HANDS UP, OBSESSIVES
India Haylor, director of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Centre in London, fears that the way we hoard stuff is a sign of a deeper malaise. “About 10 to 15 per cent of the population have OCD,” she says, “but people can get away with it if it is sub-clinical and their partner doesn’t have a violent reaction against it. They’re usually just seen as eccentrics.”
She believes hoarding is a response triggered by risk aversion. “People are surrounding themselves and protecting themselves with their things. They are scared of losing something that they might need in the future – whether that’s information, a spare laptop or clothes. Their emotional response to these things is over-firing, which leads to anxiety.”
However, a group of researchers in London, Brussels and Heidelberg believes that our emotional attachment to our possessions has been “hard-wired” into our brains to help us to survive, and goes back to a time when food was hard to come by. In a hunter-gatherer environment, where people have to swap meat against, say, berries to get a balanced diet, it is advantageous to develop a strong liking for the food to which one has immediate access.