Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stuff by Gail Steketee and Randy Frost

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, Gail Steketee and Randy Frost. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. e-book, 246 pps.

     I remember the first time I walked on goat trails. It was from the back door through a small kitchen to a seat near the television set. From the outside, the house looked average. Friend and I grilled steaks. Friend did not prepare me for the catastrophe inside. I was shocked. Friend had been a roommate and decided to return to the family home after several months. After seeing the downstairs, I decided that I must have been the world's most horrid roommate. 

     I don't live in house beautiful for sure. I am disorganized ["thanks so much, T.B.I."] but I have yet to develop goat trails in my living space. Stuff is a series of snapshots of what could be. I don't want it and I keep striving to toss the stuff that I haven't used and to impose at least minimal order at home. Throwing stuff out is easier now that I no longer remember where I got it or why I wanted it. So I keep striving.

     I remember the first time that I heard the word "hoarder." It was several decades ago-- before my experience on the goat trails-- with an old friend who is now dead. We had to stop at someone's house for a reason that I do not recall now. I could see the sun room from the car. There was a refrigerator to one side and piles of crap all over. "She's a hoarder," my old now dead friend said. We did not go in. That was probably okay.

     Housemate used to have a co-worker who was/is an animal hoarder. Specifically cats and kittens. She belongs to some stray cat and kitten society. Her collection is sanctioned by her position as a volunteer. Her clothing smelled like cat piss constantly. Still does. I don't know how she managed to hold on to her job until retirement. She was a social worker too. Go figure.

     Far be it from me to make light of hoarding problems. Hoarding is serious stuff. Some cities have special task forces to address the problems created by hoarding. We need one of those here in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps if this town ever gets out of the sixties, we can get one of those task forces here.

sapphoq reviews says: I learned a lot from Stuff. I learned that there are three kinds of hoarding and that hoarders need a skilled approach in order to help remedy eye sores and public health problems created by the piles. Although at least one book reviewer thought that the case studies veered too much towards entertainment, I did not find this to be so. The vignettes were shared with compassion. Stuff is a great book which families of hoarders may want to get. Highly recommended.

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