Dirty Little Secret

Disclaimer: If you are a potential love interest, please stop reading.

My name is Lauren and I own 36 porcelain dolls. I have a problem.

I began collecting them as a young girl and continued to do so until the age of 20, when my mom stopped enabling me. The dolls were taking up too much space and, more important, creeping people out. Friends would walk into my childhood bedroom for the first time and see 72 glass eyes staring back at them—something most people apparently find “unsettling.”

While I still refuse to validate such feelings, I have stopped adding to my collection. I still feel the urge, much like an addiction, but have learned to redirect my energy elsewhere—namely, to Dove dark chocolate. Still, I can’t seem to part with my dolls.

My mom has gently suggested I give some of them away, as if she could “give away” one of her offspring. No one wants to pick their favorite child among two or three, never mind 36 (something the Duggars surely understand).

Such is the mindset of a borderline hoarder.

Fortunately, my “collections”—while off-putting to some—have never become a sanitation or fire hazard. I may have an inordinate amount of Charlotte Hornet figurines, but they’re not stacked floor-to-ceiling among piles of newspapers and trash.

The same cannot be said for “real” hoarders—many of whom are apartment residents that are putting themselves and others at risk. It’s a serious issue. No laughing matter.

Some hoarders acquire so many possessions—including food containers, magazines and furniture—that the items become kindling for a fire. Others attract pests, leading to uncontrollable infestations that often spread to neighboring apartments.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to spot a hoarder—many of whom are discreet and appear to be very “normal.” Community managers have no idea what these residents are doing—or hiding—behind closed doors.

To identify hoarding situations as quickly as possible, many experts urge management companies to check all residents’ smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the year. If a resident is a hoarder, it will be apparent upon entering their apartment home.

If a resident is identified as a hoarder, treat the situation with sensitivity. Many hoarders are embarrassed and emotional when confronted about the issue, and don’t know how to correct the problem. Although it is a violation of a resident’s privacy to contact family or friends without their consent, experts suggest encouraging hoarders to bring someone else into the situation or can help them manage their behavior and retain their residency.

However, it is important to clearly state what changes must be made to ensure the apartment is maintained in a healthy, safe and sanitary condition, as outlined in the lease.

Fortunately, I signed no such contract with my parents. Those porcelain dolls aren’t going anywhere.

For information, check out my article “Hoarding” in the March issue of units, which mails March 8.