A Las Vegas woman 's body - crushed under piles of junk in her home - was not discovered until four months after she’d been reported missing. In spite of the fact that police sniffer dogs had searched the house, and that her husband still lived in it. The Hoarder Gene killed her.
Is your kitchen drawer a repository of half-empty matchboxes, bits of string, rubber bands, jar lids, screws, dried-up ballpoint pens, corks and bottle caps, unidentified keys, scraps of Xmas paper and those little scribble pads that real estate agents send you?
If so, you may carry the recently identified Hoarder Gene. Researchers believe that the gene is a legacy of our Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors and affects the behaviour of a significant proportion of the modern population. People in whom the gene is dominant, are strongly predisposed to collect objects from their environment and store them as a hedge against future shortage or calamity.
Sample Questions from
Thousands of years ago, the Hoarder Gene prompted useful survival behaviours like gathering plant materials for food, fire and shelter, and hunting wild animals for meat and clothing. Ironically, in the 21st century, it seems the gene may actually be endangering our personal survival.
But the gene may prove fatal to more than just humankind: scientists postulate that it may be the hidden driver of the rampant consumerism which threatens the planet.
All research points to the fact that the gene (and the behavioural pattern associated with it) is very widely distributed, although bearers of the gene are more highly represented in some human populations than others. For example a recent local study has revealed that almost all stallholders and shoppers at Nelson’s Sunday Market carry the gene. A similar study completed at Founder’s Book Fair, local opp shops and recycle centres turned up similar results. In fact, the Hoarder Gene is thought to be so ubiquitous that as many as 75% of shoppers at big-box stores may be operating under its influence.
I would really like to live in the pristine and clutter-free way they do in magazines but I’ve never been able to. I’ve never been able to achieve a home with soothingly blank walls, acres of pale unruffled carpet and a single artfully arranged totem on the gleaming coffee table. I haven’t been able to restrict myself to one small, impeccably curated, perfectly-stacked collection of books. And now I know why. It’s relief to know it’s not my fault … it’s all caused by the Hoarder Gene.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. I descend from a long-line of East End market traders, bargain-hunters and opp-shoppers. My grandmother was a hunter and gatherer until well into her seventies, arriving home from daily rambles with a handbag full of lollies filched from the Pick’n’Mix counter at Woolworth’s or oddities picked up at a local auction-house: a rusted tobacco tin full of old postage stamps, a doorstop in the shape of spaniel, a collection of tiny bird’s eggs tucked into a bed of cotton wool or a packet of hair nets and some sheet music.
I was musing on this topic while at the library the other day when a copy of Oprah Winfrey’s magazine caught my eye. Air-brushed within an inch of her life, Oprah, beamed from the cover urging readers to “De-clutter Your Life” and promising guidance on “Saying Goodbye to the Stuff that’s Weighing You Down” and “What to Keep and What to Toss”.
I’m still reeling from the discovery that the authors of the promised articles seem to be carriers of the Hoarder Gene in its most rampant and mutant form.
How else to explain Claire, with a display rack of 50 matching bras and underpants in her bedroom? Or Brooke, purring over the clever cabinet which holds 125 pairs of shoes? Or Elena, happily posing with 300 scarves?
And what about Martha, who under the heading “Expert Advice, Insight, Really Smart Moves” explains how, on the eve of a business trip, she went to an all-night pharmacy and bought ”travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, a tiny tube of toothpaste, three packs of gum, two bottle of nail polish, extra reading glasses, three candy bars, a scented candle, six dog toys, five nutritional supplements and two pens - one shaped like a cactus and one that lights up in six colours”. And then … wait for it … declares this to be proof that her “Putting Your Purchases on Pause” technique really works because she didn't shop at the mall or an expensive boutique.
I feel duty-bound to warn Oprah that about this terrible undiagnosed condition amongst her staff. I’ll be sending her a Home Genetic Testing Kit and a copy of the Hoarder Gene Discovery and Diagnostic Tool – just as soon as I've ordered this amazing bookcase I read about in Oprah’s magazine: it converts into a very serviceable coffin when the reader reaches THE END.