On Monday, I was excited to be featured on WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” page, along with a group of other hand-picked bloggers…and I have to admit that I didn’t actually know what Freshly Pressed was until I got an email from one of the editors last week! It was encouraging, and really gratifying, to see so many comments, likes, and new followers. Thank you so much to everybody who left such positive feedback about my writing. I was so glad to hear how my piece resonated differently to everyone.
There is one concern that I wanted to bring up, though, which is that in the process of being posted to Freshly Pressed, the title of my article was changed without my knowledge, from “Artificial Needs, Artificial Solutions” to “More, More, More: Why We Hoard.” I’m sure this was done to generate more views and create a more specific title, but I think it is an inaccurate use of the word “hoard.” Specifically, what I had hoped to convey was why we buy things, not just hold on to them.
Hoarding, in a general sense, can refer to the act of simply holding on to lots of things. But it also refers to compulsive hoarding, a condition in which someone’s need to hold onto things is so strong that it endangers their health and safety. It also places an immense burden on their families and loved ones. This is the kind of hoarding that gets gawked at in the “schadenfreude shows” of reality TV, but it is a real struggle for many people. The malaise of consumerism certainly prompts us to buy excess stuff and fill our homes with clutter, but this is distinct from compulsive hoarding, which, in my understanding, comes from a place of much more severe need, fear, deprivation, or trauma.
Both of these phenomena have roots in feelings of need and insecurity, I think. But our consumerism is a more of a chronic affliction than an acute one. It still diminishes our experience of life, and deserves our mindful attention, but it is not quite the same as chronic hoarding, a full-blown and extremely stressful disorder. Perhaps the two are points along a spectrum, but, either way, it is worth mentioning that there is some distance between them. In my post, I did not want to trivialize or sensationalize either experience.
I also didn’t want to condemn or shame anyone’s relationship to their stuff. We are all trying to meet real needs, but so many solutions are designed not to work. Our culture is masterful at creating feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and anxiety — and making it look like a purely individual problem, not a cultural one. (And this is on top of all of the other struggles of life!) It takes effort to stay afloat within a system making massive profits off our mental and physical illnesses, however mild or severe. I hope we can all support each other in that effort.