Do You Know a Hoarder?


hoarder house h2h


Most of us use the term ‘hoarder’ or “pack-rat” to describe a person who hates throwing things away. Many of us are like that. In the last few years, hoarding has gained increased attention from media and the release of popular TV shows.

Hoarding disorder is characterized the persistent and intense distress or discomfort in parting with possessions. Hoarding Disorder can be a symptom of an underlying mental health issue, such as Anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As we grow older, we might become more likely to have hoarding tendencies. The presence of hoarding disorder may be difficult to identify because of its varying levels of severity.

Many of us say “I might need this one day”, and keep more than we should. Some people simply are messy, or accumulate items. Though potentially impractical, situations like these do not cause real problems. The real issue occurs when anxiety, panic, or severe distress results from getting rid of (or even thinking about getting rid of) household items and impacts your every-day life.

Some symptoms of hoarding include:

  • Intense emotional or sentimental feelings towards seemingly trivial items
  • Distress in throwing out trash
  • Rationalizing why items should be kept even though the need for such an item is low
  • Obsession about making sure there is no scarcity of an item, collection of multiples of an item
  • Clutter at the expense of livable space
  • Social Isolation

What Can Happen If Hoarding Continues

Hoarding at its most severe can cause more than an eyesore. Dust, mold, or potentially unhealthy living conditions can result from clutter in the home. If they are renting and the problem is severe enough, it can lead to eviction.

Another concern is the worsening of any underlying mental health issue. If you suspect a loved one s a hoarder, you may want to encourage them to seek some help.

How to Talk with a Hoarder

Though often feeling embarrassment for their clutter, hoarders don’t often see their hoarding as an issue. More frequently than not, a loved one will be the one to point it out. Here are some tips for talking about hoarding.

  • Make sure to be as respectful as possible. Avoid pointing out how uncleanly their home is, how much clutter there is, etc. Put the focus on empowering them rather than telling them what to do. Instead of saying “There is no space to walk in here, you need to clear this up”, try “I’m concerned about the amount of space in here. How do you think we can clear it up a bit?”
  • Baby steps. Try talking about the issue incrementally, rather than bombarding your loved one with information. By having short and frequent conversations about clearing the home, they may begin thinking about their behavior.
  • If you think hoarding is indicative of a mental health issue, perhaps take the focus of the hoarding and encourage them to seek out help for their mental health. Maybe encourage them to talk with their doctor, who can often point them towards local resources or provide a referral.

Remember – not everyone who keeps items is a hoarder. Talk with your loved one, and see how they feel about their clutter. If their home is safe, and they are happy, there may be little reason to worry. If they exhibit distress and are increasingly living in hazardous conditions, it might be time to talk.