Introduction to Hoarding
Hoarding goes beyond having a box of rusty nails, a drawer of questionable rubber bands, or an attic stuffed with stuff. The disorder stage is reached when a person crosses the line separating busy clutter from addictive accumulation. Experts in the field diagnose the person’s sickness by defining how much the hoarding affects the person’s and their families’ every day life. Can they cook a meal? Can they locate their shoes? Can they find the television remote? Are they living in dangerous conditions such as obstacles blocking exits, buried items that breed bacteria, etc.?
Hoarding cuts across all demographics. The young and old, male and female of any economic and ethnic segment of society can fall victim to a hoarding condition.
Household clutter may or may not reflect a person’s interests or hobbies. Regardless of the types of “stuff” collected, hoarding affects the individual’s life, and involves the people around them as well. Because the clutter may result in being cut off from family and friends, the person who hoards becomes yet more dependent on the clutter to supply that missing social interaction and comfort. The person who hoards animals might be the classic example, but it does not have to be animals. Even books can be “friends” to the asocial hoarder.
The medical profession has given scientific names to some common types of hoarding, but the others listed below are drawn from our experience and offered to help people identify if they have or are living with someone that has a true hoarding disorder. Decluttering a home is not a simple hauling and dumping. The situation needs to be approached with the same care one might have for yourself or a loved one that has any kind of sickness… with solutions, not accusations and with hoarding specialists and sometimes even medical professionals that deal compassionately with the problem and the person.
When all is said and done, much of the hoarding we see starts with shopping, where the item (whatever it is) leaves the retailer’s shelves and enters the home. When the items are not processed, and when more shopping adds to the accumulation, we look deeper, and often find a shopaholic (although not always) underneath. Shopping for some people releases endorphins and creates a temporary “high” that can become addictive, especially if the hoarder has lost much of their social life to clutter.
The buying “high” doesn’t last. The items were not really needed to begin with, and with the rush of positive feelings now gone, the items are rarely used, are simply added to the piles, and are almost never returned to the store.
By shopping to replace true emotions and positive feelings, the person’s residence can quickly fill, and worse, the hoarder can find themselves in a terrible financial state with credit lines maxed out. The stress of increasing debt and mounding clutter worsens the feeling of helplessness. The hoarder’s social isolation blocks the path to a healthy, happy life; and the vicious cycle spirals deeper under what may feel like insurmountable heaps of debt and clutter.
We understand this disorder of compulsive purchasing and we can compassionately and respectfully help this person transition to their next home. When this type of person needs to move, we will buy the home with everything still in it, and sometimes we are even able to offer cash for some of the items. Beyond that, the best idea is to seek life changes that will make it so shopping no longer replaces friendships. If you need to move and are overwhelmed with the clutter and accumulated items, call us today.
Collectors are sometimes shopaholics, but not always. The crossover from healthy to unhealthy may begin when a person starts collecting a certain category or group of items, but it expands to other areas. Simple collecting is not hoarding unless the collection exceeds the person’s control and the collection grows to a size where the collection interferes with the daily functioning of the household. Oftentimes, the first collection leads to acquiring another collection of related or even totally unrelated items, and the piles grow. Hoarding dysfunction occurs when the every day clutter lands atop already large collections within the home.
BIBLIOMANIA (HOARDING OF BOOKS) / INFORMATION HOARDER
People who suffer from this disorder are usually individuals with an extremely high intelligence. These hoarders may have careers that require large amounts of research to stay up-to-date in their profession. These are careers such as teachers, engineers, doctors, dentists, accountants, lawyers, etc. The information hoarder justifies the accumulation through their endless quest for knowledge.
Book hoarding cases vary in degree and type, from residences containing thousands of books, to home offices where a retired professional might have work files, comingled personal and business documents, and professional materials that span several career changes. In most cases, collecting information is vital to the hoarder, even if intellectually they know it is impossible to ever read everything that surrounds them. The fear: by letting go of the books and periodicals they might miss an important fact, or may even lose themselves and everything they’ve worked so hard to learn.
LARDER HOARDING (HOARDING OF FOOD)
The larder hoarder, more commonly known as a food hoarder, fears losing everything. These individuals stockpile items against the possibility of a famine or they project themselves into “survival mode” where they may have to live off of their stockpile. Although everyone should have some kind of reserve in case of emergencies—such as a natural disaster or losing a job— these individuals take this notion to an extreme by turning their home into a storage unit for excessive amounts of food and other items. While much of the food remains untouched and unused, food hoarders are difficult to reason with, and many of them do not believe the expiration dates. It’s also dangerous to think that if they were to consume these outdated items, the may become sick. That’s another reason to purge the home of hoarded foods, but also, some of the safe foods can be taken to food banks, which helps the community!
People that collect more animals than they can properly care for are classified as animal hoarders. Animal hoarders typically rescue animals with the best of intentions—whether saving animals, providing shelter, adopting, or hoping to find another good home. It’s easy to see how the situation can quickly spiral out of control. These people like to aid the helpless, and as the animals produce litters of their own, the problem grows steadily worse. Unable to handle the proper feeding and health requirements for this larger “family,” the pet collector may find their animals becoming sick, or worse, dying.
Animal hoarders’ homes are usually accompanied by yet more clutter of other kinds, presenting extremely dangerous health conditions associated with animal waste, germs, and bacteria within the home.
When we buy homes where there is animal hoarding, we assist in finding homes for the animals so that you know they are going to good, caring homes.
SYLLOGOMANIA (HOARDING OF TRASH/GARBAGE)
Syllogomania is defined as the hoarding of trash. We have dealt a lot with pure syllogomania hoarding cases — where there are no items of value, sentiment, or functional use. With garbage hoarding cases, the overall condition of the home is usually dreadful. Sometimes utilities have been shut off, and the residence is contaminated with a combination of insects, rodents, and filth. A trash hoarder tends to have a more severe mental disorder than the average hoarder. When we buy these houses, we realize there may be a need for some mental health assistance and referrals. We can put you in touch with companies that can handle the individual’s mental health needs in a compassionate way.
A recycler-hoarder usually has huge piles of plastic, glass, and aluminum cans throughout the home that far exceed the average household’s accumulation. These individuals intend to turn in the recyclables for large amounts of cash. However, the piles continue to increase to a point that entire rooms are filled with this “trash-cash,” and to remove it would take so many trips to the recycling site that it never gets done and continues to build.