Hoarding: it’s a severe and distressing mental health condition that can have negative impacts on the life of the person who hoards, as well as their family members. If you have a loved one who hoards, you’re not alone.
In fact, 2-6% of the global population hoards, and only about 15% of people with hoarding behavior see it as irrational.
If you want to help your loved one, you’re also not alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of hoarding, and how you can extend a compassionate hand.
The Definition of Hoarding
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.
Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually piled with stuff. And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles, yard and other storage facilities.”
Hoarding behavior ranges from mild to severe. Some hoarding is a mere inconvenience (there is a difference between clutter and hoarding, though), while other hoarding behavior severely impacts the quality of life and function of the person hoarding items.
5 Approaches We Recommend
We’ve dealt with over 60 extreme hoarding cases, and we know that you can’t take the same approach for these cases that you would with any other general cleanout.
Instead, cases of extreme hoarding require patience and understanding. Here are a few things we recommend to help your loved one with hoarding:
1. Educate Yourself
Hoarding is a complex disorder, and it can be challenging to understand from the outside. Properly educating yourself on the full scope of the disorder will allow you to provide a supportive environment and will encourage your loved one to seek help.
By learning about hoarding, you can bring more compassion to your relationship with your loved one and set yourself up for your long road ahead.
Here are a few educational resources we recommend:
You may also want to speak with a qualified therapist in your area who can help you understand your loved one’s hoarding behavior and it’s severity.
2. Approach the Situation With Empathy (and Lower Expectations)
Just like any mental health condition, hoarding isn’t a choice. While it would be great if your loved one were receptive to your ideas about how to solve their hoarding issues, this will likely be a long, difficult process.
That said, patience is critical. As with any recovery process, your loved one will take many steps forward and backward along the way. Be grateful for any small progress your loved one makes.
What seems like a baby step to you may be extraordinarily difficult and takes tremendous courage for them.
It’s important to note that shaming your loved one or give them ultimatums will also not help the situation. We frequently hear people say things like, “you better clean this up or I am moving out”.
Approaching the situation with empathy will establish the trust needed to help your friend, partner, or parent with hoarding.
3. Don’t Clean up for Them or Take Their Belongings
It can be tempting to “fix” the hoarding problem for your loved one by simply taking their belongings or throwing out their items without their permission.