How To Cure You Sick Addiction To Hoarding
WHY do we hoard things? David Wallis notes:
[S]ome of the same brain areas that are underactive under normal circumstances become hyperactive when hoarders are confronted with their possessions. David F. Tolin of the Yale University School of Medicine asked participants in a study to decide whether their old papers can be shredded, while monitoring their brain activity. He found that hoarders’ brains zoomed into overdrive like a seismograph measuring an earthquake—compared to healthy controls. (That didn’t happen when they watched someone else’s papers being ditched.) “The parts of the brain involved in helping you gauge that something is important are kicked into such overdrive that they are maxed out, so everything seems important,” Tolin explains.
Monika Eckfield, a professor of physiological nursing at California State University, San Francisco, concurs that many hoarding patients struggle with processing information. To avoid the anxiety of throwing something away, they simply put off the decision to do so. “This is common to all of us,” Eckfield says. Like the neuroscientists, she believes hoarding becomes abnormal as a result of “mis-wiring” in the brain’s executive functions. Chronic hoarders “have a much harder time following through,” she says. “They get distracted. They get disorganized. They end up adding to the pile, and the idea of sorting through those piles is very overwhelming.”
If in doubt, toss it out. The Endowment Effect is cured by Tom Stafford:
Knowing the power of the bias, for each item I ask myself a simple question: If I didn’t have this, how much effort would I put in to obtain it? And then more often or not I throw it away, concluding that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t want this.
I once worked for a house clearance firm in London, spending three days cleaning out the things of a man who had died in a studio flat on the 6th floor of a council block in Notting Hill. He had floor to ceiling newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and letters that formed a maze at the centre of which was the death bed, a mattress. Why had he kept so much and built it into walls?