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Story pick: 'Junk Man' comes clean about hoarding

We don't see much of our colleague Mike Rosenwald in The Post's main newsroom, as he's something of a digital nomad, usually working at his local Panera or Starbucks, or from home.

At least I thought he sometimes worked from home. That was before I read "Junk Man," his story that appears on the cover of the upcoming Washington Post Magazine. "The mess he made: A life-long slob decides it's time to get organized," reads the inside headline. The story -- and photos -- suggest that Mike might have a tough time finding a place to work at home, which looks something like a giant, furnished recycling bin.

It's a revealing first-person account of his tendency to accumulate stuff: Fountain pens, books, magazines, mail, newspapers, more fountain pens and shoes. Lots of shoes: "For the past decade, I have bought, nearly every other year, the same exact pair of brown and black Timberland loafers. When I'm done with them, I never throw them away."

It's not a new development, Mike writes: "My parents recall that my teenage room was such a disaster, the piles of clothes and old newspapers so high, that our dog Ozzie considered it equivalent to the back yard and used it accordingly."

He details his accumulation habits, wonders if he's a hoarder (and whether it might be genetic) and goes to Smith College to visit with Randy Frost, "the world's foremost hoarding expert," who invited Mike to be "psychologically dissected" in an advanced seminar on hoarding.

It's a fascinating and revealing account that couldn't have been easy to write. I must say, it's also kind of heartbreaking, especially when Mike writes about the marital strife his accumulation problem is creating.

Not that we haven't joked about it. When Mike made one of his rare office appearances earlier this week, I told him he was welcome to stay in my guest room after the magazine piece landed -- you know, in case his wife, Megan, told him to go away for awhile. "You saw the photos," Mike said. "You wouldn't want me to stay at your place."

By J. Freedom du Lac  | June 11, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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