The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio

October 10, 2012

Summary (from the publisher): From the hit A&E show Hoarders, psychologist Dr. Robin Zasio shows readers how to take control of their stuff and de-clutter their lives.

Recently, the once little-known condition of hoarding has become a household phrase—in part due to the popularity of the Emmy Award–winning television show Hoarders, which has captivated audiences with its stark and heartbreaking look at the people who suffer from this paralyzing condition.

Contributing expert to Hoarders Dr. Robin Zasio believes that our fascination with hoarding stems from the fact that most of us fall somewhere on the hoarding continuum. In The Hoarder in You, Dr. Zasio shares behind-the-scenes stories from the show, including some of the most serious cases of hoarding that she’s encountered—and explains how readers can learn from these extreme examples. She also shares psychological and practical advice for de-cluttering and organizing, including how to tame the emotional pull of acquiring additional things, make order out of chaos by getting a handle on cluter, and create an organizational system that reduces stress and anxiety.

My Reaction:

I am not a hoarder of the type you’d see on the television show, or even a pack rat. I can get rid of things if I make a concerted effort to do so. Nevertheless, as Dr. Zasio says, we all fall somewhere on the hoarder continuum, and after evaluating my own tendencies, I decided I came in right in the 2-3 range (on a scale of 5).

My “condition”, such as it is, isn’t that bad — and certainly doesn’t warrant professional intervention. But still, there are times when the clutter present in my small house just gets on my nerves and causes me all kinds of stress. That’s usually when I grab a trash bag and start throwing things in it with reckless abandon.

That approach works to an extent, but I wanted to examine some of the underlying causes for why I allow things to accumulate in the first place — which is why I borrowed Dr. Zasio’s book from the library.

First, her book contained several fascinating examples of patients who are at the extreme end of the scale. These are the kind of folks who have three-year-old containers of milk in their refrigerator, buy the best hair shears available every time they go to the salon, and can’t pass up a bin of toys without making a purchase, even though they don’t have kids.

In addition, Zasio does a good job of explaining some of the psychological factors at play when it comes to hoarding. She listed many examples (including OCD, fear of deprivation, etc.) taken straight from her patients. I recognized several corresponding behaviors on my own part and now have a better idea of why I do the things I do.

Finally, Zasio offers many practical strategies for addressing the problem. What I liked about this part was the way Zasio explained that it’s okay to get rid of things even if they’re still in good, usable condition. She explained that you don’t have to feel guilty about “wasting” these things; it’s just as much of a waste to leave something unused on a shelf in the closet as it is to donate it or give it away.

Based on the advice I read in this book, I’ve already cleared out my office, my bedroom closet (including several items of clothing that still had tags on them but were purchased four years ago and are the wrong size), and my bookshelf. I feel surprisingly liberated and plan to keep going through the rest of my house. Moreover, I’m going to try to stop myself from buying so much crap in the first place so I can eliminate this problem altogether.

Rating:

I found The Hoarder in You by Robin Zasio to be extremely engrossing and helpful for me. Granted, I’m not the kind of person that has stacks of newspapers and towers of trash all over my home, but I have had problems hanging onto things longer than need be. I’ve read complaints that Zasio’s book isn’t aimed at real “hoarders”, but merely at disorganized people. That might very well be the case, but I’m not qualified to make that determination. What I do know is that it helped me and I’m glad I read it. I give this one 4 stars out of 5.

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