Hoarding is defined by the world-renowned Mayo Clinic as a disorder exemplified by a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions. The difficulty in discarding arises from a perceived need to save these items, even if they have no real value or purpose. A person suffering from hoarding disorder experiences what can be significant distress at the thought of parting with various items. In the end, truly excessive accumulation occurs, which results in a broad spectrum of other problems and issues.
Throughout history, there have been some famous hoarders. There are some well-known people who hoarded and there are some individuals who became well-known because of their hoarding. There are also some modern day celebrities that are involved collecting items and may be reaching a juncture at which they might be classified on the hoarding scale.
Edith Ewing Bouvier and Edith Bouvier Beale
One of the most notorious hoarding cases in the United States involved a mother and daughter, Edith Ewing Bouvier and Edith Bouvier Beale. These women were known among their family and friends as Big Edie and Little Edie.
Although there are thousands of cases of severe hoarding across the United States at any given point in time, the case of these two women stand out from the pack not only for the intensity of their hoarding. Big Edie and Little Edie are unique in the annals of hoarding because Big Edie is the aunt of former U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Little Edie being Jackie’s niece.
The Bouvier-Beales resided in a beautiful mansion called Grey Gardens. The women had accumulated a great deal of useless items and trash. The house was crawling with over 300 cats. As an aside, Grey Garden had 28 rooms, but with all the trash, cats, and other items, the women were largely confined to a bedroom they shared and a bathroom.
Jackie Kennedy ultimately heard of the state of affairs at Grey Gardens several years after her husband was assassinated. By this time, she was married to Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon.
When Kennedy-Onassis learned of the hoarding of her aunt and cousin, she stepped in and paid for the property to be cleaned and rehabbed. Once the cleanup occurred, the two Edies were able to fairly effectively contain their hoarding behavior for the remainder of Big Edie’s life. When Big Edie died, Little Edie sold Grey Gardens and moved to Florida.
Oftentimes, family members must step in and lend assistance when hoarding occurs. In addition, there are situations when family members must address hoarding issues after loved ones pass on.
The interesting lives of Big Edie and Little Edie have been committed to a compelling documentary as well as a feature film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. In addition, a musical has been made of their lives.
Ida Mayfield Wood
Hoarding is not something of recent development. In fact, hoarding has been a problem for people for generations. One infamous hoarder was Ida Mayfield Wood.
Wood was a beloved New York socialite. She was the wife of the publisher of the New York Daily News.
Unfortunately, Wood’s husband was a notorious philanderer. He fathered a child with another woman while married to wood.
In order to make up for his womanizing, Wood’s husband gave her incredible amounts of money. Her husband died in 1900, leaving her a very wealthy woman and in full control of the New York Daily News.
There was a financial panic in 1907 that jarred Wood. The financial panic left her paranoid about her finances. She ended up completely withdrawing from society. Despite her significant wealth, she took a couple of rooms at a seedy hotel in New York City and never went outside. At this time, the hoarding began.
Wood was a unique hoarder. When she died, her two rooms at the hotel were filled with bags, pots, and pans stuffed with cash. She hoarded jewelry in the rooms as well, including a diamond necklace in a Cracker Jack box.
Photo Gallery of the Collyer Brother’s home can be viewed here.
Some people become famous because they are hoarder and die in their hoards. The Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, are in this category.
The Collyer brothers lived together in a shared residence for about 50 years. No one realized that during this time the two men were hoarding just about anything they could get their hands on.
Even though the vast majority of what the men collected was worthless junk, or even trash, the brother set up elaborate, and dangerous, booby traps. These booby traps primarily consisted of devices that utilized 100-pound bundles of newspapers.
The outside world learned of the situation in the Collyer home in 1942, when a horrible odor emitted from the residence. The police and others ultimately were able to work their way through the hoard and into the residence. In doing so, they found the body of Homer, one of the brothers. However, due to the size of the hoard in the residence, police spent two more hours to find Langley’s remains, even though his body was only 10 feet away from his brother.
The police determined that Langley was killed by one of the booby traps the brothers set in the residence. He was bringing food to his brother, who was not able to walk. After Langley was killed by a booby trap, Homer starved to death next to his brother’s body.
Actress Mackenzie Phillips is best known for her roles in American Graffiti and the 1970s television show, One Day at a Time. In the 21st century, Phillips publicly came out as a hoarder.
Unlike many people, Phillips reached out for help with her hoarding issues. In her case, she contacted the host of the OWN television network show Extreme Clutter.
Hoarders oftentimes do not take action on their own to address a hoarding issue. The lack of initiative on their part largely arises from the fact that they do not believe that they have a problem. Oftentimes, a hoarder ultimately obtains assistance with a hoarding issue through an intervention undertaken by family members of friends.
There actually are hoarding therapists and counselors that specialize in working with people with hoarding disorder. These professionals assist in setting up hoarding interventions in some instances.
Celebrities Who Come Close to Being Clinical Hoarders
There are some contemporary celebrities that are known the world over who have some bizarre habits of amassing strange items. Diagnosing these individuals as suffering from an actual hoarding disorder is not possible. However, they do demonstrate traits of a hoarder. Indeed, some of these celebrities have experienced some serious repercussions from their near-hoarding efforts.
Actor Nicolas Cage
Actor Nicolas Cage is both a spendthrift and a person with some over-the-top collection habits. One of his strangest collections is of shrunken heads. Cage evidently spent a tremendous amount of money amassing an oversized collection of shrunken heads.
In addition to shrunken heads, Cage was interested in a variety of skulls for his collection. This includes a 67 million year old dinosaur skull, which evidently was quite pricy.
Cage has not overwhelmed himself by hoarding shrunken heads and the like. However, he did overextend himself financially because of his incessant collecting habits, which arguably is evidence of at least falling somewhere on a hoarding disorder spectrum.
Musician Jack White
Musician Jack White was featured on the television show “American Pickers,” although if he keeps collecting preserved animals at a fast pace, he may some day be featured on a program about hoarders. The collection includes everything from a kudu to a giant white elk, and many other mammals in between.
Unlike Cage, White does not seem to have put himself in financial jeopardy because of his “collecting” efforts. He does seem to have something close to an obsession with collecting preserved animals. Moreover, although the crew at “American Pickers” indicated an interest in purchasing part of his collection, White evidently did not feel that he could part with his preserved animals.
Johnny Depp very well may be fairly classified as a hoarder. The only caveat is that outsiders really haven’t had tremendous access to his hoarded stashes. With that noted, hoarders oftentimes are secretive and do their best to obscure the fact that their amassing of property has reached problematic levels.
Depp evidently is known to collect and hold on to significant amounts of items that include pig skeletons. Depp evidently has a growing number of big skeletons, although he refuses to disclosed the exact number.
Depp also gloms onto, and will not part with, other items that include fake moustaches and guns. He also is said to have an expanding collection of living and dead bugs.
Paris Hilton oftentimes is called famous for being famous. Overall Hilton doesn’t meet the definition of a person with a hoarding disorder. With that noted, she may be something of a pet hoarder.
Pet hoarder can be a major problem for some people. Previously, the matter of the women of Grey Gardens was discussed, including their 300-plus cats.
Hilton has nothing like 300 cats stuffed in her home. However, she does have 17 dogs. Hilton probably avoids being formally classified as a hoarder because she has the financial wherewithal to provide for 17 dogs. On the other hand, by accumulating 17 dogs, an argument could be made that she is collecting them and falls on the hoarding spectrum.
Sitcom star Lisa Kudrow, of Friends fame, admits that she sees herself as something of a hoarder. She acknowledged being unable to part with items like documents, faxes, and day planners that date back as far as the 1980s.
Kudrow probably doesn’t exhibit many of the symptoms of hoarding. However, her apparent inability to part with essentially worthless items is indicative of a person with a hoarding problem.
Help for Hoarding
When a person make the decision to seek assistance with hoarding, an individual oftentimes requires help in two different areas. First, a person is likely to need therapy or counseling to assist with the emotional and psychological aspects of hoarding. Second, a person is going to need assistance with getting rid of hoarded items.
The work of a therapist and a someone engaged to assist in getting rid of hoarded items need to operate in tandem. Remember, it is important to understand that a key element of hoarding disorder is the inability to part with items, even trash in some cases.
There are resources available to people with issues associated with hoarding. The International OCD Foundation provides resources through which a person afflicted with hoarding disorder can obtain assistance. In addition, there are resources available through the Foundation for loved ones of hoarders.