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Are you crumbling under the clutter?

india Updated: May 08, 2012 01:51 IST
Highlight Story

If compulsive hoarding is taking the better of you and your house, it's time to seek help

Vinay Dutt, 29, (name changed) broke up with his girlfriend because she wanted to throw out the old, useless stuff that he had stacked everywhere in his room. Dutt's possessions that include chains, bracelets, old cassettes, books, CDs, and newspaper cuttings, weigh more than a ton and leave hardly any space to move around comfortably in his room.

"The thought of someone discarding his belongings bothered him so much that he preferred snapping his relationship than parting from his treasured junk," says Dr Pulkit Sharma, psychologist, whom Dutt approached after he realised he has a problem. Dutt suffers from disposophobia or compulsive hoarding disorder, a psychological condition in which the person refuses to part with large quantity of items that have little use or value. These items encroach upon the person's living space causing distress.

Why do people hoard?
Experts say that people hoard because of deep-seated psychological factors. Some lonely people collect items to make themselves feel safe. Others use hoarding to distract themselves from issues that bother them. "A rising trend, it is often the result of broken relationships and insecurities. Most hoarders deny that their conditions are unlivable," says Dr Avdesh Sharma, psychiatrist, and advises hoarders to seek help from friends, family and experts, or else the disorder could leave their life impaired. Read on for an insight into a hoarder's psyche.

Hoarders who made headlines
Vasoulla Harman
British TV presenter Jasmine Harman's mom Vasoulla Harman (right in the picture) suffers from compulsive hoarding disorder. She has collected so much junk in her house that some of the rooms in her house are unusable. Jasmine, who's trying to help her change, has made a documentary on her called My Hoarder Mum And Me. Jasmine has tried cleaning up mom's junk in the past, but failed as her mother got suicidal.

Richard Wallace
Britain's well-known hoarder Richard Wallace's house is stuffed with mountains of junk. He has stacked old newspapers, food packaging, clothes, building materials, boxes, electronic
equipment in such a way that he has to crawl from one room to another. Wallace is gradually realising that he needs help. His neighbours are trying to clean up his house.

Edmund Trebus
A Polish man, Edmund Trebus, became famous when he was featured on the British television documentary series A Life of Grime. He lived in a poky space in his house in London, with rubbish all around him, that
measured 515 cubic yards.

The Collyer Brothers
Homer Lusk Collyer and Langley Wakeman Collyer were two American brothers who obsessively collected books, furniture, musical instruments, and many other items, with booby traps set up in corridors and doorways to protect against intruders. Both were found dead in their home surrounded by 140 tons of collected items.

Celebrity pack rats
Amitabh Bachchan
The veteran Bollywood actor has a fetish for watches and has a countless of those in his collection. However, Bachchan's more known hoarding habit is keeping all his air travel boarding passes.

Jennifer Aniston
The actor has a compulsive obsession of hoarding clothes. In fact, Jennifer once admitted that her wardrobe is filled with unworn clothes and clothes that still have tags on them.

Lindsay Lohan
The Hollywood actor is known for her habit of hoarding and had admitted to it in an episode of a TV show called The Insider. Lohan was quoted saying, "It's kind of a sore subject. I just need to get rid of this stuff."

Paris Hilton
Hotel heiress and now an entrepreneur, Paris Hilton can practically be called an animal hoarder. Hiltonhas 18 dogs and has never shied in flaunting her pooches.'

Celine Dion
The singer owns more than 3000 pairs of shoes that she stocks in a large room. Dion once said, "If you have, let's say, 600 pairs of shoes, you're considered a freak? I have about 3,000 pairs. Some people do drugs, I buy shoes."

Reel-life hoarder
The 1995 Hollywood movie, The Unstrung Heroes, is a classic example of hoarder lore. One of the characters in the movie, called Arthur, who plays the uncle of a Jewish kid, Steven Lidz, is shown as a pack rat in the film. He lives in a junkyard like house, as he goes on hoarding newspapers, rubber balls and knickknacks.

Compulsive Hoarding Self-Test
Go through the following questions and answer yes/ sometimes/ no based on how you think, feel and act.

1. Do you purchase or collect items that you do not need?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

2. Are you able to restrain yourself from buying or collecting items that you do not need?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

3. Do people around you argue that you collect useless items, and is it causing problems in your relationships?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

4. If you are short of space, would you willingly dispose such objects?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

5.Is your habit of accumulating objects interfering with your studies, work, social or family life by eating into your time?
A) Yes
B) Sometimes
C) No

6. Are you unable to use living spaces in your home because they are filled with clutter?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

7. Does collecting items that others find useless, make you feel good?
A) Yes B) Sometimes C) No

Scoring:
1. A=2, B=1, C=0
2. A=0, B=1, C=2
3. A=2, B=1, C=0
4. A=0, B=1, C=2
5. A=2, B=1, C=0
6. A=2, B=1, C=0
7. A=2, B=1, C=0

Your scores say:
0-2: Although you may be occasionally collecting some useless items, it is not at all problematic.

3-7: You hoard more than normal. Though you seem to exercise some control over hoarding, it is getting problematic.

8-14: You are a compulsive hoarder and this habit seems to be screwing up your life big time.

By dr Pulkit Sharma, psychologist, VIMHANS

Save yourself from the hoarding trap
1. Develop healthier coping habits to deal with emotional distress, such as writing a diary or talking to a friend.
2. Rather than giving into them and finding safety nets, confront your fears.
3. Take periodic breaks to sort out things in your house and dispose items that you have not been using for a year or more.
4. When you buy a new item, dispose its older version if it's not in use any longer.
5. Once you decide to dispose something, refrain from rethinking your decision.
6. If things are really going out of control, seek professional help.

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