You have probably come to our website because someone in your family has a clutter problem — a BIG clutter problem that goes beyond too much stuff. It is hoarding. Hoarding specifically is manifested by an unsafe accumulation of debris that prevents the normal functioning of the household or sometimes, even a family business. Hoarding is a sickness, and as with most sicknesses, it has degrees of severity, and some situations are worse than others.
Especially if it’s a family member, your first job is to understand it, and your second job is to know that it may require intervention of a professional to help you help your family member. Before the other two, your primary action might be to make sure the person’s situation is not endangering themselves, pets, or children if it is a home, or customers and the public at large if it is a business.
Knowing that your family member has a hoarding problem and being able to do something to change it are two entirely different things. In fact, the worst part of it is the frustration that you usually cannot do anything about it. Coupled with the frustration is the embarrassment you might feel over the situation. Maybe even shame. Sometimes, you think your friends or other family members might think it’s your fault!
It’s Generally a First World Problem.
When you think of it, the hoarding problem starts with good news: we live in a society where we have the wherewithal to buy lots of items, and a home or business that is big enough to store it all. Until the space is reduced to nothing because of the accumulation, the problem is not only “overlooked,” it is often viewed as a source of financial pride to have so much stuff.
On the other hand, some people “collect” trash: papers, boxes, newspapers and decades-old magazines. This one is harder for family members to understand, but it can present a serious fire hazard and needs to be handled.
Many of the “nicest families” have hoarding problems
Professionals of all sorts, including teachers and engineers, scientists and researchers are especially prone to hoarding. They like accumulating knowledge and that spills over into the accumulation of stuff. Their intelligence makes it especially difficult for others to approach the issue of hoarding: they’re too smart for their own good, and they’re really good at deflecting.
The elderly, people who grew up poor, people with other disorders like OCD or ADHD, and people who have experienced injuries and diseases are prone to hoarding. They may not be lazy or disorganized, but are rather, physically or mentally unable to trash the trash. Others who have suffered from abuse or loss, or even those who grew up in hoarding homes have inherited hoarding tendencies.
What Do You Do?
The worst thing you can do is nag. It doesn’t help, and it may actually make matters worse, because the person becomes defensive and angry. Here’s another problem: even if you came in and threw everything out, the person would very likely go out and get more of whatever it is.
Their disorder makes them crave clutter in the same way a smoker craves nicotine. It’s an addiction, and there is usually a deep-seated cause for it.
There are different ways of working with the sufferer through an intermediary or through support groups, therapists and other professionals who specialize in working with hoarding disorders. We can help to provide some of these resources to you.
The most important goal is to be kind and understanding. It’s easy to be embarrassed, ashamed and frustrated, but it’s often not the person’s fault. These hoarded houses we buy will sometimes give the person who hoards a fresh start, with the help of professionals. The bottom line is your family member needs to live in a home clear of clutter for their own safety, and the safety of others.