I helped my family clean out a hoarder's house today in the western suburbs. And when I say hoarder, I mean HOARDER. My rents have been working on emptying this house dumpster by dumpster for a month or two-I just stepped in today to check the scene out and sweat profusely for a few hours, hauling large objects like a rented mule.
Wiki states "Compulsive hoarding (or pathological collecting, or, informally, packratting) is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment."
I've never really felt this urge to gather and collect things, except perhaps for my early years, when I was into collecting baseball cards (I amassed about 12,000 before my nerdiness found other outlets). I guess I've always been too much of a rolling stone to gather much moss-I don't even have that many books anymore. I just hate moving shit and I'm usually too broke to buy stuff anyway.
The feller whose house they're cleaning out actually moved out five years ago, so it's basically an abandoned house that's been crammed to the gills with stuff slowly molding and expanding into an entire cornucopia of sights and smells. I thought about taking interior pictures of the house, but decided they wouldn't do the scene justice. It's not just about the dusty furniture or mountainous stacks of old magazines or the fifteen unopened boxes of Christmas lights or the ancient, well-used litter box I carried out while gagging-it's the overwhelming, nigh apocalyptic feeling you get as you walk through the house, hopefully wearing your respirator mask. The cramped, high density feel of a lifetime hoarder's work abandoned to time and the elements and to the mercy of whoever is kind to take away such material burdens. Surrounded by such evidence, you think here, right here, lived a person who grew so consumed by common physical objects that they allowed the objects to replace nearly all other joys, crowding them out through pure physical presence.
Hoarding is materialism taken to its unhealthy extreme-Smaug with his gold, Gollum with his ring, Howard Hughes sequestered in his skyscraper tower, fingernails grown to claws. The popular reality shows about it are watched (I assume) by people who themselves have a medium or large amount of stuff in the same spirit of car drivers who slow down to gape at a bad accident on the highway before speeding merrily on.
But what would our friend the Buddha say about all this? Well, I think you can guess.
“You only lose what you cling to.”
― Gautama Buddha