Seeking help for hoarding

Support groups offer help for those who just can’t throw anything away, a condition now classified as a mental disorder. CBS News

In poker, a "full house" is a good hand to be holding. In the theater world, a "full house" is one in which every seat is filled. In everyday life, a "full house" can mean a jam-packed home with almost no room for people. Our Cover Story is reported by Rita Braver:

"At some point I got a lot of stuff," said Joanne Garland. "I kept too much paper. I kept too many books.  I kept too many clothes."

Too much of everything! Garland's Greenfield, Mass., home is packed with belongings she just can't part with. "Decades of stuff, yes!" she said. "It has been picked up at times in the past. And the volume of clothing has overwhelmed me. More has to leave the house."

It's not that she hasn't tried. After years of forcing herself to throw things out, she can actually eat in her kitchen again. But Garland continues to hoard -- items like the wire handles from Chinese takeout containers.

Why? "It's easy to bend, and you never know when I might need it, so …"

"How often do you end up needing it?" asked Braver.

"Not very often," she replied. "But you know, I hate to waste anything, and that has been part of my problem over the years."

Garland is just one of millions of people who hoard. It's estimated that up to five percent of the U.S. population has the problem, with an equal number of men and women.

And a new CBS News poll finds that a third of all Americans say they have too much clutter in their homes.

The subject of hoarding is so sensational it's become fodder for reality TV shows.

But beyond the spectacle, there's new recognition that hoarding is caused by a mental condition. Last Spring, for the very first time, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5 -- the handbook for mental health experts -- recognized hoarding as a specific disorder

The diagnosis of hoarding as a mental disorder is no surprise to Smith College psychology professor Randy Frost, co-author of "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things." He says the formal definition of a hoarder is someone who has difficulty letting go of possessions.

Braver said, "You accumulate way more stuff than you need and you have a really hard time saying goodbye to it?"

 

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