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Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things | [Randy O. Frost, Gail Stekeete]

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things

What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper thats ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house?
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Audible Editor Reviews

If upon first listen, Stuff sounds like a textbook for a collegiate course on Hoarding 101, well, that’s because Frost is a university professor and researcher. But don’t skip over this book — it’s the most fascinating college course you never took. Frost and his co-author Gail Steketee delve into the world of hoarding and the psychology behind the affliction by discussing case studies like Irene, a woman who has driven away her husband because she can’t let go of her stuff. It appears that Irene collects things at random — stacks of old newspapers and magazines, scraps of paper with telephone numbers, expired coupons, instructions to children’s board games. On deeper inspection, there are a number of reasons why Irene collects, like her possessions represent a connection to the outside world, or the act of collecting is a relief to her undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. While there’s no one motivation behind hoarding, Frost and Steketee posit a number of theories — and debunk some of the more common ones (like the idea that hoarders were deprived of material things as children).

Frost’s genuine and friendly tone is confident and assured — not surprisingly it’s much like that of a college professor. You can almost picture him working the slide projector as he speaks, and must fight off the urge to take notes. He’s a natural storyteller, and draws you into his scientific world without you realizing it. You just know you want to hear more.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is listeners will undoubtedly see a part of themselves in each hoarder — we all collect things to an extent: sentimental photographs, old coins, bank statements. It’s not just voyeurism, it’s learning when the line of collecting blurs into hoarding. Frost has the answers, and plenty of questions. If you like A&E’s television show Hoarders, you’ll love Stuff. —Colleen Oakley

Publisher's Summary

What possesses someone to save every scrap of paper thats ever come into his home? What compulsions drive a woman like Irene, whose hoarding cost her her marriage? Or Ralph, whose imagined uses for castoff items like leaky old buckets almost lost him his house?

Randy Frost and Gail Steketee were the first to study hoarding when they began their work a decade ago; they expected to find a few sufferers but ended up treating hundreds of patients and fielding thousands of calls from the families of others. Now they explore the compulsion through a series of compelling case studies in the vein of Oliver Sacks.

With vivid portraits that show us the traits by which you can identify a hoarder - piles on sofas and beds that make the furniture useless, houses that can be navigated only by following small paths called goat trails, vast piles of paper that the hoarders churn but never discard, even collections of animals and garbage - Frost and Steketee illuminate the pull that possessions exert on all of us.

Whether we're savers, collectors, or compulsive cleaners, very few of us are in fact free of the impulses that drive hoarders to the extremes in which they live. For all of us with complicated relationships to our things, Stuff answers the question of what happens when our stuff starts to own us.

©2010 Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"This succinct, illuminating book will prove helpful to hoarders, their families, and mental health professionals who work with them." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    JoAnn Marcon 10-06-10 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Utterly fascinating"

    OK, I admit I was a big reluctant to start this book but couldn't stop listening once I started. The authors go through case studies of many adults and some children with various problems with hoarding and accumulation. The authors discuss the individual struggles, family struggles and public health issues with hoarding. They talk about how they got into the area of treating this disorder which had previously not been discussed much. They do talk primarily about how the disease arises from psychological factors, as opposed to neurotransmitters (for example), but do talk some about the biology and genetic factors around hoarding. This is not a "how-to" book with chapter by chapter approach to the illness but they also give advice on how they treat people with these issues and how to approach the issue on a community basis. They also give families and individuals advice on where to go for help. The main thing that fascinated me was how they could so eloquently describe the struggles that these people have with discarding their things which I never could have understood from watching a show like "Hoarders", for example. If you are at all interested in this topic, don't hesitate to get this book

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Virge Sturgeon Bay, WI, United States 11-07-10
    Virge Sturgeon Bay, WI, United States 11-07-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A compelling, worthwhile read"

    Frost offers a comprehensive, insightful view into the world of hoarders...the varieties of hoarding, the theories on why they hoard (nature vs. nurture), the torment they often face, and how we might best help them face and manage this extremely difficult mental illness. As a professional in architecture who occasionally works with hoarders, I found this book to be valuable in helping me understand what my clients face.. Frost's narration of his own work is engaging and enjoyable to listen to....more narrative than academic.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara TOPANGA, CA, United States 08-24-11
    Barbara TOPANGA, CA, United States 08-24-11 Member Since 2011
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    "I am a hoarder"

    I am a 74 year old hoarder, have watched the TV show and read a lot of books about hoarding, but THIS book is the first book that has really explored what is going on inside the heads of hoarders. It is not a "fix it" or a "quick solution" book, but rather it is an in depth study of how we are wired differently from other people. I highly recommend this book above all others for hoarders and anyone who wants to understand them. I am optimistic that understanding how my brain works will help me make my house more functional so that I can enjoy the pleasures that I had hoped I would have in it when I bought it.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Starlet San Carlos, CA, United States 10-10-10
    Starlet San Carlos, CA, United States 10-10-10 Member Since 2005
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    "One of the better reads on this subject"

    This was one of the best books I've read about people who can't get rid of things easily. Even though this is about hoarders, which I am not, I was able to glean a lot of insight from the psychological portraits in the case studies.

    It provided possible explanations about why I have difficulty in getting rid of the most mundane things and offers information as to why others are real hoarders. Also, I found interesting the scientist authors' portrayal of hoarders being perfectionists gone awry, lack of focus, creativity to a fault, seeing 'objects' differently than others might. There is nothing positive about hanging on to too much stuff if it becomes a noose around your neck... for me, it's a work in progress!

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    yoko Woodside, NY, United States 05-25-11
    yoko Woodside, NY, United States 05-25-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "It helped me soo much to understand my friends"

    I had a hard time understanding what was going on in their head, and this helped me talking with them in their language.
    However, Since I'm working in the psychiatric field, I wish they could write more about what kind of medicine could reduce the anxiety when hoarder has to through away stuff etc...

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Orson Greensboro, NC, United States 09-29-10
    Orson Greensboro, NC, United States 09-29-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Real science, leading to self-examination"

    No, I don't live in a house where goat-paths thread among stacks of newspapers, magazines, and assorted junk. But even as I listened to Caron's excellent reading of this well-written book, I couldn't help but notice how many of the traits of the sufferers of extreme cases of hoarding I had, or could recognize in friends and family members - though never so out-of-control. The authors never overclaim - they are genuine scientists who remain cautious and skeptical of their own tentative conclusions. The result is a book that is both fascinating and reliable. It's a happy coincidence when first rate science is done by first rate writers.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Schmidt Mid-America 04-20-11
    C. Schmidt Mid-America 04-20-11 Member Since 2004
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    "Recommended with caveats"

    I can recommend this book to anyone who is interested in psychology-themed discussions. I found the academic style and presentation reassuring that the information was as reliable and vetted as well as possible at the time of writing. In contrast to some other reviewers, I did not personally find the academic nature of the discussion to be boring or dry. Some of the descriptions of hoarders is gave me an almost voyeuristic thrill and made my messy desk seem completely normal in contrast. I am not sure this was the intent of the author, but I would suspect that other non-hoarders might well have this response. The final segment of the book contained a discussion of modern American culture, and I found this part of the book to be preachy, irrelevant to the overall content, and speculative in a non-academic way. Other than that one weakness, I can recommend this book as an interesting read. The narration is fine but not spectacular. If you are not interested in the content, the narration will not carry this book for you.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 04-11-11
    Lynn BEAUMONT, TX, United States 04-11-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Informative"

    Frost and Stekeete set out to describe compulsive hoarding and accomplish that in a most informative way. Their book gets beyond the "what" hoarders do to the "why" they do it. The reader will gain insight into the thinking of hoarders and, by the way, insights into their own compulsions. Collectors, hoarders of animals, and those who just collect junk and trash are all allocated their own chapters. My living quarters are not a trash heap, but there are books every where that I keep perhaps afraid that I'll miss out on something if they are lost. My dad passed with a garage full of scraps, tools, and broken antiques. I am convined now, that he just ran out of time to tackle each "project." He kept them because he wanted to work on the projects they represented. The book is entertaining and well read by Joe Caron.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Alameda, CA, United States 09-06-10
    Margaret Alameda, CA, United States 09-06-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Delivers as promised"

    I found the authors lucid and caring. The book taught me a few things and gave some highly illuminating examples. Recommend.

    14 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Norma Del Valle, TX, United States 08-17-10
    Norma Del Valle, TX, United States 08-17-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
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    "Stuff"Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Thing"

    Very insightful and thought provoking. It has reallly helped me understand the hoarder in my life!

    14 of 16 people found this review helpful
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