Up to Here
Compulsive Hoarding and the
Meaning of Things.
By Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 290 pp. $27
On the entire spectrum of vice, compulsive hoarding registers toward the innocuous end. Who doesn’t have a drawer full of faded T-shirts or old rubber bands? Still, in its most extreme forms the phenomenon is repulsive enough that it’s a natural for reality TV. Last year A&E premiered Hoarders, which features homes pregnant with debris and agitated occupants who have been given the ultimatum—by landlords or health inspectors—to clean up or move out. A woman stalls a cleanup crew for hours, demanding that they recover a treasured piece of broken floor tile they’ve misplaced. Amusing. But then come the long-suffering spouses who pick their way, Daniel Boone–like, through “goat paths” on the way to bed. When the camera films a woman asking Mom if a broken vacuum cleaner and its dander-filled companions are more important than family, the problem ticks, on our vice spectrum, a shade closer to perdition. Buried as we are in a glut of cheap goods, clutter is the rule, but we draw the line at ankle deep. More than that, and you’ve got problems.
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Darcy Courteau is an editorial assistant at The American Scholar. Her fiction and essays have appeared, most recently, in New Orleans Review and Oxford American.more from this author >>
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