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Thread: Is visible hoarding an American phenomenon?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Is visible hoarding an American phenomenon?

    A dumb question to Cyburbians who live or have lived outside of the United States: do you have hoarders there? In my travels through Canada, I've never seen the "40 junked cars on a lot" phenomenon that is common in some parts of the rural United States. I know there's complex sociological and cultural reasons for visible hoarding in the US (Appalachian/Scots-Irish culture, property owners don't see their property as part of a larger neighborhood or community, the rural poor using junk as a source of income, etc), but what about other countries?

    FWIW, around where I live, outdoor junk storage is illegal, but you'll see flagrant violations here and there in some more rural towns. It's mainly because the perpetrators are long-established families that are difficult to difficult to deal with, with a long-established reputation among local law enforcement officials; a live-and-let-live hippie mindset; and "tolerance" for Appalachian culture.
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    Cyburbian TOFB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    A dumb question to Cyburbians who live or have lived outside of the United States: do you have hoarders there? In my travels through Canada, I've never seen the "40 junked cars on a lot" phenomenon that is common in some parts of the rural United States. I know there's complex sociological and cultural reasons for visible hoarding in the US (Appalachian/Scots-Irish culture, property owners don't see their property as part of a larger neighborhood or community, the rural poor using junk as a source of income, etc), but what about other countries?

    FWIW, around where I live, outdoor junk storage is illegal, but you'll see flagrant violations here and there in some more rural towns. It's mainly because the perpetrators are long-established families that are difficult to difficult to deal with, with a long-established reputation among local law enforcement officials; a live-and-let-live hippie mindset; and "tolerance" for Appalachian culture.
    Job shadowing in England I saw many instances of junk in yards, too many outbuildings, etc. Same stuff as over here.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I've seen evidence of this in Ireland and in Canada.

    I saw in interesting phenomena in my new subdivision. Everyone has 2 bedroom townhouses with attached garages and basements. The closest are very generous in my unit, and there are only two styles. Since this is a condo, there is very llittle opportunity to store your crap outdoors. This was a nice weekend and many garage doors were up. Me being nosey wanted to see what kind of cars everyone has. I am wondering why on earth would people have so much crap that they can barely move around their garage? Why on earth would you need extra refrigerators when you have a modest size home? What is the max number of people you can fit into 2 bedroom? 4? How much crap can people generate? I have noticed some folks perpetually put out large sums of garbage every week. These seem to be the same folks. Maybe the importance of living simply is just lost on them?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I've seen plenty of yards in Canada, especially in northern Ontario, with junked cars and trucks in them. Driving from Sarnia to Owen Sound or from the Sault to Thunder Bay you don't really notice much difference between rural Canada and the rural Midwest of the United States.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    In my travels through India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia I never saw "hoarding". Most likely because we were off the beaten path and people didn't really have spare income to buy things that were not useful in some way.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    I think its a property and money phenomenon. America has both of those things in plentitude.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian
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    Hoarding isn't really a product of being affluent though. Many people in poverty are hoarders as well, they hoard things from thrift stores, yard sales, or even food. It's a mental disorder.

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by VexedCoffee View post
    Hoarding isn't really a product of being affluent though. Many people in poverty are hoarders as well, they hoard things from thrift stores, yard sales, or even food. It's a mental disorder.
    True. But having money doesn't mean you are affluent. Essentially what I am saying is that having any amount of money can lead one to hoarding if you are mentally predisposed to it. Hoarding things from thrift stores and yard sales still requires money - more money than families in many places will ever have.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Is Hoarding a Regional Thing?

    I grew up in the Southern United States and outdoor junk was commonplace in the region. When I moved to the midwest for school and work I noticed a significant decrease in outdoor storage. While going to planning school in Minnesota I noticed little to no instances of outdoor junk. The same can be said for my time in Indiana and Illinois, although I did deal with 2 code enforcement cases pertaining to outdoor storage while working in Indiana.

    This past weekend while driving through Arkansas and Oklahoma for a family reunion I noticed a lot more outdoor "junk" rusting in the blazing summer sun. Is it a lack of zoning laws in many southern areas, or just the libertarian, anti-government inference in private property mindset that appears more prominent in the south?

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    rcgplanner - For you experience, I would bet there is some correlation between relative poverty, lower educational attainment and the migration south to north in the middle of the 20th century.

    Something like - Since the Civil War till pretty recent, the South had beeen more poor relative to the North - poverty ties pretty close to educational attainment - also the south-to-north migration in the middle of the 20th century, probably pulled a high portion of the "less likely to hang on to junk" people to the North, leaving a proportionally higher amount of "more likely to hang on to junk" people in the South.

    But I'm no historical sociologist, so the above may be complete bull.

    As for the Dan's original question - Americans may be more prone to the phenomenon due to the cultural history of individualism/land of freedom, yadda, yadda....

    But, really, the serious hoarders are usually "sick" physcologically and probably a distinct and predictable proportion of any given population, regardless of geography.
    Last edited by mendelman; 29 Jun 2011 at 1:01 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    In suburban Chicago, I don't see too much of the outdoor storage thing, especially as municipal code enforcement laws seem to keep that at bay. However, there are unincorporated neighborhoods where this is more of an issue. You know...the nitty-gritty git-off-mah-lawn backwater areas. And even in the incoroporated suburbs, there are some areas where the cities and villages aren't as proactive and there are always going to be your problem violators with their junk cars and rusting outdoor furniture. I'm sure there are also instances of people hoarding in back yards and side yards that aren't as visible from the street. Nobody knows about anything until someone complains though.
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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    rcgplanner - For you experience, I would bet there is some correlation between relative poverty, lower educational attainment and the migration south to north in the middle of the 20th century.

    Something like - Since the Civil War till pretty recent, the South had beeen more poor relative to the North - poverty ties pretty close to educational attainment - also the south-to-north migration in the middle of the 20th century, probably pulled a high portion of the "less likely to hang on to junk" people to the North, leaving a proportionally highest amount of "more likely to hang on to junk" people in the South.

    But I'm no historical sociologist, so the above may be complete bull.

    As for the Dan's original question - Americans may be more prone to the phenomenon due to the cultural history of individualism/land of freedom, yadda, yadda....

    But, really, the serious hoarders are usually "sick" physcologically and probably a distinct and predictable proportion of any given population, regardless of geography.
    I think that you are pretty spot on. Poverty in the past tends to acerbate tendencies toward hoarding in the present. People who grew up poor during the Great Depression, for example, frequently had/have difficulty parting with something that "might be of use sometime" -- and rural people really, really suffered during the Great Depression.

    My father could never seem to part with his old vehicles/equipment. After he died, my brothers and I sold a hillside full of junk cars to the local scrap yard for about $500/$600(about $25-30 a car I think), his two old tractors to a collector for another $500, and his ancient bulldozer for $300.

    Luckily, my mother and her sisters, being city-bred, were only into hoarding furniture and curtains/drapes which were then passed on to various family members when they moved out on their own. I think every family member of my generation had stuff in our first apartments from our moms and aunts. My step-mother, a country girl, maintained a vast collection of margarine and Cool Whip tubs for food storage as well as screw-top glass jars that could be reused in canning.

    In a way, they were into "recycling, reuse, and sustainability" long before it became fashionable.

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    I agree

    Quote Originally posted by VexedCoffee View post
    Hoarding isn't really a product of being affluent though. Many people in poverty are hoarders as well, they hoard things from thrift stores, yard sales, or even food. It's a mental disorder.
    Absolutely. Hoarding is a mental disorder now officially recognized by the DSM.

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    Hoarding vs. Shopping Addictions

    Quote Originally posted by imaplanner View post
    True. But having money doesn't mean you are affluent. Essentially what I am saying is that having any amount of money can lead one to hoarding if you are mentally predisposed to it. Hoarding things from thrift stores and yard sales still requires money - more money than families in many places will ever have.
    There is also a difference between hoarding and shopping addictions. Some who hoard do not have shopping addictions, whether it's a department store or a thrift store.

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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Kristi CPO View post
    There is also a difference between hoarding and shopping addictions. Some who hoard do not have shopping addictions, whether it's a department store or a thrift store.
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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Kristi CPO View post
    There is also a difference between hoarding and shopping addictions. Some who hoard do not have shopping addictions, whether it's a department store or a thrift store.
    There's also a difference between hoarding and being lazy.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    In rural areas disposal can be both inconvenient and costly. It's sometimes easier to let Mother Earth do the reclamation on the back 40 as opposed to having to incur the expense to haul some 1972 Nova or washing machine away to some distant location for the scrap value.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    In rural areas disposal can be both inconvenient and costly. It's sometimes easier to let Mother Earth do the reclamation on the back 40 as opposed to having to incur the expense to haul some 1972 Nova or washing machine away to some distant location for the scrap value.
    But I think that's an excuse most often. I don't know how it is in rural areas, but in the urbanized areas I have lived, you put a dead clothes washer or metal closet doors out on the street and the local scrappers scoop it up right away. There are many people with old trucks trawling the neighborhoods on trash day.

    And any auto salvage yard is happy to come to your property and haul away that dead car for scrap/parts and pay you too.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    In rural areas disposal can be both inconvenient and costly. It's sometimes easier to let Mother Earth do the reclamation on the back 40 as opposed to having to incur the expense to haul some 1972 Nova or washing machine away to some distant location for the scrap value.
    My grandparents had a tin can dump in a hollow at the edge of their woods. About once a year, all the cans would get loaded up in a trailer and taken to the county dump. A lot of people don't bother to do that. I just spent part of my weekend at my county place dragging scrap metal out of a spot behind the dam for my pond. It was left by the previous owners and I've been aware of it for several years but it was out of sight. A few weeks ago I started clearing brush for better access to the woods behind it and decided it was time.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    My grandparents had a tin can dump in a hollow at the edge of their woods. About once a year, all the cans would get loaded up in a trailer and taken to the county dump. A lot of people don't bother to do that. I just spent part of my weekend at my county place dragging scrap metal out of a spot behind the dam for my pond. It was left by the previous owners and I've been aware of it for several years but it was out of sight. A few weeks ago I started clearing brush for better access to the woods behind it and decided it was time.
    I think there is a distinction between hoarding and just laziness, like others have already said. Hoarders generally don't hoard trash, they hoard things that we might think are trash but that they think are important. Lazy people just dump their trash in their front yard and let it pile up. My old neighbors just dumped all their trash in their yard for years, but they weren't hoarders, just crackheads.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    An unfortunate victim of hoarding in the Philippines:

    Missing turtle survives in storage room for 30 years

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    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Reminded Me

    Reminds me of a great coffee table book called Material World. A photographer visited places all over the world to document all the stuff in our homes. I think we have a greater capacity to buy stupid crap in this country, including junk that we never seem to get around to "restoring" or using. The best hoarders are the people with the most time on their hands. I don't remember seeing even ONE example of a lot full of junk in Europe the few times I've visited. Even in East Africa, eveything has a purpose and potential use, making it essential scrap in many cases.
    Skilled Adoxographer

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    Potential usefulness

    I think one person was right on the mark that people who, having been through hard times (or having been influenced by people who experienced hard times), are adept at seeing potential usefulness in things, and are loath to throw away something which might be useful later.

    A conservation ethic, which teaches that it is morally wrong to throw away potentially useful things, can be a factor, I think.

    Another factor may be a latent creative impulse. I have seen some highly creative, even artistic, things made from scrap, or from tree limbs, or whatnot, and this makes me think: "Oh, maybe this will be part of a sculpture!" [an unlikely outcome, but...]

    These factors added up to my acquiring a mass of schtuff which had to be thrown away (and I had to pay a hauler, who in turn made some money on metal in the collection) when I moved. I am now determined to not collect stuff I don't actually use.

    A different phenomenon, partially, is what I've seen in rural New Mexico. A lot of people throw trash in the arroyo adjacent to their property. In part, this is due to poverty and the high cost of the garbage collection service in the county. Not only is garbage collection expensive, but they have funky, hard-to-comply-with requirements, so -- why try?

    I think that maybe the reason I see many acre-size private junk-vehicle collections out here is the potential of making something valuable from them (a working vehicle, for example) along with the difficulty of disposing of things so far out in the country.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    I've seen outdoor junk in Canada. Typically in poorer neighbourhoods. The apartment I live in apparently used to house hoarders, a couple with 6 or 7 kids I'm told (3 bedrooms). The place definitely shows some wear from it.

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    One of my favorite shows is "American Pickers." And what is one of the things Mike and Frank look for when they are "free-styling?" Rural properties with lots of junk cars and other stuff in the yards.

    What is the difference between being a collector and a hoarder? Maybe it is just the quality or rarity of their junk? I am always amazed that these guys will pay thousands of dollars for the skeleton of a motorcyle or car. Sure, it's an Indian motorcycle frame. but it looks like rusty scrap to me. It is also amazing that people will stuff shed upon shed with their "collections." When truth be told, what they are doing is creating a big headache for their kids when after the collector dies. Unless of course some of the stuff is valuable and a "picker" wants it.

    What would rural Montana be without junk cars and rusty tractors? I think Maister hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that rural areas have inadequate disposal opportunities. it is just easier and cheaper to let vehicles rust out and return to Nature. Plus there is the possibility that you might find a part to fix the vehicle that does work.
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