We doubt there is a single person alive who does not keep a few things they don’t need any more. These items could have sentimental value, or we may expect to have a use for them in future. We may also simply forget they are on the top shelf of a cupboard we can’t reach without fetching a ladder.
Whatever the case may be, hoarding is just a larger manifestation of the same thing. Social scientists suspect hoarders gain comfort from their disorganized collections, because having them masks a deeper psychological pain that aches deep down inside they can’t reach.
We should therefore avoid disturbing this balance, unless the situation is getting out of hand. ‘Getting out of hand’ includes being unable to walk safely around their home, or them having to downsize to move to a retirement or care home.
So how to you approach a situation where you have to intrude because someone’s hoarding needs your attention? Perhaps you are a close family member, their special friend, or you are their carer. Let’s start by viewing the situation you find yourself in from a broader perspective.
A Broader Perspective on Hoarding in the UK
The Good Therapy website confirms around 5% of people hoard. The phenomenon is however commoner among older people, perhaps because they have had more time to collect their hoard. The problem is only 15% of compulsive hoarders accept their behaviour is beyond what most of us consider rational.
Therefore, for all the reasons given beforehand we need to approach a hoarding situation with care. That’s because a positive result is unlikely if we tamper with their deep-seated values. There are, however positive things we can do.
Drilling Down to Where You Are. What Should You Do?
# 7: Do Not Attempt to dismantle the hoard: You can emotionally harm the hoarder and destroy the relationship if you take a ‘gung ho’ approach and start stripping it out. Focus instead on maintaining a positive caring relationship.
# 6: Do Not ASSIST the hoarding behaviour. Hoarding often comes to the fore because the hoarder’s home is full to overflowing. Don’t offer them temporary storage space or go with them on shopping expeditions.
# 5: educate yourself about the dynamics of hoarding. Google the topic, join a support group and learn everything you can. Visit this website every week when you will find a new informative post.
# 4: CELEBRATE SMALL VICTORIES by praising your hoarder, if they have not added anything new for a week or even got rid of a few things. Counter their withdrawal symptoms by making them feel good.
# 3: HELP THEM SORT their things into piles so they can see what they have. There’s a chance they may decide to get rid of some of the clutter when they realise how many duplicates there are. Ask a removal specialist such as Avery Associates to help if there is a pile to get rid of.
# 2: Do Not CLEAN the hoarder’s home. This is mission critical. If everything is neat and tidy then they have more space to accumulate things. Allow them to make their own independent decisions. You can lead a horse to water …
# 1: Tactfully suggest treatment if you are starting to make progress and they have thoughtfully and actively asked or help. Try to persuade them to join a support group of other hoarders. Much good can flow from there.
It’s a fundamental fact of life that help is not help unless it is willingly requested, and welcomed with open arms. Gingerly follow the steps we suggest only if, and only when your hoarder is genuinely willing to receive the help.