Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Dazzle: a brief history of hoarding.

I watched Hoarders last night for the first time.

I'd heard a lot about Hoarders, but I wasn't crazy-curious. I don't watch a lot of television. My motivation for watching Hoarders last night wasn't filled with schadenfreude better-than judgment.

But last night, I was doing research.

And to put it mildly, Hoarders is a wild ride of a show.

But back to the research.

I've recently written about where we shop, why we shop, and now it's time to delve into why some of us shop too much.

It seems that the act of shopping can be fairly benign when it's kept in check. But the retention of what we find and the attachment to its perceived value take the concept and act of shopping to new, fascinating places.

Historically, the act of hoarding has very old, deep roots. Some say hoarding may have first been identified back in the Bronze Age, when accumulation defined status.

More recently, and arguably most famously, the Collyer brothers' lives provide a haunting, cautionary tale.

Langley and Homer Collyer defined eccentric reclusiveness, having created a world not unlike the variety that's dazzlingly apparent every week on the Hoarders tee vee show.

Langley tried to protect Homer, because he was blind. Langley babied his brother, and saved every newspaper in case Homer's eyesight was restored.

But Langley had his blind side, too. He kept everything - not just newspapers.

Let's cut to the chase.

The authorities were notified because someone smelled something. After 100 tons of stuff was removed from the Collyer residence, both brothers were found among the remnants. Both brothers were dead, found at different times because of all the stuff that surrounded their bodies. They'd both died in their home, where apparently they felt most comfortable, among the stacks of what they'd collected. And like most hoarders, it seems that what they chose to collect was intended to enhance their private, reclusive lives.

A play about the Collyer brothers was written and produced in the '90s. Its title is The Dazzle.

Perhaps the title of the play was chosen based on how hoarders feel when they find something they think may potentially add an element of completeness to life; some dazzle.

Which leads me back to Hoarders.

I watched the show because I wanted to get a glimpse into what makes a hoarder hoard.

Not unlike the Collyer brothers, present-day hoarders seem to have issues.

To put it mildly.

Hoarding seems to be a symptom of a bigger, psychologically crunchy cause. And the stuff seems to be the physical manifestation of a much deeper strata of issues that requires much more than a dumpster.

But we'll go into that later.

I'm meeting next week with my friend Debbie, who organizes the lives of the scattered. The hoarders.

The dazzled.

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