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Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy Frost and Gail Skeketee, is a book of interest to many, a cautionary tale in some respects, and a message of help for a group of others. The latter are those who suffer from one of the varieties of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): compulsive hoarding.

For many, collecting things is an enjoyable hobby or avocation, be it cars, clothes, coins, books, tools, antiques, historical items, and many other objects. You can become a collecting professional by studying to work as a curator in a museum. Librarians, too, make a living out of collecting and keeping stuff in order and so, too, are software designers or scientists in many realms, from botany to ornithology.

But the dark side of collecting is never being able to throw out certain items, to the point that they take over one’s entire life. We are not talking about clutter, we are talking about “antiques” building up in a house until the owner has to sleep in the backyard shed; and if there are others involved, imagine what a huge problem it is for them. Famously and most extremely, the Collyer Brothers, Homer and Langley, were discovered dead in 1947 amid the clutter of a Manhattan brownstone. Gustave Flaubert wrote an unfinished novel, in a brilliant new translation by Surrealist scholar Mark Polizzotti, called Bouvard and Pecuchet, about two fast friends that take the idea to other limits.

Frost and Skeketee have produced an engaging book that will help “hoarders” and their families as well as the rest of us, which I suspect includes nearly all of us, to look at the meaning of things and objects in our lives, why we keep them, and when keeping them hurts our spirit or relationships with others and the world at large.

Some readers may remember books that represent opposite ends of the philosophy of Stuff. One is the Occam’s razor of getting rid of clutter. The author states that most men can get by with only a twelve-inch space of clothes on the rack in the closet. At the other end, books like Cheapskate’s Gazette counsel readers to save just about everything because it just might come in handy in the future.

Stuff is a neat book, one to get a conversation going in your own mind, or with others, and it may be a godsend to those whose lives have become overwhelmed with the extreme: compulsive hoarding. This book has just been released.

There is even at least one clutter relief coach:


Another place to learn about managing stuff is:

The Clean House

Finally, here is one book that led to a trilogy and encouraged its author to start a cleaning business:

Clutters Last Stand: How to DeJunk Your House”

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