Hoard Much?

Do you have OCD or are you just sentimental?

Posted Aug 30, 2012

The topic of hoarding is a hot one. It's also a habit that causes many of us with strong attachments to our stuff to wonder: I'm not a hoarder, right?

Now that I have a toddler grandchild, I've been delving into the archeological layers of stuff I've been saving for just this time. Not having moved from this basement-equipped house for an atypically long time (43 years), I haven't been compelled to ditch inessentials. What I've been finding is that, among the treasures, there is a lot of stuff no one in their right mind needed to hang on to. (My daughter-in-law recently said, in connection with some 35-year-old toy I was offering, "You're a strange family.")  

Thus my interest in a novel about a hoarder. Keepsake is a fast-reading novel by Kristina Riggle, who is also the author of Things We Didn't Say, as well as a journalist and fiction co-editor at the e-zine Literary Mama.

Keepsake is about two sisters whose mother was a hoarder. One sister became a hoarder, and the other helps her when her habits cause real havoc. Which is accurate as far as that goes, as it's quite hard for a hoarder to throw things away without a helper. In this novel, the hoarder was attached with a death-clutch to all the objects that her two living children had used, and especially to the crib and items she'd prepared for the baby who miscarried.

Naturally, their hoarding mother had secrets that are eventually revealed, and there's a love story (the guy doesn't really blink at the level of disorder and the possible psychological issues he'll have to deal with). Along the way, readers will painlessly pick up some information on hoarding and its effects.


Taking a more comprehensive (and trustworthy) medical approach, Lee Baer, Ph.D. has revised and updated (this is the third edition) his Getting Control: Overcoming Your Obsessions and Compulsions, adding new sections on hoarding disorder and on the role of family in treating OCD.

Included in this edition are lots of questions and answers, current resources, diagnostic standards, several self-rating scales, a chapter on the latest medications for OCD, and how to distinguish between OCD and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (which would be treated quite differently). The latter, which is often confused with OCD, may involve repeating behaviors, counting, extreme slowness in doing just about everything, perfectionism, stinginess, and, interestingly, "inability to discard worn-out or worthless objects." Hmm. That's why it's good to get some professional help when attempting to diagnose (or treat) yourself or others.

Baer clearly explains the benefits of behavioral therapy techniques, which consist of exposure and response prevention. Once you learn the basics, you can work with your obsessions and compulsions on your own, but it takes patience and diligence. All in all, this is a useful and current book on a disorder that causes much misery.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.

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