What Is Hoarding?
Hoarding is the process of compulsive purchasing and saving of items that have little or no value. A person with hoarding disorder fails to discard objects regardless of value, resulting in over-crowded living spaces, making them unlivable.
This can have devastating emotional, physical, financial, social, and possibly legal effects on the hoarder and/or their family and friends.
In Philadelphia, approximately 2-5% of the population (estimated at 23,600 to 59,000 adults) exhibit hoarding behaviors.
Hoarding and collecting are entirely different concepts. Collectors have a sense of pride about their possessions and care to show off their organized collection. Hoarders are often embarrassed about their possessions. They’re uncomfortable when others see the clutter that takes over any functional space. They may feel sad or ashamed about purchasing or acquiring additional things, but feel the acquisitions are necessary.
Do you feel like you cannot move around in your own home because of the amount of clutter? Is everything piling up to the point that you’re not even sure what all you have? Do you feel scared and alone because of this?
Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step for someone who hoards on the road to their recovery. I understand there may be an underlying issue that caused or intensified a hoarding problem, and I’m willing to help relieve some weight off your chest.
If you know help is needed, I can help save your sanity in terms of professional organization. In the meantime, here are some useful tips to help you get started:
- Be sure to ask for support from your family and friends. Chances are, they’ve tried to reach out before to help, but you may not have been ready to accept it.
- Start small. Don’t take on your entire house as one project. Break it down into small, manageable areas. With each small space that begins to clear, you’ll be able to see and track your progress!
- If you’ve come to terms that you have a hoarding disorder, it may be difficult to actually get rid of some items. This is where your family and a professional organizer can help. We can set a time limit of 30 seconds in which you’ll need to decide whether to keep an item while we clean.
- If you’ve decided to remove an item, take it out of your house immediately. Or, have a family member or friend take it out to lessen the temptation to rethink your choice and keep it!
- Take before and after photos to help visualize your accomplishment!
If you’re unsure about whether you should keep an item or not, ask yourself these key questions:
- When was the last time I needed it?
- When did I use this item last?
- Will I ACTUALLY use this item in the future?
- What is the significance of keeping this item?
All too often, people who hoard lack insight and cannot or will not admit to having a problem, and the hoarding parent may blame the condition of the house on the child.
Hoarding is a disorder that is frequently associated with anxiety. He or she clings to their collection, sparking a variety of extreme emotions if things are touched, moved, or cleaned up. Desperate attempts to try and resolve the problem are left unfinished, not because of a lack of trying, but because the hoarder either doesn’t believe there’s a problem or doesn’t want any help and is strongly opposed to it.
There are four categories used to assess the amount of clutter in a single environment: Structure, Animals/Pests, Household Functions, and Health & Safety. Within these categories the environment may be assessed as “low” and “guarded” which are typical of an average and safely functioning situation, up to “elevated,” “high,” or “severe” hoarding conditions.
Cleaning a hoarder’s home without professional help is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. It can cause a family member or close friend to feel guilty, even after they’ve tried to help on multiple occasions.
Only when a hoarder accepts that they need help should you completely intervene. Threatening to throw away a hoarders “stuff” is the worst approach well-intentioned family and friends can take. It can cause extreme emotional trauma and social withdrawal for a person with hoarding disorder.
The best thing you, as a family member or friend of a person who hoards, can do is realize there is a larger issue happening that needs to be addressed. Hoarding, like any other addiction, is a family disease in the fact that everyone close is affected.
I am affiliated with the Philadelphia Hoarding Task Force (PHTF), which aims to improve outcomes for people who hoard within the City of Philadelphia. The rights of the individual and the health and safety needs of the community is a balancing act that the PHTF works to provide tools needed to successfully overcome the challenging issue.
Philadelphia Hoarding Task force… serves only Philadelphia county.
The Mayor’s Office has partnered with Community Legal Services to develop a process in which the city is to handle hoarding cases. Agencies across city government have come together to develop a necessary practice of what has become a very serious hazard. The Task Force’s focus is on the person, to resolve immediate issues fairly and compassionately while seeking long-term solutions. The objective is to prevent unnecessary evictions of city residents. These are people in need – whether they can admit it or not – and they require patience and respect from everyone involved. Read more about the Task Force here: