The Personalist Project

Last summer I became engrossed in the TV show Hoarders. I'd watch it with a mixture of horrified fascination and immense pity. What an unbelievable condition! How sad and bizarre!

This morning it occurred to me to think that hoarders have a gift to offer. They give outward display of an inward condition of the soul afflicting maybe most of us.

Hoarders' lives are gradually overwhelmed by their things. When a room becomes uninhabitable because it's filled with trash, they stop using it. Eventually their living space is reduced to narrow pathways between piles of junk.

Isn't this just the state so many of our souls are in? Don't we let junk pile up? — sins, bad memories, wounds, lies, illusions, uglinesses — and instead of clearing it out, we just close the door on that part of ourselves and retreat to another, less cluttered part? We don't let friends into the rest of our house. Eventually, if it gets really bad, we don't invite friends over at all. We only encounter others outside our home. And those relationships remain superficial and unreal.

I think it's happening in epidemic proportions in our society.

Comments (2)

Teresa Manidis

#1, May 8, 2012 10:30am

Brilliant, Katie!  You're 'spot on,' as usual.  Just today, during meditation, I 'let go' of so many things.  As you may have noticed, interest in others and a generous helping of empathy are two things that come naturally to me; but, with that, there can be a tendency to take on all the pain and suffering and 'weight' of those I care for or about.  So, while always remaining present for my friends and family, and loving them no less than I always did, I have to, periodically, 'clean house' by letting go of their third-party worry and anxiety which has, unintentionally, 'latched on' to my soul, as well.  One, it is not my weight to bear; and, two, I cannot love them half as well with only half a heart.

Jules van Schaijik

#2, May 8, 2012 2:43pm

That's a great analogy, Katie.

It reminds me of a similar one made by Kierkegaard in Sickness Unto Death. The human person, says K., is a composite of body, soul, and spirit, and can be likened to a house with several floors. The top floor represents "the spirit", and the cellar, the sensual sphere. Given that simile, K. says that "the sorry and ludicrous condition of the majority of men, [is] that in their own house they prefer to live in the cellar."

But Kierkegaard's point seems to be somewhat different from yours. He just wants to point out that most men are lazy and superficial, and find the task of "being a self" too demanding. The hoarder analogy, by contrast, is more about the lack of moral courage than about laziness. It emphasizes the pain involved in facing the reality about ourselves, our past, and our messy relationships with others. This kind of "closing the door" of all the junk-filled rooms in our own house, requires a greater and more painful self-awareness then simply deciding to live in the cellar because it takes too much effort to go upstairs.

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