Last week I read E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley. Oh boy, not the same good feeling.
Doctorow's Homer and Langley Collyer live in a brownstone on 5th Avenue. Homer is blind, and later deaf, and Langley is a World War I veteran, injured by mustard gas. He is well enough to care for Homer, but becomes a severe hoarder. Over decades, the large, multistory home becomes a labyrinth of "stuff" with only narrow pathways. The windows are shuttered, and all but a single door is blocked. They meet with a very sad end. One day in the 1970s the hoard topples on Langley, crushing him to death, and miserably, Homer, now quite old, blind, deaf, and trapped in the house, cries out in vain for Langley....
|Public safety workers removed 140 tons of|
stuff from the Collyer Mansion.
Doctorow's Collyers are fictionalized, but the Collyer brothers were real. They lived at 5th & 128th, and their hoard killed them in 1947. It took weeks to clear away enough stuff to find both bodies. They had amassed 140 tons of "collected items." I've heard that in the 1950s if your kids had a messy bedroom, you'd tell 'em that they were going to turn into the "Collyers."
I have a bizarre interest in hoarding. Or maybe I have a fear of it. I'm not alone, because there are television series that focus on hoarding (TLC seems obsessed with them). Clean Sweep puts kind of a funny, quirky spin on hoarding. Although there are very often tears involved in the cleaning-out process, the subjects always get a big, lavish home makeover. And they all live happily ever after. Hoarding: Buried Alive is a lot grittier, following individuals whose homes are truly dangerous, who can't use their kitchens, or their bathrooms. Who are often in rough shape financially, in poor health, and terribly isolated from their family & friends. These are people who need a lot more than a professional organizer; they need loving support from family, a clinician on site during the big "clean-out," as well as significant mental health treatment ("after care"). Even What Not to Wear gets in on the game. Part of the schtick is a segment in which Stacy & Clinton discard every single piece of (often junky) clothing that their
Just last week Time reviewed a book by UCLA researchers, exploring just how much STUFF Americans have: Life at Home in the 21st Century: 32 Families Open Their Doors. Even Yankee Magazine ran a recent how-to article: "Hide Living Room Clutter". Not "reduce" it... "hide" it. What is wrong with us? When a true-blue YANKEE has a problem with clutter, what have we become? We buy too much stuff, for ourselves, and our kids, we're given "free" stuff all the time (go to just about any public event and you'll get a promotional travel mug, pen, frisbee, flash drive, reusable shopping bag, t-shirt...) According to Time, "The UCLA researchers say accumulating bigger piles of stuff may in fact decrease happiness and increase stress."
Did you know: there's even a subset of hoarding called bibliomania? Not to be confused with bibliophilia, the LOVE of books. However, bibliophiles are very often avid book collectors. Where is the line between -philia and -mania?
Do you ever fret about having too much stuff? How do you feel about it?