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Liberty Belle - 29 April 2005

Liberty Belle - 29 April 2005

At first I thought this was a lunacy confined to the madlands of the US of A. But no, last weekend’s Herald magazine had an article about this nonsense striking heretofore sensible New Zealanders. Clutter addicts. Hoarders. People who are too damn lazy to haul out the trash. Well, that’s what you and I would describe them as but we’re too mean – not understanding enough of their problem. It’s a syndrome, silly. They can’t help it. I clipped an item from the San Francisco Chronicle last month because I thought it was just hilarious. I didn’t stop laughing until I read the Auckland Herald and found that we take it seriously in New Zealand too.

In San Francisco the Mental Health Association is one of America’s first groups to “study and treat hoarding and cluttering. It offers support groups, advice and [get this] the country’s only clutter conference”. One Sandra Baker is pictured, surrounded by junk, perched on numerous cushions cuddling her cat on the couch. “It’s intensely severe for me..Sometimes I can’t do it. I am not in recovery. I am a clutterer and hoarder. I am in the midst of it.”

The article goes on to say, in all seriousness, that, “clutterers find it painful to throw things away. In extreme cases, they’d rather get evicted and lose relationships than clean up their stuff. Recycling is a weekly trauma for Sandra Baker: She starts by sorting all the cans, bottles and paper. Then, a few days before pickup, she puts them by her door. Slowly, she inches them down to the curb. The, if all goes well, the cans, bottles and paper get picked up and taken away.”

Good grief. Isn’t it time someone started banging heads together? Why do health professionals insist on disguising bad behaviour as some sort of “syndrome”? A slim person in the United States is hard to find. I suspect they’re hidden away in plush apartments in Manhattan and Beverly Hills. Certainly not to be found out on the streets, highways and parks. It’s no secret that Americans have a huge problem with fatness – or, as the polite like to say, obesity – but do they do anything about it?

Will they haul their fat asses out of their cars and walk to work? Diets, we all know, just make you fatter, so why don’t they spend their money on stomach stapling rather than McDonalds, Taco Belle, fizzy drinks, hotdogs and hamburgers? Nothing wrong with surgery to correct a health problem, I say. No, instead they bleat that they can’t help it; they have a disorder, a syndrome. Of course labelling it a syndrome means the taxpayers must fork out to treat it.

I’ll be accused of being harsh, I know, but when I was a little girl any grizzling was greeted by extreme harshness. “Pull yourself together,” was a common reaction, usually followed by “go out and chop some wood”. Isn’t it time more of us stopped putting up with self-indulgent lunacy and started telling the truth? Starting with the fact that we are personally responsible for their actions – or inaction - and if you don’t take out the rubbish, don’t exercise and eat too much fat you’re not mentally ill, you’re a slob.


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