Genetics or Environmental...cause for hoarding?

brugloverZ9June 20, 2008

Just thought I would see what you all think as I have been wondering about it the last few days.

I don't mean the extreme condition that someone just posted there was a movie about. I mean just mildly...probably like most or many of us here.

My daughter with a 5 year old and a 10 year old recently told me a story about her children and about collecting and getting rid of "stuff". The older one collected everything and wanted to hold on to everything. The younger one collected some, but not as much as the older one. When the younger one was feeling that she had out grown something, both clothes and toys and would not use them again, she happily gave them away, even if they were almost brand new.

My daughter feels that it is genetic for sure. My daughter tends to be a collector of clothes and stuff too. So she knows she did not teach the behavior the younger child exhibits.

I know that I am different than my mother and one sister, probably the same as the other. My brother I am not sure of. My mother would not and still does not at 86 tolerate a piece of paper out of place or even in the house that is not needed.

Seems to me it probably is genetic. What do you think? I thought it might be a good topic to toss around.


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Ah, yes, the eternal question...nature versus nurture!
I think the answer is, both. Tendencies exacerbated by situations. Predispositions turned on by particular stresses. Pre-conditioned self-soothing behavior ratcheted up by fearfulness. Learned behavior that comforts us with the familiar when life gets out of hand.

Sort of like eating habits, perhaps... Some of us eat when we are stressed, and some of us don't eat at all under strain. So when things get tough, we either get fatter or skinnier, depending on our make-up.

I, thank heaven, am not a hoarder...but I am likely to hold onto things for two reasons.
Either they reinforce an image of myself that I like and may not be entirely secure in, OR they contain information that I'm afraid I might be called upon to produce (whether or not that's actually likely).

I had an aunt who kept everything. Her house was lovely and she was scrupulously neat and organized, but the largest bedroom in her house was a storage closet and file room. She did it, we think, because the burden of supporting her family fell on her in her twenties during the Depression, and she never got over the fear that after today, there might never be any more.
So I can imagine that there is a continuum, and that if you get way far down the line with it, you might start to hoard.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 9:57PM
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bronwynsmom...You are so good at giving answers that truely make us think! Thank you for your wisdom.

" Tendencies exacerbated by situations.
Predispositions turned on by particular stresses.
Pre-conditioned self-soothing behavior ratcheted up by fearfulness. "

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 6:11PM
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I think it is heavily weighed towards environmental or nurtured. If you watch the trailer to the movie on hoarding that is posted on another thread, the hoarder had a period in her childhood of extreme poverty.

My theory is that's why we hear about so many elderly hoarders. The Great Depression of the 1930s was a time of great poverty for many, followed by the scarcities in the early 1940's during World War 2, when there was rationing.

So now in 2008, think of the worst case senario: an elderly person with short term memory problems but vivid recollections of past events, living alone on a limited income and holding on to stuff as security. Yet they live in a consumer-filled society where nothing is in short supply, so it's real easy to dumpster dive and collect.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 6:19PM
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I'll cast my vote for genetics...fair and square. My husband will only throw things away under EXTREME duress. Shipping boxes, clothes he'll never ever wear again, magazines he has or hasn't read and will never get to, scraps of paper with old notes. Ugh. Having said that...his parents still live in the same house they moved into more than 50 years ago. I don't think they have ever thrown out a single solitary thing. The very large basement is chockablock with stuff stuff stuff. Closets are bursting. Garage barely has room for the car. It makes me crazy, as I'm pretty much the opposite...can't stand clutter. There...I've vented and I feel so much better. Thanks for the opportunity. :D

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 10:58PM
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This can also carry over into the work environment. Many people I've worked with in office situations also hoard . . .work, files, etc. Most of the time, there is a level of fear involved. Obviously at work, you have to be careful. A lot of these folks were professional people (lawyers, accountants, etc.). Once I got to know each person, they typically had an underlying fear . . . fear of people thinking they didn't have enough to do so they kept everything (and kept it a messy manner) was a typical one I dealt with. Most of the time, it stemmed from a trauma in childhood (didn't have anything so you hang onto everything) and/or afraid of what someone might say if they got rid of something someone had given to them (even if it was a stick of gum -- they kept the wrapper)! That one tends seems to come from lack of love. Although not a hoarder, I had a hard time with that one due to lack of nurturing in childhood. I have a great deal of sympathy for these folks! SM (a/k/a Messy Mo)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 12:40AM
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Let's not get hoarding confused with cluttering. They are two different animals. I clutter sometime, but never hoard. I love throwing stuff out!! LOL My sister calls me a "maniac" when it comes to cleaning out because I love to throw things away. She refused to let me in her house to help her "clean up." She's afraid, very afraid I'll toss too much of her stuff that I consider clutter. HA!

bronwyn's explanation says it all, I think.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 12:26PM
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My husband is a saver but not a hoarder. I on the other hand don't have a problem letting go (except for Christmas decorations). He is now disabled but before if he saw a sale on toilet paper he would buy way to many, also paper towels, windex, etc. I had enough windex for a year and was giving it away. He wasn't raised my his father and never even met him until he was close to 30. He went to visit his dad a few years later and when you went in the dining room what do you see but stacks of paper towel, toilet paper and other things. I thought it was so funny because he didn't learn it from him but he sure had the same gene.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 2:42PM
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Interesting about your husband and his father, dd...

There's a fabulous little book (long out of print) called "Write Me a Poem, Baby," by H. Allen Smith, and it is a collection of the poems and stories of the children of people in the publishing business in New York in the '50's, when it was a small, WASPy, ivy league industry for the most part. One of them was about one such child's family dog, which was half daschund and half beagle. One breed is home loving and the other longs to roam, and the dog spent the whole day stepping on and off the curb, torn miserably by the two sides of his nature.

I resonate with this dog.
In the genetic predisposition department, I am clearly a mixed breed. I am naturally messy, but I can't bear the results, so I make a mess, clean it up, make a mess, clean it up...and vow over and over to develop the habit of stopping before I have to, so I can take ten or fifteen minutes to "leave no trace," as some wise person on this forum suggested. I keep things not so much because I need to, but because I just left them there, and now I have to put them somewhere...

(I just looked on line, and Amazon has some sellers who have this book.)

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 5:18PM
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bronwynsmom, O.K. I ordered the book! Sounds cute by the reviews. That one click ordering at Amazon gets me into alot of trouble/clutter!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 8:10PM
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I am mostly sure it's a brain infection; Possibly a retrovirus or a Spirochete as in lyme disease.
There may be others such as Herpes 6 virus and Mycoplasma.
Hording or OCD is prevalent with CFS and lyme disease .

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 10:08PM
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My ex was an extreme hoarder. His father was a hoarder. Drove my MIL nuts. He's been gone for 5 years and MIL still hasn't made a dent in his mess. 'Nuf said.

My parents both grew up in extreme poverty. My dad says he grew up "shoeless in the summer, going to bed hungry poor." Both of my parents are frugal and neat. They have never hoarded. To them, it's a waste of $ to stock up on stuff you are not using. They have always bought what they will eat that week, use that week, etc. Their house is spotless and my mom's pantry looks like something in a magazine - enough to cook, but not overstocked.

I am like my parents. I live 3 blocks from a grocery. Even if something is a KILLER sale, I only buy what I will use. There will always be another sale, and if I need anything I can walk to the store in about 10 minutes, or drive in 2.

I see hoarding a fear - lack of faith that LIFE/GOD/UNIVERSE or whatevery you call it will provide what you need when you need it. I live in the peace that only comes from faith in the future. I know I will always have what I need, when I need it.

I don't think it's genetics or environment. I think we are all born whole and complete, and then we manifest the personality we came into this world with. I have 3 sons who could not be more different, two are messy but in totally different ways, one is neat. None of them are like their dad or like me. They are themselves and I just have to clean around it! LOL

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 2:49PM
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Dh and I both come from hoarding families. I think it is a learned process. I don't think I could be a hoarder to the extint of the people I see on tv, but I certainly have some of the tendancies. I don't like to see resources wasted so it is hard to throw stuff away. I'm happy to give it away if someone can use it. I'm due for a big cleanout this year. I'm self motivated to do it.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 3:13PM
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Both. My parents were both hoarders. After he retired, Dad drove around "collecting" broken bicycles and lawn mowers. A tree on his property died. A relative offered to cut it down and haul it away to use as firewood. Dad said "No, why should I give him free firewood?" When dad died in 1998, my brother had to throw out all that stuff. Their 2 and a half car garage had become unusable. Mom also saved everything. Her house contained three sets of furniture: hers, a deceased cousins, and my brothers stuff from after his divorce. Did you ever see a living room with three full-length sofas? She had it.Mom bought a new cabinet for her kitchen . What did she do with the old one? Turned it on its' side and put it in the living room with the 3 sofas. Mom died in January. Brother is still going through the process of throwing out collected coffee cans and margarine tubs. Of their four kids, brother is not a hoarder, I am "medium", one sister is non-hoarder and seems "Born Organized". I went to her house one day for lunch, asked if she'd seen a particular story in the morning newspaper. She'd already put it in the recycling box in her garage. Other sister is a bad hoarder, exactly like Mom and Dad. Her house is completely stuffed with piles, also her garage and -get this- a big barn in back. And she regularly baby sits her one year old Granddaughter, who is at the walking and exploring stage. We all worry about the baby.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 8:46AM
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