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Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  5,932 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews
What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper that's ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house?

Randy Frost and Gail Steketee were the first to study hoarding when they began their work a decade ago; they exp
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by Houghton Mifflin (first published January 1st 2010)
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Lowell Nelson I've read 3/4 of the way and so far this is not a self-help book. It's review of some of the possible causes and impacts of hoarding, buttressed by re…moreI've read 3/4 of the way and so far this is not a self-help book. It's review of some of the possible causes and impacts of hoarding, buttressed by real-life examples to help elucidate. (less)

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 ·  5,932 ratings  ·  1,083 reviews

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Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
made me clean my room. i shall call this book "mom" ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfictions
oh, dear. this book was uncomfortable to read. i think i may be a hoarder, a little. not terribly badly, not yet. but the fine line between "collector" and "hoarder" is on the thin side. this is from the inside cover, and why i felt i needed to read the book:

With vivid portraits that show us the particular traits of the hoarder - piles on sofas and beds that make the furniture useless, homes that have to be navigated by narrow "goat trails", stacks of paper that are "churned" but never discarded
Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, psycology
I have one dog and three cats, onec at more than my limit. Any cat above two is “crazy cat women” territory (in my own circumstances) I'm hoping the presence of the dog would offset this.

My mom thinks three cats = animal hoarder.

She didn’t have to worry, I’m neither an animal hoarder nor a stuff hoarder but I have to admit people who are fascinate me. If I am flipping the channels and I land on the show Hoarders that is where the flipping stops, then I run around the house gathering up crap to
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pretty much everyone
Recommended to Florence (Lefty) by: Jim Dudgeon
You’ve seen them, odds are there’s one on your street – that house with the curtains always closed, junk spilling out into the yard. Maybe like me you’re morbidly curious, wondering why on earth anyone would live like that and you’d love just one peek inside. This opens that door, you’ll wander through the goat paths of the compulsive hoarder, and explains all the complicated reasons behind it. Guaranteed it’ll have you questioning all the STUFF you worked so hard to buy and can’t bring yourself ...more
Mar 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some people hoard stuff. Some people hoard animals. I apparently hoard Currently Reading books on my Goodreads account.

OK, that's a bit facetious because I'm not really HOARDING them - I just can't consider them "finished" until I've reviewed them, so I just keep adding more and more until I have time to write the reviews to clear the list. *sigh* Does that make me some sort of OCD? Or just weird?

Just weird? OK then.

Moving on... In my house, we have some strange dynamics. I am not a neat frea
Jun 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jason by: Dolly
Whoa, too close to home baby! This book reveals secrets my family spent 2 generations disguising, and now, with grandkids in play, we may be foisting this problem onto the next genealogical branch.

Down-shot, slant-cast eyes--don’t, don’t look at me.
Uncomfortable stammer; no, make that painful acting.
Rituals. Save, save, save.
Followed by--always--rage: “DON’T...WANT TO...TALK.”
Disbelief, ignorance, disgrace, cruelty.
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I read this book as a paranoid. I kept looking around my house and thinking...I might be a hoarder. I do have those books stuffed under the bed so the husband can't see them. (He knows). I do have that cabinet in the kitchen that crap falls out of when I open it.
This book takes a look at the why and how of people collecting things. Some of the stories just broke my heart, however it felt like the authors were just there to write a book. They didn't seem to take the caring part to heart. I felt
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
The fourth star is for a few things:

- The engaging way in which the two authors present the cases they have encountered (which, frankly, would appeal to the voyeuristic in most) - young hoarders, animal hoarders, belligerent 'blind' hoarders vs. intelligent hoarders, hoarders with OCD...

- The authors' compassion for their subjects

- Their admission that it is indeed difficult to help hoarders (and there's no miracle therapy that would solve their issues)

I was highly uncomfortable reading some of
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The authors of this fascinating study of compulsive hoarding are psychologists who have spent several years studying why people hoard. And we all know or know of someone whose house is a nightmare of piles of garbage bags, boxes, stacks of papers/magazines reaching to the ceiling and little trails among the clutter which are barely large enough for one to pass through. Unfortunately, a television show was created (not by these authors) which shows houses being cleaned out and the occupants suffe ...more
This book was completely fascinating.

I know I say this a lot, but I really should have reviewed this book right after reading, because details don't always stick around long enough for me to remember to write about them. This book in particular was chock full of so many interesting details I know it would be impossible for me to convey most of them even if I'd written this review ten seconds after finishing. And it's been a month and a half.

Randy O. Frost was a professor at Smith college when an
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The hoarding shows cruise along on shock value, and geez, if you've seen one house filled to the brim with newspapers, unused storage bins, cat turds, and raccoon corpses, you've seen them all. Wasn't it Tolstoy who noticed that clean houses are all the same, but the messy ones...
This book is much more interesting than the TV shows. Sure, all the classics are here, the Collier brothers, the people who keep their pee in jars (don't look to closely at those Oh Henry bars...) but without the smack
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Thom Dunn
This is a book that goes way beyond the voyeuristic TV shows to explain why people hoard. There are many reasons, and a variety of types of hoarders. Some hoarding is strongly related to OCD, other hoarding not so much. One woman in the book collected magazines; her house was filled with them and she had expanded into several storage units. At first she bought only one copy of each magazine, but then she began to be disturbed by the thought that a magazine might be a little damaged, might have f ...more
(*2019 note: False alarm; this was not my last review here. Realize this is an old review and proceed with that context).

*It's appropriate that this will be my last review on Goodreads because I realize that one of my main motivations for writing and posting reviews here is one of the primary rationales used by hoarders to justify their habit: to have a physical, tangible record of a memory, to quell the fear of memories forgotten. Even when hoarders do manage to purge, they often keep some part
Amanda L
Updated upon finishing--

Gearing up for a move out of state this month... I certainly need to dump a lot. Let's call it "borderline pathological" ;-]

A technical assessment of hoarding from a psychological-scientific perspective which, according to the authors, has been lacking until very recently. They advocate a set of hoarding-exclusive diagnostic criteria for the next edition of the DSM, as chronic hoarding is currently classified under OCD or addiction, since there is some overlap of symptoms
David Peters
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Why I Read It:

I love the shows Clean Sweep, Hoarders, Life Laundry, etc.


The authors come from an academic background so there is a slight text book feel to the work, but it is all punctuated with example after example. And the truth they find at the bottom of the piles is it’s not about the stuff. I think the common misconception people have when they see examples of hoarding on TV is just to throw it away. Getting rid of the stuff will not be a miracle cure. In fact on example from the
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not the sensationalized view that the TV show Hoarders gives, this book is great! It breaks down the many different reasons why people hoard stuff, and the various reasons why people become so attached to stuff. This explains a lot about the psychology of Hoarding and the mental state of people who compulsively pile stuff up around them. What I really liked about the way this is written is that it is clinical, yet accessible, and it doesn't feel like it is all "crazy". There is one chapter about ...more
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
i liked this book because it doesn't make value judgments about hoarders. it doesn't flinch from providing the gory details of these people's houses but it explains WHY they do these things. it unpacks the true force behind these actions (mainly a mix of OCD & trauma) and DOES NOT JUDGE THEM. so interesting and good.
most people wouldn't say i'm a hoarder (although i am messy) but i do have hoarder-ish qualities (also OCD-ish qualities & trauma), and two things in this book were recognizable in a
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-psychology
An enjoyable and well-read nine-hour audiobook available as a download from Audible.

Listening to (or reading) this book is to watching a TV show about hoarders is as volunteering at a hospital is to attending a circus freak show.

Listening to this book after reading various books about memory (specifically, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, recovery
I'd like to think that we all can recognize a little bit of ourselves in these case studies of hoarding, but maybe it's just me. Fortunately for my boyfriend, my "collecting" hasn't made our living space unlivable, and reading this book actually made me think a few times, "Hey, I'm not so bad." Watching hoarding intervention shows puts me into a flurry of cleaning and discarding activity, while this book made me recognize certain similarities in behavior, bringing some self-awareness. The insigh ...more
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I worked for awhile in a non-profit guardianship agency in Washington state and we had many cases of hoarding. One fellow filled up his entire house, then one car, then the other but was sleeping on the back seat of the second. (He lost his false teeth in that mess!!!)

So I had to read this book. The author writes very well and uses people he has worked with to control or eliminate their hoarding. (Obviously, he disguises their real names.) It was fascinating to me to see how many hoarders can gi
May 30, 2010 rated it liked it
Okay, I am officially crazy. I can't get enough of stories about hoarders. Am I becoming a hoarder myself? Hoarding stories about hoarders? I watch the A&E show, and this is the 2nd book I have read in the past 6 months about hoarding.

But I did learn a lot from this particular book. Like a lot of people, when I see those houses of hoarders, I think, just go in and take all the trash out with a dump truck and stop trying to persuade the hoarder to part with his possessions. What I learned from t
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
As someone who grew up with a hoarder parent, this book was particularly interesting to read. The authors, a psychiatrist and a social worker, interviewed many hoarders, their long-suffering family and friends. They discuss some historical cases of hoarding, examine various styles and reasonings behind hoarding, such as collecting, foraging, and rescuing. Some of the interviewees are aware that they have a problem with their collections covering all the surfaces in their homes, while others prou ...more
Melanie Baker
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Hoarding has become, weirdly, kinda fashionable, largely thanks to those TV shows. This book sheds a lot of light on the psychology of hoarders and some of the issues and histories that can bring it about.

It wasn't a big happy ending book -- it made clear that not all of the people in their case studies were "cured", and how common it is for a cleared out house to be completely filled back up again surprisingly quickly.

What I would have liked to have read more about would be how such people are
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and well-researched book about people who are compulsive hoarders. Several of the stories made me cringe they were so disturbing. My reaction was the same as when I watch those hoarding TV shows -- I had to stop for a few minutes to clean and declutter something.

During his research, Dr. Frost created his own Clutter Image Rating by photographing rooms in various stages of messiness and then asking clients to identify the level their home is at. What is interesting is how frequentl
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The authors are psychologists who were the first to really study hoarding behaviour. This tells of some of the psychology of hoarding and presents many case studies of people they worked with. Hoarding is usually associated with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), but the authors feel that it should be its own category.

People who hoard show different symptoms of different mental health disorders, including OCD, perfectionism, anxiety, and more I’m forgetting. People have different reasons they
Mar 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I wish there was more psychology and explanation and fewer stories. The stories are interesting, but the psychology of what drives people to hoard is much more interesting
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Stuff" is organized with case studies serving as the basis for the broader categorization and analysis of various types of and motives for hoarding. It talks about hoarding based on personification of items, a strong sense of personal connection to items, a fear of loss of self if items are discarded, an aversion to waste, an inability to rate the importance of items, the mentality saving "just in case," and combination manifestations of hoarding. The subjects of the authors' research are exten ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Jul 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This rocked my world. I saw some of myself—or one of my friends or ex-housemates—in each one of these chapters. I have accumulated thousands of books, but also hundreds of magazines, papers, articles and mementos. By reading about the pathological collectors—most famously the NYC hermits, the Collyer brothers, who died under piles of accumulated junk in their mansion—I now think about my own habits on a continuum. There are a range of chronic hoarders and shopping addicts who collect animals, ne ...more
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
We all have too much stuff. Frost and Steketee cover extreme examples of hoarding, but it's hard not to identify with the problem of over-accumulation.

The thought processes of the hoarders are not all that different from some of my own reasonings about my aquisitions and why I need to have and keep particular items. Especially the stuff I use (might use/plan to use/occasionally use/have used in the past) for the work I do. Do I still need it? Did I ever need it? Could I substitute something else
Sep 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a nicely executed book by a couple of experts in the field. In spite of the fact that there are no car chases or explosions within these pages, I found the book to be totally engrossing, much more interesting than some of the modern fiction I've been struggling through lately (fifty shades of what?).

There were passages in this book that caused me some discomfort: I found many indicators that could easily be applied to me: stacks of books I won't live long enough to read, impulsive (compu
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Dr. Randy O. Frost is the Harold and Elsa Siipola Israel Professor of Psychology at Smith College and author of "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things" (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2010), a book about hoarding for the general public. He is an expert on obsessive-compulsive disorder and compulsive hoarding and has published more than 100 scientific articles on these topics. He other ...more

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