Hoarders Unite!

Barbara Vey -- June 17th, 2008

Andrew and Keith
Andrew and Keith:  Really could you throw away anything these 2 gave you? (circa 1987)

I recently came across an article in the New York Times online about hoarding.  According to the article:

Excessive clutter and disorganization are often symptoms of a bigger health problem. People who have suffered an emotional trauma or a brain injury often find housecleaning an insurmountable task. Attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic pain and grief can prevent people from getting organized or lead to a buildup of clutter. At its most extreme, chronic disorganization is called hoarding, a condition many experts believe is a mental illness in its own right, although psychiatrists have yet to formally recognize it.

Compulsive hoarding is defined, in part, by clutter that so overtakes living, dining and sleeping spaces that it harms the person’s quality of life. A compulsive hoarder finds it impossible, even painful, to part with possessions. It’s not clear how many people suffer from compulsive hoarding, but estimates start at about 1.5 million Americans.

I think they’re talking about me.  I’ve never been able to throw anything away because I’m always sure I’ll need it someday.  The puzzle just missing one piece (it’s here somewhere), the tool that I have no clue what it does, but I’m sure it’s important, along with all the cords that have come with computers and tvs.    

Romance novels
Then there’s the sentimental stuff.  I still have stuff my kids made in school and they are now 36 and 26.  Keith’s pencil holder from second grade (the noodles have almost all fallen off by now) and Andrew’s flying pigs picture from first grade are only tips of the iceberg.  I’ve got Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards (Keith couldn’t find one that said from your son, so he crossed off the word daughter from it, I couldn’t throw that away).  And the boxes of pictures waiting to be put in albums is for another blog.

But the worst has to be the books.  I hoard books.  Not only my toppling TBR pile, but all the books I’ve read that I hope someday to read again.  And the autographed ones to me personally.  Then there’s the ones I want to share, but they can only go to a good home (no one who dog ears pages or writes in books need apply).  And how can I get rid of a book that a friend gave me?  Or the one my mom sent me when I finally moved out on my own.  

I know I need professional help, but how can a nonbookaholic understand unless they’ve been there themselves?

So, how about you?  Can you love ‘em and leave ‘em?  Or do you still have the books from grade school?  Do you lend them out?  Or are you fussy about who you give them to?  Are you a hoarder?

Bottom line:  Maybe we need to start a support group…Hoarders Anonymous.

72 thoughts on “Hoarders Unite!


    Grade school? Pshaw! I have childrens books that belonged to my much older sisters (because mom doesn’t like to throw anything away either). But I’ve gotten much better, especially with books since I donate them to the library for their book sales, which means they can buy new books for their collections. It makes me feel virtuous. I’ve also been weeding my own shelves because my tastes change (same with videos and DVDs). I’ve found that something I liked years ago may not hold my interest any longer (especially hobbies I’ve given up). So I can clear it off the shelf and make way for something new without any twinges (and some things really have gotten better with age).

  2. Carolyn Jewel

    Well, yes, I live the cluttered life. But I don’t think it’s due to mental illness for heaven’s sake. I work full time, have a child, aging parents and I write. De-cluttering tends to be last on the list of things for Carolyn to do. And I do keep things my son has done. Some artwork, gifts, report cards and the like. Someday I will organize them. Really. I will.

  3. Laurel Bradley

    For me the question is: How many copies of your favorite book is it okay to own? Three? Four? :-) It’s not craziness, really. I have one copy at the cottage, a hardcover copy and another (or maybe two) paper copies–one pristine and signed the other tattered and well read.

  4. Jusy

    Hi, I’m a hoarder. Phew, got that off my chest. The first step is admission. Forget about the other steps. One of these days the clutter will be organized. Yep, one of these days.

  5. mary s

    Thanks Barb for this blog because I still have all my college psychology textbooks (in addition to all TBR & saved books–hardcover & paperbook)–I have a room just for books!! It’s getting a little out-of-control! But it’s good to know there are alot of us out there!!

  6. Monica Burns

    I hoard something for up to five years. If I’ve not found a use for it by then, it goes out into the trash. Of course, I am then doomed to buy another one because I threw the old one out two weeks prior to actually finding a use for it. I’ve even been known to buy something new because I forgot I saved the old one. I confess that my books are neatly lined on the shelf though, but then I just bought a new bookcase. ROFL Oh, and I’m bipolar so I’m compulsive about keeping things neat. I can’t handle the disorder. It’s nerve-wracking. *grin*

  7. Sabrina Jeffries

    I too have books from my childhood. And research books that I’ll probably never use again. And a hundred or more keeper romances. Sigh. They’re all neatly organized on bookshelves, but I’m running out of space. Ah, the difficulties of being a book hoarder!

  8. maddie james

    Oh yes! I still have books from grade school (proudly displayed on my library table in the living room), high school and college textbooks, etc. I have shelves in every room and in the garage. My office at work (i’m an educator, oh yeah, I collect books there, too) is full, full, full! I can’t get rid of them. Ever! Yesterday at work (oh yeah, I work for a literacy organization) one of our staff was packing up books from a book drive. I spied a lovely hardback copy of THE HOBBIT. Oh! The Hobbit! I exclaimed, snatching it up. And there were two copies. The girl looked at me and she knew it was hopeless. It’s yours. Take it. :) I was a happy camper all day long. Just another to add to my every growing collection….

  9. Mark David Gerson

    Until I was 40, I was a compulsive book-collector, and any book I got rid of felt like an amputation. However, just before I turned 40, I sold most everything I owned (keeping only a handful of treasured and/or helpful books) and moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia. That was in 1995 (whoops…did I just reveal my age?). That experience pretty much cured of my bookaholism, not least because I’ve been pretty peripatetic ever since and have kept my collecting (of anything) to a minimum. Mark David Gerson http://www.thevoiceofyourmuse.com

  10. Mark David Gerson

    Until I was 40, I was a compulsive book-collector, and any book I got rid of felt like an amputation. However, just before I turned 40, I sold most everything I owned (keeping only a handful of treasured and/or helpful books) and moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia. That was in 1995 (whoops…did I just reveal my age?). That experience pretty much cured of my bookaholism, not least because I’ve been pretty peripatetic ever since and have kept my collecting (of anything) to a minimum. Mark David Gerson http://www.thevoiceofyourmuse.com

  11. Mark David Gerson

    Until I was 40, I was a compulsive book-collector, and any book I got rid of felt like an amputation. However, just before I turned 40, I sold most everything I owned (keeping only a handful of treasured and/or helpful books) and moved from Toronto to Nova Scotia. That was in 1995 (whoops…did I just reveal my age?). That experience pretty much cured of my bookaholism, not least because I’ve been pretty peripatetic ever since and have kept my collecting (of anything) to a minimum. Mark David Gerson http://www.thevoiceofyourmuse.com

  12. Bianca D'Arc

    You’re definitely talking about ME! I never throw anything away anymore because the minute I do, I find that I need it! I think the key is to be organized about your hoarding. If I put all the electrical cords in one place, when I need one, I know immediately where to look. We won’t talk about books, but suffice to say, I put them all in one place and have even begun alphabetizing them by category. I just need more TIME!!! :) Bianca D’Arc http://www.biancadarc.com

  13. Vegasbaby

    I say pass your books on! Donate to a library, woman’s shelter or a hospital. What good are books if they are laying in a pile or in a box? I grew up poor and we could not afford to buy a book. We were so happy when someone gave us a book. So pack up all those books you love and share them with others! What a great gift that would be for someone else, and what a great gift that would be for you too!!

  14. Marcia James

    If you don’t count my shrine to Nora Roberts in my guest bedroom, the only books I save once I’ve read them are those that are autographed. The rest I give to friends or to a good cause, like a nursing home. Of course, my To Be Read pile rivals Mount Everest. ;-( But what’s a bookaholic to do? — Marcia ;-) http://www.MarciaJames.net

  15. Liza

    We had a house fire when I was 12, so I lost most of my books from childhoos, although some did survive. I’ve replaced almost all of the others. I will lend out my books, but I’m very picky who gets to borrow my books. I made the mistake of letting someone borrow a book one time, and the book came back in horrible shape. I do donate several boxes of books to the library each year. They are always books I’ve already read, but don’t plan on reading again.

  16. Shari Anton

    I learned my lesson the last time we moved. I no longer hoard or collect anything (okay, a few books here and there, but not box upon box anymore). Yes, like Marcia, the TBR pile is higher than it should be, but once the book is read, it must leave the premises!

  17. Angie Fox

    To be fair, the only thing I hoarde is books, so that means I don’t have a problem, right? (Don’t ask my husband that question. He just installed another bookshelf last month.) But, ahem, I think that when you know what’s on your shelf and love it and enjoy it, it’s more of a collection than anything else, right?

  18. RevDeb

    Ah yes – the sav-a-holic! I have gotten some better. Its the kid’s things I can’t part with. But then my mother has MY grade school things – I think it’s genetic! I have a good friend who owns an old 2 room school house – talk about books! They are everywhere – shelves from ceiling to floor, wash tubs, baskets, tables, bags, desks,cupboards and more. Every room! All kinds of books! It’s amazing – really. So don’t feel too bad. I know someone who has you beat!

  19. Missy Tippens

    Well, I’m a book hoarder, too–mostly TBR but also those that I’ve read that are keepers. My desk area is also a disaster, and the mail gets piled high on the kitchen table. Uh, oh. Now I’m worried! :) Missy

  20. Doug

    I have many of the health problems associated with hoarding. I also have about 500 books, including about 100 on horses, and no, you can’t have any.

  21. Sandi

    Wow! I am not alone! I, too, am picky about to whom I lend my vast, perfectly organized collection of books. But I have to lend them out all the time because I work for a library and they frown on my hoarding it all to myself. Seriously, it has helped me to reduce my home collection considerably. Except for those devilish used library book sales!

  22. violet s

    Wow Barbara–I didn’t realize how much Andrew looked like Kieran Culkin at that age!! What a precious picture!! I have possessions dating back to the ’50′s that I can’t let go of!!

  23. Marjorie Liu

    Oh, man, I never throw anything out. I’ve got books and papers stacked to the walls, and shoeboxes full of tiny irreplaceable treasures. It’s a maze in my office. And that’s just how I like it!

  24. Liz Kreger

    Hubby is threatening to rent a dumpster. Totally unreasonable since I’m not a “hoarder” in the full sense of the word. There are just some things you cannot part with.

  25. Gina

    When it comes to books and all things kid related, I’m with you. Although I’m a neat freak who has things in painfully organized and labeled giant rubbermaid boxes that I insist on carrying with me from one move to the next. If it’s not a book or a kid related keepsake, then I can’t wait to get rid of it once its outlasted it’s appeal. It goes into one of four piles (ebay, Freecycle, donation, trash). So does that make me a semi-hoarder? Maybe that means I can only attend half the meetings?

  26. Scotdncr (Becky)

    I’m a hoarder too. And I always find I need something right after I get rid of it too. LOL. I have gotten better about the books saving only signed ones. The rest I donate to Hospice. They always need books. And hospitals too. And one time, I was in a doctors office reading a Nora Roberts book. A little old lady in the waiting room said Oh I love her books. I’ll put it on my list to buy, I’m on a limited budget and can’t buy many books anymore. I wanted to cry. I stayed an extra half hour at the office to finish it and gave it to her. Then she was so grateful, I went to my car for the handful of books I finish when I’m out that always clutter up the car. I gave her those too, I felt so good!!!

  27. Missy Taylor

    I am a hoarder. I jokingly call myself a library because I have books and cannot part with them. I loan books out but have a program that allows me to write who has what books so I know who’s got books of mine. But like you its not just books. I too am sure I’ll need it one day so I never throw stuff away. But I’ve come through many a time for a friend who needed something that normal people would’ve thrown away. So there. :D

  28. Dan Blank

    I am a recovering hoarder, and now just selectively hoard 1 or 2 things. Books, I have learned to give them away after reading them. There are too many good books, and unlike music, I don’t have the time to read them more than once or maybe twice in a lifetime.

  29. Paula C

    I feel I am also a hoarder of books but this does not worry me as much as the fact I seem to be hoarding other things since my children got married, papers, pens, notebooks etc. and I do not know what to do about this.

  30. Sonia

    …I am a recovering hoarder…started going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings several months ago because my small town doesn’t have any other 12 step programs. To get rid of things, I’ve had garage sales nearly every weekend since May. It’s helped immensely. But the books — oh my. So difficult to part with. Peter Walsh’s book about clutter has been a life saver. He talks specifically about books as being so difficult to discard as they symbolize knowledge to many of us. So — in my faulty logic, if I get rid of any of my thousands of books, I’m afraid I’ll be loosing some of my intelligence! Go figure! I relate to all of your messages…your voices give me courage to plunge into the boxed, hidden treasures that are the last holdout & send on a few more to be used & loved by someone. Thanks!

  31. Barbara Vey

    Sonia, I’ve managed to get rid of a lot of stuff since I wrote this blog, but the books remain the hardest. I don’t think I’m strong enough, unless I know they are going to a good home (seriously).

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