Compulsive collecting a hoard act to follow
Stuff 8pm, ABC1
FOR me, it’s copies of The New Yorker magazine. Years worth, filed with a surprising neatness that suggests a subconscious bargain with myself that keeping them tidy will compensate somewhat for the pointlessness of keeping them at all.
For others it may be plastic containers. Old mobile phones. Newspapers. Coathangers. Defunct radios. Buttons. The My Little Pony collection from when you were eight. Elastic bands.
Yet I can also be a ruthless chucker. Clothes, furniture, childhood toys, diaries, photographs, baby clothes, entire dinner sets . . . throwing out something is a guaranteed moodlifter, as much a psychological as a physical unburdening.
According to this entertaining, thought- provoking program, the first of a four- part series created, written and hosted by comedian/ radio presenter/ novelist Wendy Harmer, there are three types of people: hoarders, chuckers and those who, like me, wrestle with both competing impulses simultaneously.
Hoarding is the most obvious, though, because it takes up so much room. Accumulation can be as much an addiction as gambling or porn, says the clinical psychologist Harmer interviews, with hoarders driven by the fear of the great ‘‘ what if?’’. As in, ‘‘ what if I did need this elastic band at three o’clock in the morning?’’
Tonight’s episode, subtitled Our Stuff , examines our attitudes to possessions individually and in relationships and asks the crucial question: Can a hoarder and a chucker ever happily coexist?
Mick, for instance, is an out- andout hoarder. Or ‘‘ keen collector’’, as he puts it. He and girlfriend Louise talk about living together, but there’s no room for her at his place. On the other hand, super- chucker Liz, a dedicated environmentalist, likens being surrounded by material goods to ‘‘ living in our own filth’’ and created the concept of ‘‘ Throw Away a Thing a Day May’’ as a fun activity for her aridly appointed household.
Future episodes deal with My Stuff , which explores whether we are born hard- wired to accumulate objects or are taught to do it, and Their Stuff , about family life and stuff, and the effects of losing stuff through natural disaster or divorce.
Finally, Stuffed examines our changing attitudes to the value of stuff as we age and realise we can’t take it with us. Harmer says she wants to get people thinking about curbing their over- consumption, but in a gentle and humorous way. ( Which may be why she interviews the psychologist while lying in bed wearing pink pyjamas.)
‘‘ It’s not that we shouldn’t have stuff, but that our stuff should be sustainable,’’ she says. ‘‘ It should be made, purchased and owned with care and a conscience.’’
If Stuff does make people pause before they buy their 300th pair of earrings, or that new gadget, that’s a bonus.
Thought- provoking: Wendy Harmer’s four- part series Stuff