Hoarding and aesthetics

by on April 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm in Science, The Arts | Permalink

Here is an excerpt from an interesting piece by Bonnie Tsui, from Pacific Standard, I liked this excerpt:

…hoarders literally see and treat their stuff differently.  The physical world of hoarders…is much ore expansive than what the rest of us perceive, and is often free of the rules that we are wont to impose.  Even more intriguing, Frost told me that some of the neurological hallmarks of hoarding might indicate a giftedness in the aesthetic appreciation of the physical world, rather than pure illness.  One of his patients had a pile that built up in the middle of her dorm room over the course of a week; she started perceiving shapes, colors, and textures, and it became a work of art — something with aesthetic value.  “She couldn’t dismantle it, because that would destroy it,” Frost said.

dirk April 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I’ve noticed that many artists have messy households.

Russ April 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm

The hoarders I know have a combination of sickness and laziness…

Andrew' May 1, 2013 at 7:20 am

that could be depression.

I do research. My job is keeping useless tasks to a minimum. But I found that the world is often run by people who enjoy useless tasks (i.e. doing and creating tax forms). It’s depressing.

Typhoon Jim April 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Try reversing that particular statement, and removing the judgment from it.

Brian Donohue April 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Perfectly sane.

Johnny A April 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm


Rich Berger April 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Jawohl, Bruder. My sentiments exactly.

Claudia April 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Look we are all on the continuum here. I am by no means a hoarder but I was raised to live with controlled chaos/clutter and consider large piles of paper to be natural home companions. I was married to a German who thought paper that was not filed in a binder along was the enemy along with knick knacks and clutter. Once I read a great article about a woman with a big job and a busy family. Her trick was to pile all the dishes from the week in the bathtub and deal with them on the weekend. I thought this sounded grand and well, let’s just say that got shot down with a stern warning. Neither right nor wrong, just different aesthetics and tolerance levels. Besides our strengths and weaknesses are often closely related, so the quote doesn’t seem far-fetched to me.

dirk May 1, 2013 at 4:36 am

Claudia, we should date. What do you think?

Andrew' May 1, 2013 at 8:08 am

What did the German do for a living?

Ray Lopez April 30, 2013 at 11:31 pm

No, not bullshit, it’s art. Like the great artists who write on bathroom walls with their own fæces.

Dismalist April 30, 2013 at 7:21 pm

My beloved wife is somewhat of a hoarder. Both her parents were hoarders. I put it up to her being a grandchild of the Great Depression, as her parents were children of the Great Depression. One couldn’t buy stuff, so one better have had it on hand. Rational for that environment.

Never mind how I was spared all that.

Windy Wilson April 30, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Both of my parents were chldren of the Depression, and doing for yourself was an absolute necessity. My generation hasn’t a clue how to do things on their own, and those just a bit younger are openly hostile to the idea that one might not be able to buy what they need and had better have spares.
I’m trying to find a medium between being prepared for almost anything and being able to find stuff when I need it.
To paraphrase Rick Nelson in “Garden Party”,
I’m all right now, and I learned my lesson well,
You can’t save everything if you want to save yourself.

Shane M April 30, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I wonder how this correlates with ebay? I’ve noticed I find it harder to throw out things now because “somebody, somewhere in the country/world might want it.” Previously it’d go in the yard sale or to the dump. This doesn’t address the worthless items like receipts or product wrappers, but I do think “stuff” has taken up a different mental place – more similar to money or a form of currency capable of being liquidated.

Dismalist April 30, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Ah, the yard sale: Which is Americans trading their junk with each other, using the medium of money to separate the time of buying and selling said junk. E-bay also provides this shuffling service, albeit without need for yard. :-)

I’ve bought things at personal sales outside the USA, advertised in the local newspaper [hence NOT yard sales], and garnered valuable second hand items, such as baby clothes.

Shane M April 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I thought about this a bit more while going to dinner. I think the increased ease of liquidation makes me less careful at the purchase stage also. I sold quite a bit of musical equipment this past week on ebay, and some of it I probably purchased because I knew I could easily sell it later. It’s more like extended rentals than purchase (at least I tell myself that :-) )

Scout April 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I think it’s closely related to List Aesthetic

anon April 30, 2013 at 10:16 pm

My wife has hoarder tendencies. All horizontal surfaces are covered with her stuff (even just old magazines) within a short time after items are cleaned off, including chairs. Empty containers will not be put into the trash ‘because they can be recycled’, but they never get put into the recycling either unless I (or the cleaning help) do it.

Her grandmother was obsessively neat and gave away nearly all her possessions and gifts immediately. She had an obsessive dislike of all clutter. Her sister’s pretty much the same way (and is on disability for OCD). Therapy for my wife has had no appreciable impact, although perhaps it’s kept things from getting worse over time.

She grew up in an upper middle class household with no material worries.

After decades of marriage, I don’t see a smidgen of anything artistic in this. This does not “make my life a living hell” and there are a lot of people with worse problems, but it is irritating to live with. On the plus side, I’m never at a loss for scrap paper to write down phone messages.

Saturos May 1, 2013 at 2:43 am

Confession: I might be a digital hoarder. Suspicion: so might Tyler.

TR W May 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

There are several hoarder shows on TV. Not all hoarders are alike. Some hoarders enjoy the obstacles the hoard creates. It become adventurous. Some are lone environmentalists who want things to be reused and not thrown in a landfill. Some are insecure about not having things when they need them so they accumulate in an effort to have everything they need at all times. The hoard in almost all cases has a social function to push people (including their own family) away from the hoarder.

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