Did you inherit your messy, disorganized way of living from your parents or is it something you picked up on your own? To discuss the topic of "clutter genetics," Peter talks with Dr. Francis Collins, a leading geneticist and author of the book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, and Dr. David Tolin, an expert on compulsive hoarding and author of Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding.
Both Dr. Collins and Dr. Tolin agree that people do not develop tendencies toward organization in the same way they would inherit eye color or height from parents. Traits such as eye color or height are predetermined, whereas people may be predisposed to tendencies toward orderliness.
"There is nothing here that is hardwired," Dr. Collins says. "It is not that we are all victims of our DNA that sort of operate as marionette strings on our extremities and cause us to mess up the room," he says. Dr. Collins says some people may be predisposed to being messy, but that doesn't mean they can never become a neatnik. "It may require a little bit more effort on the part of one person than another, but it is entirely achievable," he says.
Just at there can be some genetic predisposing to orderliness, people can also be genetically predisposed to compulsive hoarding. "Compulsive hoarding is present when a person acquires then fails to discard a volume of possessions that is so great that the persons functioning starts to break down," Dr. Tolin says. "They are not able to use their home in a way that most people would normally use their home."
While Dr. Tolin says people may be predisposed to compulsive hoarding, they most likely did not inherit it. "For a condition like compulsive hoarding to come about you probably have to have a person who has a certain set of inherited characteristics," he says. "[But] then that person then has to in some way learn or pick up the behavioral pattern." People can overcome their predisposed tendency to be messy or to hoard, Dr. Tolin says. "Biology is not destiny. Just because somebody has a genetic predisposition to develop a certain behavioral condition, that doesn't mean they are doomed," he says.
Published on June 08, 2007