Struggling with hoarding? You’re not alone – many people and their families face this issue.
From mild clutter to severe hoarding, it’s important to recognize the stages and their unique challenges.
Understanding the five stages of hoarding is the first step to preventing potential hazards and getting the help you need.
In this guide, we’ll cover the five stages of hoarding in-depth so you can take proactive steps to address this issue.
Stage 1: Cluttered With Less Severe Indicators
A hoarding disorder is when someone has the irrational and obsessive need to keep excessive belongings and junk.
But hoarding is more common than you may think, affecting about 2.6% of Americans, with higher rates for people over 60.
Not all hoarding is created equal. There are five stages, and each stage becomes increasingly more destructive.
Stage 1 hoarding is the first stage of a hoarding disorder, not often readily apparent that any problem exists.
Often, storage areas are packed with items, and the person begins to collect a larger than usual amount of possessions.
That said, these items are hidden, and there isn’t any visible clutter.
Here are a few signs you or your loved one may be in this stage :
- Light Clutter: While there’s some clutter, it’s relatively minimal and might not catch immediate attention.
- Accessibility: Doors, windows, and stairways remain accessible and unobstructed.
- No Noticeable Odors: There are no discernible or unpleasant odors in the living space.
- Safety and Sanitation: The living conditions are generally safe and sanitary, with no evident hazards or issues.
Hoarded items are often discreetly tucked away in specific corners, rooms, or secondary storage areas like garages or sheds.
They may even show signs of excessive shopping or difficulty throwing away “junk.”
Stage 2: Noticeable Clutter to Visitors and Embarrassment
Most people often confuse clutter with hoarding. Hoarding is where you excessively hold on to items to the point where it impacts daily life.
Clutter is less severe and often lacks personal care toward organizing and tidying up.
In stage 2, the hoarder tends to withdraw from visitors out of embarrassment or anxiety, which can begin to affect relationships.
Hoarders at this level become more guarded about their mess that they can no longer hide. At this stage, it’s important to seek professional help to declutter their home.
Some signs of hoarding at this level include:
- Blocked exit: A major doorway is blocked by clutter, making it hard to get out if needed.
- Overflowing garbage: There’s too much garbage piling up.
- Utility problems: Electrical and plumbing systems may not work properly due to too many items.
- Pet mess: There’s pet waste and hair in the house, showing a lack of cleanliness.
- Dirty and moldy environment: Dishes and laundry are dirty, and mold is growing, suggesting a lack of cleaning.
Once clutter becomes visible, the mess can quickly become too unbearable to clean on your own. That’s when you’ll want to prepare for a hoarder cleanout so that a deeper cleanse can be performed to prevent sanitary issues.
Stage 3: Increasing Clutter
Stage 3 hoarding is when the person can’t see the severity of their situation and will downplay the dangers in their home.
If you notice this, it’s important to help a loved one with hoarding by scheduling a professional clean out and getting them the support they need.
At this stage, you’ll notice that the living space is notably disorganized and overwhelming, and the person’s behavior may be changing. Signs in the house include:
- Piles of objects obstructing key living areas: Possessions accumulate in a way that makes important living spaces difficult to use.
- Insect infestations: There could be a growing problem of pests like ants, cockroaches, bed bugs, and lice.
- Multiple broken appliances: Household appliances are often left unrepaired or nonfunctional.
- Untidied spills and breaks: Accidents or messes may not be cleaned and can linger for days.
- One room not used for its intended purpose: A room, such as a bathroom, is repurposed for storage rather than its original function.
Stage 4: Unusable Spaces
In stage 4, a person is highly likely to have a hoarding disorder.
It’s a concerning level that may require involvement from third-party agencies like housing, protective services, elderly services, and animal control.
You can expect to find the following in the person’s home:
- Structural damage in the home: This can include issues like water damage, broken doors, and plumbing problems.
- Clutter blocking entrances to stairs, rooms, and exits: The excessive possessions make it difficult to access essential parts of the home.
- Expired and rotting food: There’s spoiled food that poses health risks.
- Odors and sewage backup: The living conditions are associated with unpleasant smells and even sewage backup.
Cleaning and restoring the home in this stage typically requires a coordinated team of cleaners, mental health experts, social workers, and possibly financial counselors.
Stage 5: Severe Unsanitary Conditions, No Electricity or Running Water and Fire Hazards
Stage 5 hoarding is the most severe level of hoarding disorder.
In this stage, the person’s living conditions have become extremely problematic and may lead to legal issues such as divorce, guardianship, custody battles, or eviction due to the state of their home.
Common signs of stage 5 hoarding include:
- Extreme indoor clutter: Living spaces are so cluttered that they can’t be used for their intended purposes.
- Lack of ventilation: The home lacks proper ventilation, leading to poor air quality.
- Disconnected water and electrical services: Basic utilities like water and electricity aren’t functioning.
- Irreparable damage to the home’s structure: The home’s structure may be seriously compromised, such as broken walls, floorings, and ceilings.
- Pervasive mold and mildew: Mold and mildew growth can pose health risks.
- Human waste: Noticeable presence of human waste and feces littered in containers or floors.
Anyone entering the home will need personal protective gear like face masks, safety goggles, gloves, hand sanitizer, and a first aid kit.
Specialized tools and chemicals are necessary to safely clean the space and remove harmful bacteria.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Stage 4 Hoarder?
A stage 4 hoarder has a serious hoarding problem with extreme clutter and unclean living conditions. They find it hard to throw items away to the point where it makes their daily life tough and even causes safety hazards throughout their home.
What Is a Stage 5 Hoarder?
A stage 5 hoarder is someone with the most severe form of hoarding disorder and shows signs where living conditions are deplorable. Bathrooms and kitchens are unusable due to extreme clutter. Infestations are present, along with human waste, rotting food, and structural damage.
Need Hoarder Cleanout Services in the Bay Area? We Can Help.
Coming to terms with the fact that a loved one may be struggling with hoarding isn’t easy.
Once you’ve identified the stage of hoarding, you’ll want to take action by organizing a professional cleanup team to restore their home to a clean and comfortable space.
If you or someone you know is ready to address extreme hoarding and needs professional cleanout services, contact Nixxit.
With over ten years of experience, Nixxit specializes in hoarder cleanouts across the Bay Area.
Book now to schedule our services so you can be on your way to a clutter-free and revitalized living space.
Need Help with a Hoarder Cleanout in the Bay Area, CA?
Nixxit Junk Removal can help with your hoarder cleanout needs in the Bay Area.
- 10+ Years of Experience Working with Hoarders
- Locally Owned and Operated
- Sensitive and Discreet Approach
- Full-Service Removal and Sorting
- Donation and Recycling