Is hoarding a thing?

The answer to the question is yes. According to the Mayo Clinic, hoarding disorder is “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.” Those who hoard have difficulty parting with possessions even if those possessions are of little or no value. This behavior can affect the emotional, physical, social and financial status of the individual and their family. Commonly hoarded items may be house hold items, newspapers, magazines, paper or plastic bags, boxes, photos, food or clothing. Hoarding is a disorder that may exist on its own or in conjunction with other health disorders. Obsessive compulsive disorder, obsessive compulsive personality, disorder attention deficit disorder and depression are often linked with hoarding. There is often a feeling of shame and embarrassment associated with hoarding.

Symptoms include: Significant anxiety when attempting to discard items. Obtaining and saving large amounts of items. Difficulty to organize items with items overtaking rooms of the home. Indecision about what items should be kept and what items should be discarded. Mental and emotional distress or overwhelm regarding the amount of items in the home. Fear of running out of an item and not having that item on hand in the future.
Loss of living space, social isolation, family discord, health and safety hazards.

The results: Items such as newspapers or magazies, clothing, bags of food or books crowd rooms, pathways and common areas of the home minimizing the functional use of the space and increasing the safety risks in the home. Those with hoarding disorder often experience distress or conflict at the suggestion of de cluttering or discarding hoarded items. Hoarding decreases the ability for an individual or family to maintain order and may cause rifts among family

Why do people hoard? It is not exactly clear what causes hoarding disorder. Perhaps genetics or parental influences or certain patterns in the brain. Stress may have an influence as well as emotional distress from loss of a loved one or pet. Other reasons include the belief that items are special or hold more monetary value then is realistic. Some are paralyzed at the thought of throwing items away for fear they are “wasting”. Certain items hold emotional value or serve as a reminder of the good days gone by. And some feel a sense of safety when surrounded by all the items that make up their hoard.

If you suspect you or a loved one have a problem with hoarding, it is best to seek professional help. Look for a therapist who specializes in hoarding situations. In some cases, an intervention is needed to ensure the safety of children or the elderly. After seeking the help of a therapist, a professional organizer is a great asset and can assist in collaboration with family members and other professionals to help guide the client to a more fulfilling and safer way of living.

 

Kirsten Gross

About Kirsten Gross

Kirsten Gross is a Greater Philadelphia professional organizer with Kirsten Gross Professional Organizing LLC based in West Chester, PA.
Visit Kirsten Gross's website
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