Hello dear friends
Today I walked across the lights of the main road to a community charity shop to buy some cheap books to read. It was so close to the caravan park that I didn’t need to even think about driving there … how good was that?
From the outside it looked like any other charity shop but what a surprise I got when I walked through the door! This was no ordinary second-hand store. This place was jam-packed with more ‘stuff’ than I’ve ever seen.
It looked to me like … JUNK!
But … would I be able to find my way? Would the endless ‘stuff’ eg toys, dinner sets, goods etc fall down on me like an avalanche as I walked through? And how come three women and a man were able to fit in the small space at the front of the shop?
Now, just by chance, in the middle of last night I had listened to a radio program when I couldn’t sleep. It was all about people who HOARD. The guest, a psychologist, was discussing why a person HOARDS and how it has now been defined as a psychological condition.
He was describing the houses of people who hoard. The chaos of it. Stuff piled up to the ceiling. No floor space to even walk about the house. He said a house like this was a health hazard, mainly because of the risk of fire.
And what is worse, it is not enough to simply help the person to clean and sort things out in the house because the person who hoards is psychologically dependent on all the ‘stuff’ they can’t bear to throw out … or they buy and never use.
Now, as I entered the charity shop, I realised that it looked like it belonged to one of these hoarders! I feared for my life as I walked through the dark narrow aisles filled with ‘stuff on every side.
“And then I heard them having a discussion out the front. “Can you smell something?” one of them asked. Another mused, “It smells like fire …” A third person chimed in, “It smells as if someone has an iron on.” Oh no! I could hardly believe what I was hearing.
I couldn’t smell fire myself but I did feel panicky after the program I had heard on the radio, and wondered if I should make a quick exit. But, by this time I had been distracted as I arrived at the book area and was overwhelmed at the array of different books that confronted me.
They had started out on shelves but order had long since vanished, with books of every size now stacked up to the ceiling. I was surrounded on all sides by books and more books. This was not ‘Book Heaven’ but ‘Book Hell!’ Where to begin? All thoughts of a fire had momentarily vanished from my mind as I scanned the mess that was the book area.
As I walked back to the caravan park, I was still in shock at what I had just seen. The price of everything was dirt cheap but I couldn’t bear to look at anything else because of the awful feeling the whole ‘compulsive hoarding’ problem gave me.
It made me aware that the psychologist on the radio last night was right: this is not simply about throwing ‘stuff’ out; this is something that when you encounter it, it affects you deep down in your bones and makes you want to run for your life. There is something unbalanced about it.
Hoarding is akin to gluttony or bulimia or any other thing that makes the person feel better when they focus on it; when they cannot give it up because if they do, they will suffer withdrawal symptoms and feel awful.
So dear friends, with all my knowledge of hoarding ringing in my ears, I have come away from the charity shop realising that this shop needs a little charity itself … from someone who understands why the people at the shop are unable to throw one single thing away. Oh please, someone come and help them!