英语散文 2021-10-25 网络整理 晴天


1. Most of us have more things than we need and use. At times they pile up in corners and closets accumulate, in the recesses of attics, basements garages. But we sort through our clutter periodical and clean it up, saving only what we really need and giving away or throwing out the excess. This isn"t case, unfortunately, with people we call "pack rats" those who collect, save or hoard insatiably, often with only the vague rationale that the items may someday be useful. And because they rarely winnow what they save it grows and grows.

2. While some pack rats specialize in what they collect, others seem to save indiscriminately. And what they keep, such as junk mail, supermarket receipts, newspapers, business memos, empty cans, clothes or old Christmas and birthday cards, often seem to be worthless. Even when items have some value, such as lumber scraps, fabric remnants, auto parts, shoes and plastic meat trays, they tend to be kept in huge quantities that no one could use in a lifetime.

3. Although pack rats collect, they are different from collectors, who save in a systematic way. Collectors usually specialize in one of a few CLASSes of objects, which they organize, display and even catalogue. But pack rats tend to stockpile. Their possessions haphazardly and seldom use them.

4. Our interest in pack rats was sparked by a combination of personal experience with some older relatives and recognition of similar saving patterns in some younger clients one of us saw in therapy sessions. Until then, we, like most people, assumed that pack rats were all older people who had lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s -- eccentrics who were stockpiling stuff just in case another Depression came along. We were surprised to discover a younger generation of pack rats, born long after the 1930s.

5. None of these clients identified themselves during therapy as pack rats or indicated that their hoarding tendencies were causing problems in any way. Only after their partners told us how annoyed and angry they were about the pack rats unwillingness to clean up the growing mess at home did they acknowledge their behavior. Even then, they defended it and had little interest in changing. The real problem, they implied, was their partner"s intolerance rather than their own hoarding.
6. Like most people, we had viewed excessive saving as a rare and harmless eccentricity. But when we discussed our initial observations with others, we gradually came to realize that almost everyone we met either admitted to some strong pack-rat tendencies or seemed to know someone who had them. Perhaps the greatest surprise, however, was how eager people were to discuss their own pack-rat experiences. Although our observations are admittedly based on a small sample, we now believe that such behavior is common and that, particularly when it is extreme, it may create problems for the pack rats or those close to them.

7. When we turned to the psychological literature, we found surprisingly little about human collecting or hoarding in general and almost nothing about pack-rat behavior. Psychoanalyses view hoarding as one characteristic of the "anal" character, type, first described by Freud. Erich Fromm later identified the "hoarding orientation" as one of the four basic ways in which people may adjust unproductively to life 1234※本文作者:未知※

8. While some pack rats do have typically “anal” retentive characteristics such as miserliness, orderliness and stubbornness, we suspect that they vary as much in personality characteristics as they do in education, socioeconomic status and occupation. But they do share certain ways of thinking and feeling about their possessions that shed some light on the possible causes and consequences of their behavior.

9. Why do some people continue to save when there is no more space for what they have and they own more of something than could ever be used? We have now asked that question of numerous students, friends and colleagues who have admitted their pack-rat inclinations. They readily answer the question with seemingly good reasons, such as possible future need ("I might need this sometime"), sentimental attachment ("Aunt Edith gave this to me"), potential value ("This might be worth something someday") and lack of wear or damage ("This is too good to throw away") reasons are difficult to challenge; they are grounded in some truth and logic and suggest that pack-rat saving reflects good sense, thrift and even foresight. Indeed, many pack rats proudly announce, "I"ve never thrown anything away!" or "You would not believe what I keep!"

10. But on further questioning, other, less logical reasons become apparent. Trying to get rid of things may upset pack rats emotionally and may even bring physical distress. As one woman said, "I get a headache or sick to my stomach if I have to throw something away."
11. They find it what to keep and what to throw away. Sometimes they fear they will get rid of something that they or someone else might value, now or later. Having made such a "mistake" in the past seems to increase such distress. "I’ve always regretted throwing away the letters Mother sent me in college. I will never make that mistake again," one client said. Saving the object eliminates the distress and is buttressed by the reassuring thought, "Better to save this than be sorry later."

12. Many pack rats resemble compulsive personality in their tendency to avoid or postpone decisions, perhaps because of an inordinate fear of making a mistake. Indeed, in the latest, edition, of the psychiatric diagnostic bible (DSM-III-R), the kind of irrational hoarding seen in pack rats ("inability to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value") is described as a characteristic of people with obsessive compulsive.

13. Some pack rats seem to have a depressive side, too. Discarding things seems to reawaken old memories and feelings of loss or abandonment, akin to grief or the pain of rejection. "I feel incredibly sad -- it"s really very painful," one client said of the process Another client, a mental-health counselor, said "I don"t understand why, but when I have to throw something away, even something like dead flowers, I feel my old abandonment fears and I also feel lonely."
14. Some pack rats report that their parents discarded certain treasured possessions, apparently insensitive to their attachment to the objects. My Dad went through my room one time and threw out my old shell collection that I had in a closet. It devastated me," said one woman we interviewed. Such early experiences continue to color their feelings as adults, particularly toward possessions they especially cherish. 1234※本文作者:未知※
15. It"s not uncommon for pack rats to "personalize their possessions identify with them, seeing them extensions of themselves. One pack rat defiantly sad about her things, "This is me -- this is individuality and you are not going to throw it out!"
16. At times the possessions are viewed akin to beloved people. For example, one woman said, "I can"t let my Christmas tree be destroyed! I love my Christmas ornaments -- I adore them!" Another woman echoed her emotional involvement: "My jewelry is such comfort to me. I just love my rings and chains Discarding such personalized possessions could easily trigger fears, sadness or guilt because it would be psychologically equivalent to a part of oneself dying or abandoning a loved one.

17. In saving everything, the pack rat seems to have found the perfect way to avoid indecision and the discomfort of getting rid of things. It works – but only for a while. The stuff keeps mounting, and so do the problems it produces.
18. Attempts to clean up and organize may be upsetting because there is too much stuff to manage without spending enormous amounts of time and effort One pack rat sighed, "Just thinking about cleaning it makes me tired before I begin." And since ever-heroic efforts at cleaning bring barely visible results, such unrewarding efforts are unlikely to continue.
19. At this point, faced with ever-growing goods and ineffective ways of getting rid of the excess, pack rats may begin to feel controlled by their possessions. As one put it. I"m at the point where I feel impotent about getting my bedroom cleaned."
20. Even if the clutter doesn"t get the pack rats down, it often irks others in the households who do not share the same penchant for saving. Since hoarding frequently begins in the bedroom, the pack rat"s partner is usually the first to be affected. He or she begins to feel squeezed out by accumulated possessions, which may seem to take precedence over the couple"s relationship.
21. At first, the partner may simply feel bewildered about the growing mess and uncertain about what to do, since requests to remove the "junk" tend to be ignored or met with indignation or even anger. One exasperated husband of a pack-rat client said: "She keeps her stuff in paper bags all over the bedroom. You can now hardly get to the bed. I tried talking to her about it but nothing seems to work. When she says she has cleaned it out, I can never see any change. I"m ready to hire a truck to cart it all away."
22. As the junk piles accumulate, the partner may try to clean up the mess. But that generally infuriates the pack rat and does nothing to break the savings habit. As the partner begins to feel increasingly impotent, feelings of frustration and irritation escalate and the stockpiled possessions may become an emotional barrier between the two. This situation is even worse if the pack rat is also a compulsive shopper whose spending sprees are creating financial problems and excessive family debt. 1234※本文作者:未知※
23. Children are also affected by a parent"s pack-rat behavior. They may resent having the family"s living space taken over by piles of possessions and may hesitate to ask their friends over because they are embarrassed by the excessive clutter and disarray. One child of a pack rat said, "As long as I can remember, I"ve always warned people what to expect the first time they come to our house. I told them it was OK to move something so they would have a place to sit down. "Even the adults may rarely invite non family members to visit because the house is never presentable.

24. Children may also be caught in the middle of the escalating tension between their parents over what to do about all the stuff in the house. But whatever their feelings, it is clear that the children are being raised in an environment in which possessions are especially important and complex emotions.
25. Our clients and other people we have consulted have helped make us aware of the problems pack rats can pose for themselves and those around them. Now we hope that a new study of excessive savers will provide some preliminary answers to a number of deeper questions: What predisposes people to become pack rats, and when predisposes people to become pack rats, does hoarding typically start? Can the behavior be averted or changed? Is excessive saving associated with earlier emotional or economic deprivation? Does such saving cause emotional distress directly or are pack rats only bothered when others disapprove of their behavior? Do pack rats run into problems at work the same way they often do at home?
26. Whatever additional information we come up with, we"re already sure of at least one thing: This article will be saved forever by all the pack rats of the world.

From Lynda Warren and Jonnae C. Ostrom, "They"ve Gotta Keep it: People Who Save Everything," San Francisco Chronicle, "This World," May 1, 1988. Originally published in Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission.



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