Com­pul­sive col­lect­ing a hoard act to fol­low

Stuff 8pm, ABC1

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Sally Jack­son

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

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