I was reading through some of the YouTube comments from the last two clips I posted. As is the usual case with YouTube, there were plenty of comments from clueless teenagers (who more often than not, type worse than most 8 year-olds).
So I felt the need to give a little review about what this blog is about, and what being a pack rat is about.
This blog, aplaceformystuff.org, is mostly a documentation of my progress in cleaning my home, namely in getting rid of clutter. I've always been a pack rat. But last year I reached the point where it made for miserable living conditions, thus I decided to actively work on getting rid of the stuff.
In addition to all that, I use this blog to occasionally post rants about other subjects, or comedy clips I like, etc. Each blog entry is tagged by one or more categories, so if you want to read just the "clutter" blogs, simply filter by "Clutter Combat". If you find a blog with a "Clutter Combat" link at the bottom, click that link, and it should direct you to pages containing just the entries about clutter.
I don't put up a new blog every single day, but I try to post at least 4 entries a week.
Oh, and I shouldn't have to say this, but here it goes anyway: you came here out of your own choice. I didn't force you to read my blog. If you are offended by my views or choice of words, tough crap.
Being a Pack Rat, or "Hoarder"
In reading those aforementioned YouTube comments, it's clear that some people simply don't understand what being a pack rat, in the dangerously compulsive sense, is all about. Sometimes conditions are simply not understood by those who don't have them. So let me try to explain.
Being a hoarder is indeed a mental condition. It's a mentality. Obviously, some have it worse than others. I think we ALL have it to SOME extent. You could grab anybody off the street right now, and have them go through their belongings at home, in storage, in their wallet, etc., and you'll definitely find some clutter. Once the person stops, looks, and realizes it, they can find some stuff they've been keeping it for no good reason. I've had people like this who've read my blog and got some helpful tips out of it.
Then you have the extreme cases like people in the video clips I showed last time, where there isn't even enough room for 2 people to walk. These are the true "hoarder" types. And as I've said before, the problem is NOT just needing a bigger place to live. You could give these people a warehouse to live in, and they'd still find some way to fill it up.
Most people however don't seem to understand this extreme type. Trying to tell a hoarder "Just get rid of this stuff" is like trying to tell somebody with clinical depression "Just snap out of it and smile", or telling a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder "Just calm down": that approach is NOT GOING TO WORK! If it were that simple, we wouldn't have people with these conditions. Nagging somebody with a mental condition achieves nothing. More often than not, you just come off as myopic and end up pissing the person off.
Going back to that example, I don't have clinical depression, but I do know that it's a real documented thing. For those of us who don't have depression or bipolar disorders, it seem irrational to us to see somebody who's depressed on their holidays or on their birthday. But to say "Well that person's just stupid" is extremely short-sighted and ignorant. Likewise, people who see these 60 second YouTube clips and dismiss hoarders as "stupid", are themselves being quite stupid.
I've seen other people who assume that pack rats must have a lot of money in order to have bought so much stuff. We don't, at least not necessarily. We just don't get rid of as much stuff as the average person. If anything, a big source of my clutter has been cheap stuff: stuff I bought at flea markets, stuff on sale, etc.
Also, this has nothing to do with being "materialistic". There's a difference between valuing things, and accumulating things for accumulation sake. I am unashamedly materialistic. I always have been. I always will be. When I was 10 years old I bought a sign from a novelty shop that says "He who says money can't buy happiness, doesn't know where to shop." There is nothing wrong with having physical stuff you enjoy. BUT...to quote Don Aslett: if you keep to many things "for atmosphere", you won't be able to breathe! In fact, my main reason for getting rid of clutter is so that I can ENJOY the other stuff I have.
Again, it's not as simple as "Just throw this away" or (even worse) "I'll just go in here and throw this stuff away for you." Pack rats have to learn how to reassess the whole way they collect and keep things. Trust me when I say that they -- or should I say, WE -- will use any excuse to rationalize the keeping of something.
Having said all of that, trust me when I say I am NOT one of those whiners who tries to play the victim card. Sad to say, I think there are some people with clinical depression or other problems don't really want a solution, because they like playing the injured party in order to get out of personal responsibilities, and get the attention. That's not what this blog is about. While I do think that extreme, compulsive pack rat behavior is a valid medical mental condition, I'm NOT here to say "I'm a pack rat. So that's that. I can't do anything about it." On the contrary, I'm here to say "I'm a pack rat, and I AM doing something about that."
I do sincerely believe that it's a problem that can be overcome. But as with any problem, 1) the individual has to WANT to sincerely get rid of the problem (not just get whiny friends off their back), and 2) some things work and some things don't, and 3) the problem is not going to disappear overnight.
Since I started this blog in July, my clutter is something I've been chipping away with, and with success. I've determined that it's really a two-part process: getting rid of stuff, and learning not to accumulate so much future stuff. Most of these TV shows like Oprah or Dr. Phil, when they do a special on hoarding, seem to only deal with the first one. I wonder if their guest hoarders are back to their problem a year later.
And finally, I've gotten a lot of help from Don Aslett's book Clutter's Last Stand, and to a lesser extent his follow-up book For Packrats Only. Highly recommended, even if I didn't like every part of them.
So, hopefully this blog entry clarifies a few issues for people. Thanks for reading!