What is hoarding in your mind?
Is it something people accuse you of because your hobby is spreading itself? That’s harmless enough. However, if an elderly relative leaves their estate in your hands you could face a compulsive hoarding situation. And that’s a more complex space to be in. This is an introductory guide to hoarding disorder to help you understand it better
So What is Compulsive Hoarding Then?
The concept in itself is not difficult to unpick. A hoard is a collection of things someone guards jealously, while a compulsion is an irresistible urge to do something. Leave these two things to fester and the result may be a hoarder’s house that needs clearing. As a first step to getting the house on the market and sold.
One of the most important messages in any guide to hoarding disorder is this is not inevitably a problem. Hoarding has to interfere with daily living to become an issue if the person is still alive. If it does not, well then that person has a perfect right to live in disorganized chaos. But there is one exception to that principle.
That exception would be when the compulsive collection starts to infringe on safety standards. We recommend you consult a welfare officer in your local council if a relative’s home is no longer electrically safe, or if hygiene is so poor it could encourage disease.
A Guide to Hoarding Disorder in the Context of Probate
The need to clear the chaos ticks up sharply when the hoarder dies. That’s because Her Majesty’s Government is keen to collect any estate duty owed, and this will be based on the assessed value of the estate, including possessions.
Once this is sorted the valuable items can go to their rightful heirs. And the property (if any) sold, or its title changed to an heir. This must be done with due diligence – under the watchful eye of a professional valuer perhaps – to avoid sending any items of value to the charity store.
Why Do Some People Get Hoarding Disorder?
We don’t fully understand why somebody begins, and then continues hoarding according to National Health Service, but there are a few clues:
1… Some people appear to be born with the tendency and it can show when they are young.
2… Others appear to develop the obsession gradually. And then quite intensely as they move into their fifties and sixties.
3… Hoarding can be a standalone condition, or it can associate with depression, schizophrenia, or another psychotic disorder.
Loneliness as a Guide to Hoarding Disorder
Social researchers say many people hoarding in their houses live alone, and are often single. They may also have had a deprived childhood, where they hung on to what they had. Now we don’t know whether they began hoarding as their possessions became their companions. Or whether they became single and lonely because nobody else could put up with the mess.
One thing is for sure though: People living as hoarders develop a very strong affinity for their possessions. As National Health Service puts it:
‘Many people who hoard have strongly held beliefs related to acquiring and discarding things, such as: “I may need this someday” or “If I buy this, it will make me happy”. Others may be struggling to cope with a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one.
‘Attempts to discard things often bring up very strong emotions that can feel overwhelming, so the person hoarding often tends to put off or avoid making decisions about what can be thrown out. Often, many of the things kept are of little or no monetary value and may be what most people would consider rubbish.
The person may keep the items for reasons that are not obvious to other people, such as for sentimental reasons, or feeling the objects appear beautiful or useful. Most people with a hoarding disorder have a very strong emotional attachment to the objects.’
Hoarding Versus Collecting Things of Value
You may face an emotional challenge if you find yourself tasked with clearing a compulsive hoarder house, and distributing the deceased’s assets. However, you do need to keep your cool because collecting memorabilia from the past is a growing hobby. And there could be something worth retrieving under a pile of worthless junk.
1… Hoards often lack any form of order. The items are largely inaccessible and take up large amounts of space.
2… Collections are usually well-organized like those vases in the bowl. It is quite easy to find what you are looking for.
Take piles of newspapers for example. They may worth nothing more than their value as pulp. If, on the other hand they are tidily in date order they may be a record of history. And the local library may want to add them their collection.
We hope you found our guide to hoarding disorder helpful, in understanding a condition that often plays out unnoticed behind closed doors. Avery Associates offers a house clearance and valuation service to solicitors, and executors of deceased estates.
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