By Jessica Haynes.
The word hoarder is pretty loaded. We’ve all seen the shows, with people in homes stacked high with newspapers, kitchen sinks brimming with unwashed dishes and so much clutter it’s actually a fire hazard.
That’s not exactly me.
If you walk into my house you won’t see anything that would cause too much concern — maybe a bit of paperwork on the kitchen bench and the odd used mug on the coffee table.
But if you asked to take a look in my cupboards I can’t describe the dread I would feel.
And no, that’s not because there’s anything worrisome to conceal. Just stuff. And lots of it. And I think I have a bit of a problem. What stuff? I can’t even begin to say.
It could be a piece of paper from a doctor’s appointment in 2006, or an old notebook from high school. It could be my Year Seven jumper, or a hat colleagues signed for me when I went on my first overseas adventure almost a decade ago. It might be a book I’ve been meaning to read, or a jacket I’ll never wear again or a top I just need to sew the button back on.
But it’s there. All of it. Boxes and boxes of it.
So what actually is the definition of hoarding?
University of New South Wales associate professor in psychology Jessica Grisham said about two to five per cent of the population are believed to live with hoarding disorder.
“One of the prominent clinical features is extreme difficulty throwing things away. And in order for it to be a disorder, the amount of clutter is so extreme that … it interferes with [the person’s] functions in day-to-day life and relationships … and health,” Professor Grisham said.
“And when it gets to that level we consider it to be a clinical disorder.”
Not a case of extreme hoarding
You see, I’ve watched those shows — The Hoarder Next Door, which ran on ABC TV not that long ago, is one that springs to mind — and I always end up saying to myself, ‘I’m nowhere near that bad, surely’. But then I think about not once but twice making secret car journeys to new homes without my husband, so I could sneak dozens of boxes into cupboards and nooks before he’s had a chance to ask what’s inside.
Or that time I had the task of clearing out just one container of my things from the garage, and I started to feel dizzy and overwhelmed. And how at least once I week I’ve felt a pang of guilt trying to throw away something I know I’ll never use, but with that lingering thought in the back of my head: “What if this will come in handy one day?”