Similarly, Frost has noticed hoarders seem overly concerned with making sure their possessions land in good homes. They feel a sense of duty toward their things. Even donations that have been stuffed in bins can still be “rescued.” During a presentation at the conference, Frost described a hoarder he met who felt guilty throwing away a glove with a hole in it. “It’s fearing sin where there is none,” he said.
Though Marnie wants to throw things out, she’s preoccupied with making sure her items go to the truly needy. She mused about giving them to poor children or the disabled. At Goodwill, it’s possible a rich person could claim it—and then it would be wasted.
While on the Nordstrom excursion, I also met Sara, a blonde, middle-aged woman who had flown in from Tennessee. She’s very good at her job, she said, but not at avoiding clothes, jewelry, and housewares. “I would get bored and hit up [the furniture site] One King's Lane, and I didn't need anything,” she told me. “Then once you have something, you feel like it's part of your identity.”
Now, she has stuff piling on her couch and dining-room table, and a garage crammed with boxes. In her town, people are judgmental. “If they knew my house wasn’t perfect, they’re going to think very poorly of me,” she said.
At the mall, she was briefly distracted by a $7,700 white dress covered in palm fronds. After stroking it lovingly, she let it go.
She’s heard of Kondo, but she believes it’s not an appealing approach for her generation, the Baby Boomers. Millennials “are more into experiences, they want to travel more,” she said. “Our grandparents instilled, ‘you gotta keep what you have.’”
* * *
Toward the end of the conference, I attended a support group called “Coming out of the hoarding closet,” led by a young hoarder who identified herself as Susan C. Standing before the audience in a crisp, polka-dot dress, she explained how her hoarding problem was similarly driven by too much love. She’s a chronic people-pleaser who would bring homemade cookies to all her doctors’ appointments. She admires the textures, colors, and other little touches that make things beautiful. It’s hard for her to toss old purchases—or their receipts.
These days, Susan turns down social engagements, because what if her friends offer to pick her up, and what if they want to come in and use the bathroom? They would see the mess. They would know. “I've been saving all these things,” she told the audience, crying softly. “But the one thing that's really worth saving is yourself.”
Susan asked the attendees to try to recognize their strengths, despite their disorder. Marnie raised her hand to say she is very creative, and a good writer. Susan pointed out that Monk, the detective from the eponymous TV series, was excellent at solving mysteries because of his OCD.
Marnie knew exactly what she was talking about.
That actor “had a garage sale recently,” Marnie told the group. “I bought a bunch of his stuff.”