Hoarding is a mental disorder. It is NOT caused by previous poverty, laziness, a desire to live in filth, or a collection gone wild. Research is underway to determine the root causes of this mental disorder. No real answers have revealed themselves at this time.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is a mental disorder where letting go or part with an item causes distress. The stress becomes so acute that it is painful to get rid of things. There are no limits to accumulating items. Things pile up to the point where all living spaces are cluttered, unusable for anything but storage, and lacks organization.
Gathering objects or animals is largely impulsive and lacks a consistent theme. When the compulsion to get an object hits, the action is random with little planning. There is less thought on what to do with the item when the individual gets home.
Usually, hoarding is co-present with other disorders like alcoholism, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and other anxiety-based disorders.
Hoarding is NOT Collecting
Collecting is where someone acquires specific items intentionally, targeted, and systematically. Collectors are proud of their treasures, display them for others to admire, and keep organized. These collections have a specific theme like Batman figurines before 1970 or Mike Ditka sports cards from his career as a football player for the Chicago Bears.
In contrast, hoarding disorder sufferers do not show pride of ownership, save indiscriminately, and have difficulty in organizing.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms include
- A need to save items and animals regardless of whether there is space to house them
- Persistent difficulty getting rid of times regardless of value
- Being upset at the thought of letting go or discarding an item
- Saving efforts lead to a build to clutter, so large rooms are no longer usable
- A tendency toward indecisiveness, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning or organizing
Signs and symptoms often surface in the late teen years to early adult years. No one quite knows what causes hoarding disorder. However, hoarding is more likely if a family member also has it.
For many hoarders, their actions are proof of being thrifty and sensible. Many want to have an item on hand if someone needs something. They hate waste, feel safer with their things about them or have an emotional attachment to the items. As a result, hoarders have a tough time letting it go and resent anyone who pushes them past their comfort zones.
Effects of Hoarding
All-In Hauling has experience removing hoards of saved items from homes. It is not pretty.
Hoarder homes often have:
- Unorganized stacks of newspapers, clothes, paperwork, books, or sentimental items
- There was a buildup of food, unwashed dishes, and trash all over the house at unsanitary levels.
- Rooms that are entirely inaccessible with entrances blocked by debris
- Excessive animals, animal waste, and human waste on the floors and other surfaces
- Access to critical rooms lined with dangerously high stacks of junk
This excessive acquiring often makes the hoarder more isolated. This isolation only compounds the hoarding as sufferers self-soothe themselves by “saving” more stuff or animals.
It is a vicious cycle that most sufferers do not recognize that they are locked into.
If you have a family member who you suspect is a hoarder, get educated then look for a professional to help. Confrontations, “interventions,” and arguing will not make your loved one “snap out of it” or make them “see the light”.
Such well-intentioned actions will worsen the disorder. Remember, hoarding is closely related and often intertwined with anxiety, OCD, and depression. Pressuring your loved ones only triggers these issues and causes the loved one to “dig their heels in” to avoid the conflict.
Forcing a cleanout will only worsen the situation and likely cause a family fight. Imposing your will upon another usually has the opposite effect of the intention. Forced “decluttering” can completely stop a person suffering from hoarding disorder from recovery and personal growth.
Instead, focus on what you can do to encourage and uplift your loved one. Consider the following:
- Examine your behavior and habits
- Work on your family communication styles
- Limit negative confrontation statements like “hoarding is wrong” or “homes should be neat and organized.”
- Accept that “zero clutter” is an illusion
- Contact a professional to guide you and your family through the process.
No one wants to see their loved ones suffer. You can help your loved ones overcome their excessive need to acquire and keep stuff and animals with care and compassion.
When you and your loved one are ready to start letting go, call All-In Hauling. Our trained staff will respectfully remove the item or items and rehome it if possible.
We will move as quickly or as slowly as you and your loved one need to make the process easier.
- What is Hoarding Disorder? by the American Psychiatric Association
- Hoarding Basics by Anxiety & Depression Association of America
- Hoarding Fact Sheet
- How to Help a Loved One with HD by the International OCD Foundation