While we’ve been engaged in more useful pursuits, the self appointed definers of insanity, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), have without bothering with even the most rudimentary examination, not even an MMPI, summarily diagnosed millions of us collectors as mentally ill, insane, crazy, bonkers, etc.. Yup, in their latest 5th edition of the profession’s bible, their “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” (DSM) they have reclassified “hoarding’ as a mental illness, thus worthy of insurance reimbursable “treatment”, up to and including drugs that without benefit of prescription would land you in jail and even imprisonment in a psychiatric “facility” without having committed as much as a parking offense.

How the hell did we get into this mess? Well, a bit of a backgrounder: A mere century ago half of americans lived on farms, so there was no shortage of places to accumulate “stuff”. In fact, storing stuff was a necessity, as bits of old wagons, machinery, and even buildings were recycled to build or repair newer ones. Then came this thing called the industrial revolution that forced a lot of us to abandon that bucolic rural life for the big cities. Worked OK for awhile though, as a steady wage beat unpredictable farm income and with those wages a growing middle class could buy their own little homes with basements, attics, and garages to collect stuff in. But then wages fell behind housing costs, and today the “norm” in new housing is an apartment/condo or at best a townhouse, as the single family home becomes an endangered species.

Bad enough that the economy is denying us space to collect classic cars and motorcycles and whatever, but the urban governments are welcoming and even enabling this trend. Not hard to see why, when your city consists of essentially two townships like Minneapolis with no substantial acreages of bare land to develop, jamming as much tax base as possible per acre looks attractive to said cities… Especially when they’ve got billions in legacy costs to cover while the tax base declines. So cities like Minneapolis have rapidly branded cheapskates like me with an assessed valuation of under $20,000 that contribute but a couple hundred bucks a year towards their billion dollar plus budget as slackers and outright public enemies. Yup, that fifth of an acre could be the site of a million dollar condo development, if only I’d quit wasting it to store an old VW and various and sundry old motorcycle bits and century old salvaged millwork and cabinetry. Truth is, that million dollar condo project ain’t gonna happen, because the crime rate there rival’s Detroit’s, but the city is in denial of that.

So push comes to shove and your near bankrupt city has been eyeing your humble home and garage full of old bikes and the couple classic cars wintering in the greenhouse in the back yard as a high rise condo site. In their dreams, the taxes from that multi-million dollar condo development will replenish the pension fund they raided, give the mayor, council, and department heads raises, and shower them with campaign contributions from the developers. The one roadblock to their fantasy is you and your comfy little home, and you ain’t about to sell. So they send over their housing inspectors who hit you with a blizzard of cleanup and repair orders… You comply, and as long as that cost you a few thousand bucks, might as well stay through retirement…

But thank to the APA, the people that brought us lobotomies and electroshock “therapy”, the city, your meddling relatives, nosy neighbors, etc. have a new weapon: Commitment! Well, actually, more the threat thereof, as actual commitment to a psychiatric “facility” costs thousands a day. So instead of the usual harassment from the housing inspector, you get a summons to appear at a commitment hearing… As “guest of honor”. An upstanding citizen, you show up at the appointed courtroom, only to find that the city has amassed a collection of long lens and drone photos, even staked your place out to get some pictures of the shopfull of bikes while you had the door briefly open. Then the city’s psychiatrist’s testimony is read into the record, as he drones on about how your collection is a “hoard” that’s threatening your’s and the whole neighborhood’s health, and clearly meets the DSM’s diagnostic criteria of the newly created mental illness of hoarding. The judge looks at the pictures, proclaiming your collection of immaculate /2s, 2strokes, sidecars, Indians, whatever, to be junk, a “hoard”.

The judge coldly asks if you have a preference as to which institution you’d like to be committed to. Committed… You gotta get back to work! Having put the fear of imprisonment into you, the judge offers to give you a break… The city wants badly to buy your land for that multi-million dollar condo development, and they’ll even reserve a studio unit it for you when it’s finished, no garage though. “Give you 30 days to get that horde off to the landfill and sell to the city, or else you’ll be considered in violation of your treatment plan and locked up” says the judge. Terrified, you agree and sign the papers the city’s attorney has conveniently prepared. You just signed your collection and home away, and if you don’t comply you’ll be in contempt of court… Which means the judge can send you to jail for awhile after you’ve been “cured” in the psychiatric facility.

To the best of my knowledge this scenario hasn’t played out… yet. But as cities whose definition of “normal” is increasingly a tiny apartment with not even a scooter and maybe an overpriced rent by the minute minicar nearby face tougher financial straits, it’ll probably happen soon…

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