I recently watched an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive and was struck by the fact that the physical environment created by the hoarders was a reflection of their mental anguish. It was not so much that these people felt the need to collect or save materials as the fact that they had no way to mentally process all this stuff and they just kind of abandoned it in piles. The same quantity of stuff in files, display cases and storage boxes all cataloged would not seem nearly so pathological. Why? Because if the stuff was organized, the person would have a psychological handle on what they actually owned. They would have control over their environment and the things within it.
When we feel in control of our environment, we feel in control of our lives. This of course led me to think about how we as architects can help people to have control over their environments and help them make sense of the rituals of their lives as well as their supplies and posessions. Our space and our place in the world, whether at home, at work or in the places we go for entertainment, goods, services or healing, needs to reinforce not just who we are but who we want to be. Our surroundings can reflect our emotional state, but they can also do just the opposite and influence it. We are consummate consumers, on the acquisition warpath seeking the next thing to bring quality of life to our lives. It is not things but meaning we seek. Maybe all we really need to acquire is a meaningful sense of place.