Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 9780226171685 Published November 2014
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226171715 Published November 2014
E-book $7.00 to $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226171852 Published November 2014

The Hoarders

Material Deviance in Modern American Culture

Scott Herring

Scott Herring

208 pages | 24 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 9780226171685 Published November 2014
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 9780226171715 Published November 2014
E-book $7.00 to $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226171852 Published November 2014
The verb “declutter” has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but its ever-increasing usage suggests that it’s only a matter of time. Articles containing tips and tricks on how to get organized cover magazine pages and pop up in TV programs and commercials, while clutter professionals and specialists referred to as “clutterologists” are just a phone call away. Everywhere the sentiment is the same: clutter is bad.

In The Hoarders, Scott Herring provides an in-depth examination of how modern hoarders came into being, from their onset in the late 1930s to the present day. He finds that both the idea of organization and the role of the clutterologist are deeply ingrained in our culture, and that there is a fine line between clutter and deviance in America. Herring introduces us to Jill, whose countertops are piled high with decaying food and whose cabinets are overrun with purchases, while the fly strips hanging from her ceiling are arguably more fly than strip. When Jill spots a decomposing pumpkin about to be jettisoned, she stops, seeing in the rotting, squalid vegetable a special treasure. “I’ve never seen one quite like this before,” she says, and looks to see if any seeds remain. It is from moments like these that Herring builds his questions: What counts as an acceptable material life—and who decides? Is hoarding some sort of inherent deviation of the mind, or a recent historical phenomenon grounded in changing material cultures? Herring opts for the latter, explaining that hoarders attract attention not because they are mentally ill but because they challenge normal modes of material relations. Piled high with detailed and, at times, disturbing descriptions of uncleanliness, The Hoarders delivers a sweeping and fascinating history of hoarding that will cause us all to reconsider how we view these accumulators of clutter.
Jonathan Flatley | Wayne State University
"My high expectations were fulfilled and indeed exceeded by Herring's brilliant, groundbreaking, fascinating, and lucid book. In traversing his rich and well-researched archive in the series of case studies that make up the book, Herring examines how and why hoarders have been stigmatized in a number of different contexts through the twentieth century. In doing so, he mounts a sustained and significant challenge to the pathologizing discourses about hoarding."
Allan V. Horwitz | Rutgers University
“Using a fascinating array of sources, Scott Herring places the contemporary obsession with hoarding within an intricate cultural and historical matrix. His innovative and ingenious work shows how hoarding became a mental disorder through the efforts of an unusual variety of groups encompassing not just psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals but also sanitation authorities, closet organizers, and TV producers. In the tradition of Emile Durkheim, Mary Douglas, and Michel Foucault, The Hoarders is a worthy addition to the literature on social boundaries and moral order. It reformulates our conceptions not just of hoarding but of psychiatric disorder itself.”
Diana Fuss, author of The Sense of an Interior
“Anxious you may be stockpiling too much stuff? No worries: Scott Herring’s seriously smart book turns the tables on experts who have declared accumulating ‘junk’ a mental illness. Putting the pack rat back into historical context, this intelligent and humane book examines how precisely disorder became a disorder. From the rise of antiquing, through the gospel of cleanliness, and all the way to reality television, Herring’s culturally informed and deeply sympathetic readings of America’s celebrity hoarders (the Collyer brothers, Andy Warhol, Big Edie Beale) succeed in nothing less than destigmatizing our own domestic caches of everyday things. Add this one to your household collection: it’s a keeper.”
Christopher Lane, author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness
“With hoarding recently designated a mental illness and America boasting its fair share of pack rats, diagnosis is unavoidably cultural. What do hoarders reveal by their unwillingness to part with things? Why is the nation currently fixated on eradicating their clutter? Drawing by turns on psychiatric debate, cultural lore, and family history, Scott Herring’s sharp and insightful book does not disappoint.”

Preface and Acknowledgments
1          Collyer Curiosa
2          Pathological Collectibles
3          Clutterology
4          Old Rubbish
Note on Method

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