What if instead of owning your possessions, your possessions owned you? We take a look into the fascinating world of hoarders.
We are in the throws of a shopaholic frenzy, buying more stuff than we could ever need. And as products get cheaper and more readily available, it’s no surprise that many of us feel like we’re drowning under a tsunami of stuff.
But for others, compulsive consumerism is literally trashing their lives, as their hoard of cheap bargains, clothes or collectables threatens to completely engulf them, damaging relationships, finances and mental well being.
How does hoarding get a grip on ordinary, everyday people? Exclusive to Lifestyle YOU, the new documentary Hoarders: Get Your House In Order peels back the layers of this condition – and how to turn an out of control ‘collection’ into cold hard cash.
Seduced by rock-bottom prices and fast fashion, we now buy a third more clothing than a decade ago. And for some, keeping up with fickle trends has turned into an expensive obsession.
Amie Ormand can count herself in this number. She just can’t stop spending and buys something new every day – whether it’s online or on the high street. "Every week I normally spend about a hundred, two hundred pounds, " she says. "I like to keep and not throw away because you never know when you’re going to use it again.”
It’s an addiction millions share. And the cost of buying new outfits every few days has left Amie and her fiancé Ali with barely any money to pay for their wedding in just a few months time. "We’ve got a house but it’s nowhere near a home so it’s got to that point now where something needs to give,” says Amie. “I want this home to be a home and it’s not. It’s just a big wardrobe.”
Addicted to shopping
Shopping addiction doesn’t just affect women. Stuart, who doesn’t consider himself a hoarder, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on buying the latest and greatest technology including newest gadgets, boy’s toys and designer clothes.
Stuart has invested thousands of pounds in equipment he has only used a few times. And with his spending out of control and their apartment packed with his hoard, his girlfriend Anna is desperate for Stuart to change. "I’ve got a jacket that I found that cost me £400 (approx. AUD$758); I remember spending my student loan on it, it never fit me, it didn’t fit me in the shop," says Stuart. "I know I’ve got a problem, I don’t have a clue how to fix it.”
While the financial strain of their hoarding habits is enough to bring Stuart and Amie to address their hoarding tendencies, there are those that suffer from hoarding disorder, a mental illness marked by the compulsive need to acquire and keep possessions, creating living spaces that are so cluttered they are unlivable.
59-year-old Ray Byrne is an out-of-control collector who is literally trapped by his own possessions. Collecting everything from old clothes to retro gadgets and broken electrical equipment, his hoard has taken over every corner of his home, and he has been forced to sleep in a cramped corner on the living room floor.
“I suppose you could say I’ve been collecting for a very long time and my hoard has taken over my life really,” says fellow hoarder Barry (a 41-year-old lab technician). “I can’t lead a normal life. The junk is taking over. My hoarding is a problem because I can’t move, I can’t do anything, the gas man can’t get to the gas fire to service the gas fire and I’m cold.”
The impact of hoarding on individuals is very real, and for many is an isolating experience. "We can’t come over for Sunday lunch with the kids, we can’t even bring the youngest one over here for fear that he’ll get crushed under a crate of DVDs or something, there’s just so much stuff,” says Barry’s brother Mark.
Compulsive bargain hunter Sylvia has also been estranged from her family. “I don’t think I see my family as much as I could do because they don’t feel comfortable and relaxed when they come over here with all this clutter," says Sylvia.
“I believe that the space that we live in is just as important to our health as diet and exercise, “ says designer Abigail Ahern. “Most people don’t understand how our environment affects mood and behaviour, so if you neglect your homes, you neglect your happiness, it’s as simple as that.”
International statistics suggest that hoarding disorder affects between 2 per cent and 6 per cent of the population. ''I think there's a little bit of it in all of us, but there is a point at which it becomes a clinical disorder - an extreme version of normality,'' Professor Michael Kyrios of Swinburne University, told Newscorp. ''What do we do with things that are kind of OK? Do we throw them away? Give them away?'' Kyrios says. ''Many of us can make those decisions - people with a hoarding problem can't."
If you, yourself or a loved one is hoarding, there are steps you can take. First, educate yourself on hoarding, and then seek professional help. Ask your GP to refer you to your local community mental health team, which may have a health professional who specialises in OCD and is familiar with hoarding.
“Approach your loved one with compassion and understanding,” says Kate Thieda for Psychology Today. “Remember, it is likely that the person hoarding does not see or is unwilling to accept the problems their hoarding is causing. Let your loved one know that you are there to help, but also recognise this is their journey, and their battle to fight. Use your resources and support people to keep your efforts in check, and ensure you are caring for both yourself and your hoarding loved one.”
Is someone close to you hoarding? Find out how the team from Hoarders: Get Your House In Order transform hoarders trash into treasure, and make over their lives - Thursdays at 8.30pm on LifeSytyle YOU!