Saturday, 24 November 2007

Junk male

We all have a tendency to hoard stuff we don't really need. But the story of Welshman John Jones is a caution to us all to keep the hoarding instinct under control.

Mr Jones had squirrelled away so much rubbish over 20 years he could only move around his Aberystwyth house through a series of specially built tunnels.

And after he was found dead under bags of rubbish, the coroner concluded he had probably died of asphyxiation, crushed by all the junk.

As it was impossible to remove the body through the solid mass of garbage, he had to be brought out through a window by firefighters.

The rubbish was piled high not just in the house but in the garden shed, the garden and several garages rented from the local council.

Let that be a lesson to all you knick-knack collectors out there. Start clearing it all out before you meet a grisly end.

Hoarding is one of the most common obsessive compulsive disorders, alongside hygiene mania and irrational double checking (like returning home to check the gas is off).

Many sufferers go to great lengths to hide their obsessions for fear of social ridicule and ostracism. Fortunately I've never been one of them, though I do tend to double check things like plane tickets and flight times rather too often.

Mind you, my mum's a bit of a hoarder. But I think she's safe - she hasn't had to build any tunnels yet.


Wisewebwoman said...

this hits close to home, Nick, can you send the link if you can find it?
My very best friend has this problem, and is at the tunnel stage. We are not allowed into her house anymore (last visit was over ten years ago). We have cleaned her out a few times but she always reverts. It is so sad and frightening. She can't let repair people in so when something goes wrong she has to live with it. we have tried literally everything. Interventions, volunteering, etc. She has scads of money (worth well over a million) but lives in abject squalor. For instance, she drops her groceries in bags on her kitchen floor which is already piled high (either side of the tunnel) with other grocery bags. She has to crawl through a tunnel of boxes to get to her bed, she never throws out a box as 'she might need to return something'. She lives off a hook on her hall door as her closets are jammed.
And on.
I have to stop the tendency in myself. The trick is whenever I bring something into the house, something has to leave. It is easy once one gets into this habit. Goodwill always benefits from any purchase I make!

red said...

I knew a guy in Paris who was heading in this direction. Entire rooms in his flat were off-bounds because they were literally crammed full of stuff. It's the strangest mania.

Anonymous said...

Oh Nick, this rings true for me. I grew up in a house where my mum had a fear of pins, bins and dirty buckets and my dad thought it was ok to house 44 pushbikes in the garage.

It was only when I went round to friend's houses that I realised everyone else didn't have aeroplane propellers and nocturnally snatched street signs as part of their dining room furniture.

Luckily none of it has touched me and I am not barking, totally sane, me lol, lol, twitch. xx

Nick said...

www - that sounds awful. She's in an uncannily similar state. I've added the link to the post. Nobody really knows what causes OCDs and there's very few effective treatments. My guess is it's an attempt to ward off deep insecurities. Behaviour therapy that pinpoints the thoughts behind the compulsion and tries to change them sometimes works. Also therapy that reduces the compulsive habits step by step. There are also some drugs that can have a positive effect. But it's a hard nut to crack.

I wonder what would happen if a government agency forcibly rehoused her for her own safety? But probably that's not allowed as it would interfere with her personal autonomy. And I imagine the psychic shock would be considerable.

Red - It's very strange. And there are plenty of other compulsions equally bizarre. The classic case is Howard Hughes, who could only touch things through umpteen layers of tissue paper.

Hullaballoo - yes, I guess we all have these tendencies to some extent. Just as long as they don't get out of control and take over our lives completely.

Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks for the link, Nick.
We moved her out of an apartment to a house due to this condition. We figured more space would solve it. The apartment had to be seen to be believed. Of course her crap outgrew the house in no time. Moving her would not solve the problem, like the old geographical cure. She retired this year and we are all terrified for her as the collecting has worsened judging by her car, she can't take a passenger on board now as every surface is jammed with crap. She is such a bright, attractive woman, you would never know it from meeting her. It is a very disturbing OCD.

Nick said...

Oh, so much for the moving idea! I suspected that might be the result - more space, more junk. As you say, you'd never know from the person's public persona - they can seem perfectly normal but privately craziness has taken over. And yes, they can be highly intelligent but intelligence isn't enough to solve an irrational psychic problem.

Manuel said...

I'm off to tidy up.....

Nick said...

That's the spirit!

Caro said...

This article was in today's Indo:

Seems OCD has a physical, rather than psychological cause.

Nick said...

Thanks for that Caro, that's very interesting. I didn't realise it tends to run in families. As you say, it looks like a physical cause, with brain deterioration in all the OCD patients and relatives who did poorly on the behaviour-control tests.

Anonymous said...

I was really interested to read the article that Caro referenced, thanks for that Caro.