The hoarding test?


Dear Lissane,

I have a little anecdote I’d like to share, which provides a great way of spotting hoarders. A friend of mine moved recently. When they were packing up the garage, she came across a box marked “kitchen stuff” unopened from the previous move about 6 years ago. She knew there were no family heirlooms in there, they were all accounted for. She figured that if she hadn’t opened this box in 6 years, there was either nothing important in there, or it had been replaced. So she took it, still unopened, to the Salvos.

Now, if you tell this story to a non-hoarder, they’ll nod and say “yep, I’d do that.” An acknowledged hoarder will admit they’d have to go through it, but would probably get rid of most of it. An unacknowledged hoarder will react with absolute horror at the thought they might be getting rid of something important and insist my friend was a lunatic.

Me? I fall into the “acknowledged hoarder” category. I’m a-working on it, though.

Christine Lawrie

What do you think?  Is this a test you could use yourself?  Or do you have other ways of deciding if you’re a hoarder or not?  I’d love to hear!

12 responses to “The hoarding test?

  1. Yeah, I’d fail that test and have to go through it. Because I wouldn’t trust that I’d labelled the box properly and I remember a girlfriend who had a box of ‘misc junk’ from an old move that she almost threw out without looking at — and discovered all their passports, birth certificates etc shoved down the side. But if you can label things accurately I guess it would work!

  2. Oh, I would so fail this test. I can’t throw anything away unless I know it’s truly worthless. I guess I’ve just watched too many episodes of Antiques Roadshow. 🙂

  3. For me, it would depend on who packed, sealed and labeled the box. The person in the anecdote apparently packed the box herself, so it’s reasonable that she’d trust the label.

    As a individual, I know that I’d never put anything EXCEPT kitchen supplies in a box labeled kitchen supplies, and I’d have fairly good recall of exactly what I put in the box after six years. However, I suppose I should cringe to say this, but there’s not another human on the planet I’d trust to pack, seal and label the box of my possessions to assure me that it is safe to discard. (I have no idea what “the Salvos” are, but I’m assuming it’s a charity, and guessing it’s related to Salvation Army?)

    As a professional organizer, I never “trust” my clients to be sure that there’s “nothing” in something. I check all the pockets of clothing and bags before they go into donation, sell or trash piles. There have been many times a client has said, “Oh, you don’t to check that,” only for me to go ahead and find cash, checks, jewelry, passports, ancient love letters and other valuable or invaluable items tucked away.

    So, at least to me, I think this is less an issue related to hoarding (though certainly a hoarder would be appalled at the idea of letting go of things without a thorough examination) and more an issue related to trust and certitude. I don’t have OCD, but I always check (once) to make sure the oven is turned off, the door is locked, the keys are in my pocket before closing the car door, etc. I’m cautious…and not at all trusting. But I’m definitely no hoarder. 🙂

  4. Can you be called a hoarder if you only hoard one type of item? In my case, books? I can’t get rid of a book unless I have read it, or started to read it and didnt like it, or I already have another copy of it, for one reason or another.

    I couldnt do that with a box of books (send it to the Salvos without checking it first), but probably could with almost anything else – clothes, kitchen ware, gadgets, prints.

    • You’re one up on some bibliomaniacs I know, Robin. I know people who can’t throw out any books, regardless of whether they liked them or not. And other people who keep books just because they’re books. My book collection is one of the things I’m in the process of paring down.

  5. As the supplier of the anecdote, I feel I should comment. The woman who took the unopened box to the Salvation Army (good guess for a non-Australian, Julei!) is an organised, efficient person, so a box she marked “kitchen stuff” would not contain anything like passports etc. However, Nicky, your girlfriend is not alone – another friend of mine, who moved recently, says it’s a good thing he went through the box marked “old toys,” because he found all of his professional certifications shoved in there. I think you’re right too Julei – this story may be as much of an indication of certitude and organisation as it is of hoarding tendencies (everyone I’ve told the story to, who would open the box, is someone I’d consider a hoarder to a certain extent).

    As for me? Well, I know I will never put my passport in a box labelled “Misc. Junk,” because my passport, birth certificate and current vaccination certificates are in a filing cabinet folder marked “Personal Documents.” And my professional certificates are in another folder marked “CV.” A box I labelled “Kitchen stuff” would only contain items found in a kitchen. I’ve always tried to be organised, in as far as keeping like with like and storing items in logical places. I think this is why I was able to convince myself for years that I didn’t have hoarding tendencies: even though I had to store my roasting pans and cookie trays in the oven because there was no room in the kitchen cupboards because of other kitchen gadget crap; I had so many books they were three deep on some shelves with others lying in the gap between the books and the shelf above; getting to my bed was difficult because of the meticulously sorted and labelled massive fabric stash; and it was of course perfectly reasonable to keep bags of lint from the lint collector in the clothes dryer, also the hair my cat had shed.

    And Julei, I agree that any box packed by someone else would have to be sorted through as well, if only to be certain there was nothing important in there. My dad, for instance, was another meticulous hoarder (he was a champion hoarder). A box marked “tools” would contain tools – three identical claw hammers, two wall stud finders, several complete screwdriver sets. He also had, in the filing folder marked “Car Insurance,” the insurance papers for every car he’d ever owned, as well as his current car.

  6. Pingback: Confessions – I Have Hoarding Tendencies | lifeofcarbon·

  7. I confess, I’d have to have a little peak through. and isn’t it interesting, once you open the box, you are overwhelmed with all the “treasures” inside it – “oh there’s my avocado slicer / melon baller / petit fours pastry bag”. Yeah, right. if you haven’t used it in 6 years, LET IT GO!!!!!!! But I would have a quick check. Just to see I hadn’t stashed anything important (not passport or anything, those too are in clearly marked files, but maybe something my grandma gave me) in it at the last minute. But really, how important if I didn’t know where it was for the last 6 years?

  8. I’d definitely open the box to check if I needed to keep anything — and then become annoyed that I’d bought replacement items for most of the stuff in there!

    OK, I’m a seriously chronic hoarder….

  9. I’m a hoarder…and I know I am…I am getting better though. Lol. I would have to look in the box….but chances are I’d just put it aside and say “i’ll do it when i have a chance” eek.

  10. I am a partially rehabilitated hoarder…I would have a look in the box but them I hope as Claire says above, I would be strong and get rid of it.
    I am about to move to our newly constructed house after a year in a rented place and I had great plans of having a big cull of belongings while we were in the rental after nearly going around the bend when we moved last time.
    And I did give away/throw away at least 20+ big boxes before we moved but haven’t done as much as I would have liked in the past year.
    The garage is still half full of things that haven’t been touched all year but I have mostly done without or borrowed the things that I know I have but can’t find.
    Wish me luck – no not luck- inspiration and good management for the next move@!

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