We post regularly about hoarding disorder as it relates to our house and garden clearance service. Our clients sometimes find the state of their relatives’ houses distressing, after they pass away or move into care.
If only we had known, they often say. Perhaps we should have visited them from time to time, or done something when this habit started. Today, we go back to the basics of the hoarding habit: what it is and what are the warning signs.
The Outward Signs of Hoarding Disorder
Hoarding exhibits as an ongoing, persistent difficulty in discarding things that are no longer of use. That’s because the person believes they may have a future purpose, and as a result accumulates more and more of them.
This clutter progressively develops ‘a mind of its own’ as it piles on sinks and countertops, and eventually spreads into almost every corner of the home. Rooms, passages and staircases gradually become inaccessible until the hoarding disorder victim is virtually overwhelmed.
However, they may not see this as a problem in their own minds. They adapt to their shrinking living space, as they would in a room, or even a bed in a care home. Hoarders can’t see a problem, because they have surrendered the rest of their living space to their accumulation.
The Warning Signs to Watch for With Hoarding
Hoarding disorder often appears in older age, although with the wisdom of hindsight there is sometimes evidence in children’s bedrooms. The habit sets in gradually as the adult hoarder begins acquiring things for which they have no immediate need.
The habit may become chronic as they reach middle age when treatment becomes more difficult. That’s partly because they are often intensely private people, and nobody knows what is happening on the far side of their front door.
In summary then:
- Hoarders acquire things for which there is no purpose or space
- They have difficulty discarding them, even things of no value
- Moreover, they have a compulsion to curate them for future use
- The thoughts of discarding the accumulation causes then distress
Compulsive hoarders may also display signs of “indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, and problems with planning and organizing” according to Mayo Clinic.
What’s Going On in a Hoarder’s Mind?
Our possessions have more than just substantive value. That’s because they relate to the times in our lives when we happily used them. A tatty old beach towel is a souvenir of a happy summer holiday on a beach in Spain. Those old takeaway containers once contained meals we enjoyed.
Hoarders can’t throw things away because that would be wiping out those memories, and destroying part of their identity. Thoughtlessly de-cluttering a home with their knowledge can therefore cause them extreme anguish.
Many elderly people have similar difficulty moving into downsized accommodation. That’s because they are emotionally attached to their rambling homes and have filled them with an accumulation of life.
Hoarding disorder is not a topic to laugh at over reality television. It is at the very heart and soul of the afflicted person. It could happen to us too, if we don’t respond to the warning signs. Indeed, this becomes more and more likely as we live past our three score years and ten.