When I was a kid, my parents sold their second-hand rusty station wagon for $200 to a blind man and a woman who couldn’t drive.
Part of the deal was that they would deliver it to the couple’s home in the village of Spanish.
When they got there, my parents found a bungalow surrounded by derelict vehicles. Inside, newspapers and a mess of unidentifiable things were stacked to the ceiling.
A goat path tunneled through the heaps to the man, sitting in a chair in the kitchen. The cupboards were blocked off. A foul odour hung in the air.
Outside, the woman told them that they’d purchased the car to store the things they didn’t want touched by rats.
People like this are fascinating: the ones who are so far gone into disorder that they live with its literal mess.
In my new novel, there’s a character who is a hoarder and for months now I’ve been trying to get under her skin.
It’s one thing to describe from the outside in but the true challenge is to slip into those shoes. What’s unnerving, I find, is the signs I see in myself, that we can all identify with.
There’s the fact that I have a bag of clothes in my closet that I’ve been meaning to send to the local second-hand shop for months now or how we moved thirty boxes of books a few thousand kilometres (not to mention all the items in yet-to-be-unpacked boxes in the basement).
But this excellent film by Martin Hampton brings us deeper inside the psychological world of hoarders, showing us with compassion and humanity what can happen to people when possessions take over.
It’s been an amazing resource for me, making it possible to imagine how a person could end up saving newspapers they’ve yet to read until there’s a stack as high as the ceiling.
I’m so glad I sold my dead car to pick-a-part seven days ago. I was using it for storage.
Your possession angle is interesting. I would have suspected it worked the other way around. That the objects fill an existing void. jmb
I think they do, in diagnosed cases of hoarding. It’s my understanding that the objects come to represent things above and beyond what they actually are (memories, human connections, etc). It’s interesting to think, though, about how much stuff we do have in our lives nowadays and how easy it is to build those ties with things in an age when we accumulate for emotional reasons much of the time.