What Is Hoarding, and How Can You Help?

With the popularity of TV shows about hoarding in recent years, most people have a better understanding of the condition than they did before. But still, the disorder is not widely understood. And the path to helping a friend or family member deal with hoarding may not be as clear-cut as you think. If you want to provide hoarding help to someone you love, learn about the condition and the specific steps you should take to help.

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What Is Hoarding?

Hoarding is the “persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.” Hoarding isn’t simply keeping a lot of stuff. Nor is it just a little clutter. Hoarding is serious, and the behavior usually has harmful effects that extend to the emotional, physical, social, financial, and legal aspects of a person’s life.

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, someone who hoards may have some of these symptoms:

  • An inability to throw away possessions
  • Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
  • Great difficulty categorizing or organizing possessions
  • Indecision about what to keep or where to put things
  • Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions
  • Suspicion of other people touching items
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects
  • Functional impairments, including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazard

Hoarding: How Can You Help?

As you can imagine, someone who hoards likely has a diminished quality of life. They’re homes become unsafe and unhealthy, and they often deal with depression. Children growing up in the home suffer, and other family members deal with feelings of anger, resentment, and more. If you love someone dealing with hoarding, you can provide hoarding help.

But you have to provide hoarding help carefully.

  1. Do NOT clean out the home of someone who hoards without their permission. This can cause extreme distress and distrust. You may think you’re helping, but remember that a person who hoards has real attachments to their items. Removing those items will actually hurt the chances of progression happening any time soon.
  2. Realize that a person must want to be helped. You can’t rush the process. If a person who hoards has no intention of changing, you can’t force them to change.
  3. Help the person see the benefits. Gently help your loved one see how hoarding is getting in the way of living life to the fullest. Point out the benefits of a hoard-free lifestyle: a better social life, greater health, less danger at home.
  4. Respect. The solution may be obvious to you: Just throw out all the junk! But you need to recognize that your loved one has the right to make their own decisions about their own items — at their own pace.
  5. Empathize. You have attachments to certain items. Maybe it’s your baby blanket or your child’s first drawing. Whatever it is, we all have something we don’t want to get rid of. Recognize that the items in your loved one’s home are important to them — even if it seems impossible that they could be.
  6. Work with your loved one. Squelch your desire to argue about specific items. Instead, try and figure out what would help the person have the motivation to get ride of items.

And remember: Never throw something away without the permission of your loved one. That is the fastest way to break trust, and lose all the progress you have made together.

Find a Professional

Help your loved one find a local professional who can diplomatically handle the process of cleaning out the home. At New Life Restoration, we understand the emotional and psychological elements at play, and we work with the family and homeowner to provide hoarding cleanup services everyone can handle. Give us a call at (805) 925-1600, or request a quote online.

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