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Monday, 29 July 2013

Compulsive Hoarding

By Johna Ferguson

Compulsive hoarding – informally, packratting - is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment.

Little did I know when I married for the second time 11 years ago, that I was marrying a compulsive hoarder.

At that time, he lived in the family work unit apartment in Qingdao, People's Republic of China but I didn’t like living in his former wife’s home so he sold it and bought a lovely condo above the harbor with a view of parts of the city and the Yellow Sea.

He was in Beijing so a friend and I cleaned out the place and threw junk galore away which he never missed. We lived there until we decided to move back to the States, back to my small, one-bedroom condo in Seattle with no view but lots of charm.

At that time, we knew we couldn’t bring much so we just brought four suitcases. We’ve been here five very happy years but then his daughter, being a typical Chinese girl, wanted better things for her father so she bought us a larger, two-bedroom/bath condo a few blocks away.

Now in those 5 years, my husband discovered garage sales and each Saturday he went to them and brought home a variety of things. I didn’t pay much attention to what. I now realize I should have.

We have a huge storage spot in the basement and I didn’t realize how full it was getting until we were moving. He also had a huge walk-in closet in our living area and I had told him it was all his and I never even looked in. I should have.

I told him to go through his things he didn’t really need, but he said no, he’d do it after he moved them. I thought, why move things and then throw them away but I am not the brilliant person he is.

He moved boxes and boxes and more and more boxes of things. He even took a twin bed he had stored somewhere although there is a queen Murphy bed in one bedroom.

He is living there minus furniture other than a few chairs, a bar stool so he can eat at the bar and the two beds plus all his clothes, some towels, sheets and blankets.

It has a stove, microwave, refrigerator/freezer and washer/dryer so he can manage. I am still in my co-op and haven’t even put it on the market. Who knows when it will sell so I may be here awhile and he may be there awhile.

I have given him two weeks to weed through his stuff and clear half the shelves in the kitchen and one bedroom California closet for my things when I move.

I have moved so many times I have nothing I don’t really need except a few family picture books, my book shelf of favorite reading materials and my clothes. I have always believed in spreading around what extra I have, be it money or goods, so I have really collected nothing other than some fine furniture and lots of memories.

Now I hope that once this cleaning out is done, he will realize the foolishness of hoarding things. Who needs five computers, two toasters – well, you name it.

Today, the Salvation Army is coming to get an extra desk, table and 12 bags of miscellaneous things I weeded out before he moved, things he will never miss.

I thought at 83 my life would be stress-free but I can tell you I have been under more tension than I care to talk about. The only good thing is I have finally gained one pound from eating so much junk food to answer my cravings. After losing more than 21 pounds for no reason, just one pound is a real victory.

Now I’m wondering; should we look around for a different condo and move again so I can gain another pound. Therefore it’s no wonder I haven’t written anything for a long time.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I have majorly downsized twice in the lat 28 years, and I am not a pack rat, but I do love my photos and my books. With my aide's help at pulling them out of the bottom shelves of 5 bookcase (the 6th is high so I can do it)I have several armfuls to donate to a used book store, and my kids and grandkids.I still have over 500, but they are my treasures and if I'm given a few more years, I want to re-read most of them. Non-fiction mostly. Good luck with your pack rat!

Oooh I envy you, I think having just a few belongings is a great sign of maturity.
I suspect, no ...to be honest I know I am one. I am an artist so a lot of my things I have made, or remade, or refinished, etc. But I can see it is time, why do I dread it so?

I used to love going to garage sales, thrift shops, etc. when I was in my big house. I still do, always thinking I might find a treasure or something that I imagine was very dear to the original owner. Now at my age, I try to get rid of as much clutter as possible -even my clothing, some new and some ancient,which I have been reluctant to part with. I hope you continue to gain weight and are soon relieved of your stress.

I'm very sympathetic with the book lovers. I am one of you. But several years back I adopted a different philosophy about my extensive holdings. Books are to be read, not to sit on shelves. I started donating to public libraries. Now, my collection barely fills three small shelves. And I'm pleased.

Instead of looking for a condo you should look for a companion with less things.

Do you have grandchildren or children who need some of these things? I've been married now for almost 20 years, and believe it or not, a lot of our stuff is wearing out! Now's a great time to look like a hero to the people you love by letting them have some "gifts." The "I don't need this really, would you use it?" can make you a rock star in the family. I would love it if my mother, who always picked up things she really didn't need, were still alive to get me some new bedsheets, twin bed blankets for the kids, etc. I would ask rather than spending and giving it back. Good luck and let us know how it goes.
(Especially toasters. Those babies wear out nowadays in a flash!)

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