Compulsive hoarding is a pattern of behaviour in which affected people acquire large quantities of objects they seem unable to throw away. However, this is not the result of a conscious decision to collect. There are deep-seated drivers behind the fixation we may glimpse in a compulsive hoarders house, but seldom fully understand.
We dedicate this article to understanding the underpinnings of this obsessive activity that seems irrational to most. And then, seeing as many hoarders live in isolation, we ponder the impact of the loneliness the pandemic has forced on many elderly citizens. And consider how to go about a hoarders house clearance.
A Compulsive Hoarders House: The Traditional Approach
Behavioural scientists at Medicine.Net have identified several factors that may co-exist with compulsive hoarding. This does not necessarily mean the one causes the other directly, but here they are for the record in no particular order:
1… Non-standard brain connections at birth, or following physical damage, surgery, or trauma
2… Non-standard serotonin chemical quantities altering the way the brain processes information
3… Growing up in a home with compulsive hoarding member(s) and acquiring a taste for it
4… Lacking the necessities of life in an earlier phase, and adopting hoarding as coping mechanism
5… Triggering the pattern subconsciously, while passing through a stressful phase of losing a loved one
Those five factors are generally regarded as the major companions to compulsive hoarding. However, there are also other factors including certain phobias, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, loneliness, alcohol dependence, and substance abuse.
Possessions in Compulsive Hoarder Houses Are Poor Substitutes for People
The Conversation relayed a sad tale of a person who hoarded the mortal remains of their departed great love. We need to share sympathy for these situations, and give thanks we are spared such grieving.
However, this does not necessarily mean we may not hang on to a few personal keepsakes. People with compulsive hoarding disorder may take this obsession to new heights, where they literally fill their homes with clutter.
Why Is It So Difficult to Let These Possessions Go?
Do you remember the cartoon-series Charlie Brown, and the boy Linus who carried his security blanket with him everywhere he went? When we were kids, we cuddled up with teddy bears before our parents turned out the lights, because we knew we would not feel so lonely.
We may even hang on to treasured childhood memories, and show them in pride of place in a display cabinet. That’s ok provided they don’t rule our lives. However, more than a million of our compatriots apparently don’t know where to stop.
A Compulsive Hoarders House Becomes the Enemy of Lifestyle
Sociologists tell us some 5% of Britons have difficulty discarding things that for the rest of us have no apparent value. A strong emotional link becomes evident if we try to deliberately remove them from a compulsive hoarders house. They are evidently more attached to them, than they are to their living space where they store them.
An affected person’s quality of life can deteriorate rapidly as their hoard takes over the life space. Subjectively, this is no matter to them. However objectively, their homes can become high risk places for fires and electric shocks. Things may reach a point where clearing out a compulsive hoarder house becomes the only option.
Past Pleasant Memories Have a Powerful Hold
Our possessions are the vehicles of our beloved memories. Our reference to Linus may have evoked a happy phase in your life. If it did, by all means revisit your past. Such flashbacks are more likely to occur when we are on our own, perhaps in a dream.
This helps us understand in a small away why lonely people hoard. It’s because their possessions act as substitutes for human companions. When humans can’t meet our needs, we find them in objects. When COVID-19 deprives us of human companionship, our nature drives us in search of something else.
Obsessive-Compulsive Hoarding During the Pandemic
Our government has advised citizens aged over sixty-five to shelter as much as possible during the pandemic. They may decide to stock up on essentials for a future lockdown and this can be the start of a hoard.
Research published in United States confirms reduced mobility affects people with obsessive-compulsive behaviour negatively. And hoarding, as we know is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder that only recently became a separate condition.
What Shall We Do If an Elderly Friend Starts Hoarding?
Caring Nurses Incorporated advises against dashing in like a bull in a china shop. Clutter, general untidiness and failing sanitary standards are relatively common among the elderly, they say. We may see their clutter as junk, but to them it is their companion.
Caring Nurses Incorporated recommends first establishing a level of trust. Then we can try to tidy the worst clutter in the compulsive hoarders house so living space becomes habitable again. Only those who have experienced loneliness know the pain, and the yearning for a companion.
Avery and Associates offer discreet, responsible hoarded house clearances throughout England and Wales carried out by Jeffrey Avery and his team of considerate professionals and are able to identify items of real value for their clients. Please call 0800 567 7769 / 0208 640 00 44 or send us an email if you believe we may be able to assist.