions: Animal Hoarding, currently airing on Animal Planet that tells the stories of people overwhelmed by the number of pets they own. The problem is on the rise and affect communities across America. Research shows 40% of object hoarders also hoard animals.

    I thought I’d share this with you; if you are concerned about the health of animals in someone’s care and suspect they may be hoarding them, we might be able to help.

    Most animal hoarders don’t see themselves as hoarders, and sometimes don’t intentionally collect animals. Their relationship with their animals has threatened their relationships with friends and family.

    Most of these situations aren’t dealt with until they become criminal. This results in animals being euthanized by over-stressed shelters, and doesn’t address the underlying psychological issues – meaning nearly 100% of people end up in the same situation again.

    We are dedicated to finding comprehensive long-term solutions and believe therapy to be key to this. We can bring in experts to help people and their pets.

    If you or someone you know needs help because animals have overrun their life, visit to learn more and submit their story. Alternatively, contact me directly at or toll-free at 1 -877-698-7387.

    We will treat all submissions with confidentiality and respect.

  3. Phila, I’m sorry that you’ve had to deal with that. I wonder if people have more sympathy because it’s easy to relate to the desire to hold onto things. Or maybe because it’s so prevalent that most of us are close to someone who would require a number of dumpsters to clear out.

    Sara, thanks for the links and the helpful information.

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