There is a growing television audience for real life documentaries about extreme hoarding and a good reason for the mounting interest. Coping with an ever-growing pile of ‘stuff’ is a challenge most of us face and these programmes show us we are not alone. They are also a timely warning of how life would be if we don’t get to grips with the issue.
The first stage of dealing with it is to recognised that it’s not all our fault. Two products of the second half of the 20th century have much to answer for. The global rise of marketeers is one – they spend billions each year encouraging us to buy products we neither want nor need. The second is increased human life expectancy – we are now around for longer, and during all that extra time we continue to acquire more. According to the United Nations in just 50 years from 1965 global human life expectancy increased 50% – that equates to an awful lot more ‘stuff’!
The challenge we face is learning how to ‘let go’ – something that for many is an alien concept and for extreme hoarders it is simply impossible. The problem is made worse by those marketeers who work so hard to create and then change fashions. For the ‘naturally cautious’ letting go of perfectly good possessions is difficult – look at the growth of the self-storage industry. Originally set up to allow seasonal oil workers to store their equipment the entrepreneur behind the idea was astounded to see family saloons turning up to store their old three piece suites – they needed the room for their new ones! Hoarding is engrained it is now an addition -measured by the cost of the monthly habit – the amount spent on self-storage!
I have no quick fix. Learning to manage possessions is an increasingly important life skill and if you want to know what happens if you don’t master it – take a look at the hoarding programmes!