Compulsive hoarding is a form of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). One form this occasionally takes in Japan is the notorious "gomi yashiki" -- literally a "rubbish house." The online version of Spa! magazine delves into this topic, with plenty of revolting photographs.
The right to be slovenly is no longer recognized the way it used to be. Communities have finally begun to take action against public eyesores and health menaces, through recent legislation that requires owners to clean up or face eviction, fines or other penalties.
"In the past, most of our customers had been elderly people, but over the last couple of years we've been getting more requests from young people," says Hisayoshi Joto, operator of a specialty cleaning service called e-hin Seiri.
The word e-hin is a play on words for "ihin" which means articles left behind, such as by deceased persons. "Seiri" means to organize.
"Some of the requests we get are from people before they move their residence, or in some cases before some kind of impending inspection, when they need to get their place cleaned up as quickly as possible. Sometimes we'll go and take a look, and more often than not say, 'Yup, that's a gomi yashiki all right.' Often the person requesting our services has some sort of guilty conscience over the place."
"As a general rule, most of the people we deal are salaried workers," notes Joto. "That said, they don't tend to be vivacious, popular types. I'd say most of them are poor at communicating with other people; when you talk with them they avoid making eye contact."
In other words, gomi yashiki tenants tend to be dysfunctional in their human relationships and withdrawn from social life.
"People who have family members or friends who come calling don't let their homes go to seed like this," points out Joto. "I think perhaps through the tendency for society to safeguard people's privacy, people no longer pitch in and help. It goes without saying that most people don't know their own neighbors any more. So the problem might also be caused by people spending too much of their time logged on to SNSs or in the virtual world, to the point that they disregard their real lives.
"The gomi yashiki has become a problem all around us. The longer people procrastinate in cleaning up, the worse it gets. Their environments become like filthy pigeon coops -- unfit for human habitation."
Among the subjects Spa! interviewed were people who hadn't cleaned their homes for 10 years or longer. And in some cases when the services come cleaning, among the things they find piled amidst the heaps of debris are paper towels, detergent and other cleaning implements, which were purchased but never put to use.
Unfortunately, writes Spa!, good intentions alone won't get a place clean.
Hisashi Sasaki, operator of an Osaka-based gomi yashiki cleanup service called "Mago no Te," tells Spa! readers about the hazards of clutter in a strong Kansai accent.
"The residents of these places can't open their curtains even on sunny days. If they have storm shutters, they always keep them closed too. This is the first thing we check. You can tell how bad it is even from outside. The area outside the front entrance will be filthy, and the rooms inside as well. By peering under the doors we can spot flattened paper trash on the floor. If there's an odor emanating, then the place may be a terminal case. There's a chance we might even tell the resident that there's nothing we can do for him."
And when things do seem hopeless?
"Then for the good of the resident and for other residents nearby, we'll consult with the owner and real estate agent. If they decide to bring in an outfit like ours, you can expect the cleanup to take several days at least."© Japan Today