Do you refuse to throw out clothes you’ve never worn in years, thinking you may wear them some day? Do you keep your broken appliances, thinking you’ll send them for repair some day? Do you have difficulty discarding items and feel anxious, as though you’re throwing a memory away when you do? If you ticked yes to all three, that house you maneuvered past with stools, newspapers and appliances blocking the passageway might just be similar to a mess you might make someday. In fact, according to a study led by a professor in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) research division, it found that 1 in 50 people in Singapore shows hoarding behaviours in their lifetime.
What is hoarding? Hoarding is the inability to discard items regardless of their value. The line between collecting and hoarding is crossed when the clutter affects your ability to function properly. This includes being unable to cook meals due to the loss of kitchen space and social isolation.
Collecting vs Hoarding
Why do people hoard? On the surface, people hoard for several reasons, such as assuming that the item will come in handy later, for nostalgic purposes, or a belief in that keeping the item will help them remember an event or person. However, the underlying cause of this behaviour is often associated with other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia and even dementia. This explains why hoarding is more common among the elderly, as it helps them combat the fear of losing possessions and cope with losing roles or loved ones in their life.
What are some types of hoarding? Book hoarding, trash hoarding (also known as syllogomania), food hoarding, recyclers and animal hoarding:
Hoarders are prevalent all over the world. In Korea, there’s a job dedicated to cleaning up the homes of lonely hoarders who have passed away – some are even dead for weeks before they are found in their cluttered homes. The US has an entire genre of television shows (such as Hoarders and Clean House) that depict the struggles of people who hoard and the dramatic clean-up/renovation of their houses.
Clutter aside, as today marks National Simplicity Day, we’d like to talk about the other end of the hoarding spectrum – minimalism.
What is minimalism? Minimalism is about buying and living with only the things you need, nothing more. In recent years, the movement has burgeoned due to its philosophy of assisting someone in his/her journey of finding freedom and happiness. Some notable examples of minimalism are Fumio Sasaki from Japan, who owns 3 shirts, 4 pairs of trousers, 4 pairs of socks and just a few other things; as well as Kathleen Morton with her boyfriend Greg Laudenslager and dog, Blaize, from America, who live in a 13 square metre camper trailer.
How does possessing fewer items and living in a tight space bring about freedom and happiness, you ask? Well, minimalists believe that breaking out of the vicious (materialistic) cycle allows you to focus more on relationships and experiences by devoting your extra money and time to things (and people) that truly matter. It may seem a paradoxical fix to hoarding – that having less is actually having more, but given the stark choice between amassing hordes of stuff, or scaling down to the essentials, it’s probably safe to say which option most of us would choose.
By: Violet Koh