I remember walking into a new friend’s apartment the first time.  There were stacks and stacks of newspapers, magazines and CD’s (remember those?) everywhere.  And I do mean everywhere.  There wasn’t a place to sit; there wasn’t a place to lie down (even on the bed); there was hardly a place to stand without crashing into one of those stacks of newspapers.  When I asked this new friend why he had all these papers and magazines, he answered matter of factly that he might need a particular article or graph inside one of the newspapers some day and, that he didn’t want to “lose” the information.

This kind of clutter goes beyond household clutter.  This kind of clutter, extreme clutter, that’s characterized by excessive acquisition and an unwillingness or inability to discard large, multiple quantities of things represents hoarding behavior.

Fugen Neziroglu, a clinician with the Bio-Behavioral Institute in Great Neck, New York, is the author of the book, Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding.  In his book, Neziroglu offers a questionnaire readers can fill out to help them determine whether or not she/he has hoarding tendencies.  Some of the following statements are included in Neziroglu’s questionnaire. (The person answers true or false to the statement.)

  1.  I have multiples of many items such as cards, plastic bags, pants of the same color.
  2. I avoid having people over to my house because of the mess.
  3. I buy or pick up a lot of items just because there’s a chance I may need them in the future.
  4. I think about and often worry about my possessions a lot.
  5. If anyone touches or discards my possessions, I get very upset.

Obviously, you’re not a hoarder if you’re willing to clean up and pare down what’s strewn all over the house.  And obviously, “…the catch is not to let your piles turn into chaos…” that obstruct stairs, doors, chairs and tables, says Heather Walker, the Founder of Organizing Functional Spaces.

My new friend’s apartment?  I don’t know.  I didn’t walk into it a second time.