The Impulse to Save

Saturday was spent cleaning out my mother’s apartment. Again. I can’t quite describe my mother’s tendency toward clutter. It defies imagination.

Anyway…my brother slipped me an article called “The Hidden Beauty of Hoarding.” In it, psychologist Randy Frost had an insight as to why some people save so much stuff.

He observed a very lovely woman (much like my mom) who was also an extreme hoarder. This lady had “goat paths” in her house…little walkways in between piles of stuff. He watched as she would pick up a newspaper clipping, set it on top of a pile to deal with later, then picked up a mailing from the telephone company. She would place it on top of the pile to read it later. She followed a similar logic with the third item, and about a dozen more.

This behavior, Frost says, is so common among people who hoard so that he has given it a label: “churning.” The churning he observed in that woman was driven in part by a simple problem with making decisions (a dysfunction that may reflect common problems with how the brain operates in people who hoard). With each item this woman picked up, she failed to figure out which features were important and which were not, in the same way that she struggled to distinguish important from unimportant objects.

BINGO! That’s my mom!

The psychologist worked with this woman to start to gain confidence with her decision making skills. It worked for a while, then she resorted back to her hoarding.

Isn’t that interesting?

Randy Frost has written a book called Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things (Houghton Miflin Harcourt). I’m getting it!

Here’s the article, for any of you who are interested. Really good, readable and filled with insights! The Hidden Beauty of Hoarding

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. Mocha with Linda says:

    I like to say my parents recycled before recycling was cool! I think lots of folks who came through the Great Depression had similar issues.

    In fact, I just picked up a book the other day at the Christian bookstore, called "The Boomer Burden" that addresses the issue of "stuff".