By Samantha Sim
Your high school art project is on your desk, clothes that you never wear are spilling out of your closet, and last Saturday’s pizza has found a home under your bed. Could you be a hoarder?
There is no clear definition of compulsive hoarding. It is often described as a severe cluttering of a person’s home, to the point where they can no longer viably function in the space.
According to Valerie Vorstenbosch, a graduate student in psychology at Ryerson who has been conducting research on hoarding, it depends on the extent of collecting. Just because a person has a lot of a certain item, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a hoarder.
“Hoarders are very attached to an item. They collect much more extremely, [to the point] where it interferes with their everyday life,” she said.
On Sep. 24 this interference was seen inside a downtown-apartment building at 200 Wellesley St. E. when a fire broke out inside Stephen Vassilev’s home, where he was hoarding various paper products.
Vorstenbosch said that people can often confuse the term hoarder with collector or pack rat. She says that the most common way to identify hoarding is through a visual assessment. This can determine whether a person is actually a hoarder or just disorganized and messy.
Stephanie Reyes, a third-year arts and contemporary studies student, believes that hoarders feel as if their possessions are a part of their identity. Getting rid of these items would mean forgetting a part of their life.
“I believe [hoarders] identify with their stuff. I think it reminds them of a happy time in their lives,” she said.
There’s a psychological doubt, said Vorstenbosch, that hoarders can have, which causes them to be scared of throwing certain things away. For example, a hoarder may be afraid that if they throw something out, such as a to-do list, they’ll forget something important that was on the piece of paper.
“It creeps me out,” said second-year science student Hrisie Geurguieva. “I don’t understand how it gets that bad.” She said that she collects money from different countries, but it’s nowhere near hoarding.
First-year occupational health and safety student, Mark Kelvin Palomaras, said he’s never heard of the term hoarding, but he confesses to collecting hundreds of comic books.
“I have around 300 comics. Over the last three years I’ve probably spent $1500 on collecting,” he said.
Vorstenbosch says that hoarders may feel overly responsible for a possession. Often times she says that they worry they’ll need the item once they throw it out.
“Hoarders tend to have very poor organizational skills,” said Vorstenbosch. One part of a hoarder’s treatment process, she said, is to address their difficulties with organization. But being organized can help anyone.
“There’s no distinct or definite sign [if a person is a hoarder],” said Vorstenbosch. She suggested the best place to start learning about hoarding is to research online.
“I keep all the tags from the clothes I’ve bought,” said Jessica Bourque, a third-year retail management student. “It’s not like I’m going to return the clothes. My family is always telling me I should get rid of [the tags]. But I just can’t.”
Photo by Lindsay Boeckl