As soon as reports of a toilet paper shortage fueled by coronavirus panic-buying surfaced, social media mockery followed. The posts asked, in tones ranging from incredulous to scathing, how stupid are these people? What does toilet paper have to do with this pandemic?
On the surface, of course, the answer is nothing. But I’m withholding my ire because I fully understand the urge to stock up on essentials. As a hoarder with anxiety, I do it year-round.
My hoarding has taken various forms, reaching its peak when I lived alone in a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment so packed with belongings I could barely navigate it. I’d have to step over piles of papers, magazines, books and clothes to make my way through the rooms, often tripping and falling as I went, and forcefully pull or push the door to get out or in. During that time, hoarding was a hazard, to my safety and my mental health. I hired a personal organizer for $5,000 to help me declutter, only to undo her efforts within weeks of going back to my old ways.
When I finally left that apartment to move into a New Jersey one with my boyfriend, I paid to have junk removers come to my home and clear out the debris.
In the seven years we’ve lived together, my hoarding has shifted. I’ve discussed hoarding in therapy, and my boyfriend has made it clear that he won’t tolerate my hoarding spreading throughout our home. I no longer have much on the floor except a few stray clothes. You might not even think I’m a hoarder if you saw the outward presentation of my home. But at heart, I still am, much of it locked inside closets, desks and drawers, and locked inside me. The current circumstances have sharpened my hoarding instincts. Before you condemn me as a selfish monster, let me share a little about why I find hoarding comforting.
For me, life is a constant unknown, with worst-case-scenario outcomes waiting to be unlocked at every turn, like a video game whose grand prize is eternal mental torture. Even sleep isn’t...