The cable tv show Hoarders has brought that pathology out into the open. People who hoard are not “pack rats” or “disorganized” or can tolerate “clutter”. Hoarding is a form of obsessive compulsive behavior, an anxiety disorder. It fits hand in glove with other forms of OCD, particularly compulsive shopping. Compulsive shoppers seek to avoid the anxiety of missing out on a bargain and compulsive hoarders avoid the anxiety of possibly discarding something of value. It’s not that hoarders don’t recognize value and true bargains, it’s that they can’t see garbage as garbage and they waste money on false economies.
Anyone who has spent any time around collectors and hobbyists of any sort know that at least a few collectors live in that grey area between collecting and hoarding. Ask the clerks at your nearby Jo-Ann Fabric store how many of their regular customers buy way more fabric and patterns than they could ever sew. Also, within the group of actual hoarders, there are those whose OCD displays differently, so they might live in a house filled to the ceilings with neat and orderly stacks of old newspapers, and others, more familiar from the cable shows, live in true filth. As a matter of fact, the fact that so many hoarders homes are so disordered and filthy means that those who are not familiar with the facets of OCD and mostly associate the acronym with compulsively neat people don’t recognize hoarding as a form of the disorder. It’s hard to see the Schlumpf brothers, with their elegant museum devoted to their huge collection of Bugattis, and Barney Pollard, with old cars literally stacked on top of one another in his warehouses, as suffering from the same malady, though they probably had much in common.
Automotive hoarders like the Schlumpfs, Pollard and Lee Hartung, whose collection is currently being auctioned off, and the phenomenon of hoarding old cars (or new ones in the case of the Sultan of Brunei and his brother) are familiar to car enthusiasts. Since the divide between collecting and hoarding is not always clear, one can at least argue that Pollard, Hartung and the like were as much preservationists as they were hoarders. With some automotive hoarders, though, it’s clear that there’s a pathology involved. I’m referring to those people who don’t hoard cars, they hoard in cars.
You’ve seen the cars that I’m talking about. Entire passenger compartments filled with stuff, with just the minimalist space left open for the driver to sit. More often than not it’s trash, fast food containers and the like, but other times the cars are filled with paperwork or tools from a job, or just the accoutrements of daily life. If they had any more stuff in them, the drivers would be ticketed for obstructed vision.
One comprehensive definition of hoarding in homes is that people have so much stuff that it materially affects how they can use their living space. At first glace at some of the hoarding cars, you might think that they’re messy because someone is living in their car. Then you realize there isn’t enough space for them to live in their car. It seems to me that the average car hoarder more fully fills their car to capacity than a home hoarder does with their house or apartment.
What’s interesting about people who hoard in cars is that it’s a bit of a contrast to how those who hoard in homes act. Many hoarders are deeply embarrassed about the state of their homes and avoid having guests. They may say that there’s nothing wrong with how they live but they definitely exhibit shame – some to the point of not making valid insurance claims or not having needed repairs done out of a fear of letting someone in to see the mess. When you hoard in a typical car, it’s pretty obvious. I suppose we all think we’re a bit invisible when we drive.