Have you ever watched a hoarding show on TV and wonder how people can become so consumed with “stuff?” Well we often get phone calls from customers concerned about someone they know who is hoarding. They will ask for advice and steps to help manage the task at hand. It is important, however, to acknowledge that this complex issue can be highly sensitive, as hoarding is often triggered by some type of anxiety. It is said to be a subtype of obsessive, compulsive disorder. It often consumes the hoarder not only literally, but mentally and socially. Doctors have described potential cause for hoarding such as difficulty processing information, beliefs about inanimate possessions, and emotional distress associated with parting from these items. It is sometimes difficult for family members to sympathize with their hoarding relative and to insist they take matters into their own hands. This can have positive or negative effects. To the non-hoarder, the clutter is seen as garbage that needs to be thrown away but to a hoarder each item has its own special (often exaggerated) significance; a treasure. Hoarders are often resistant to change and procrastinate over decisions to help free them from their compulsive hoarding tendencies. There is no cure for obsessive compulsive hoarding, but there are ways to help transition into healthy behaviours. Promoting positive encouragement is what we hope to do by providing some simple steps to conquer hoarding:
- Respect freedom of choice – Acknowledge that the person you know as a hoarder (as long as competent mentally) is capable of making their own decisions, there isn’t much you can do until the individual is ready to make the change other than kindly recommend counseling.
- Go the extra step – If you plan on recommending counselling, research a local psychologist of psychiatrist who specializes in hoarding. This shows you genuinely care and are interested in helping in any way possible.
- Do not argue- This will not solve anything, it will most likely make the situation worse.
- Ask but don’t tell – Rather than attacking their current situation, discuss long-term goals and if they intend on changing their ways in years to come ask if their current behaviours of accumulating items will be an effective way of achieving their goal.
- All in time – Strive for gradual change rather than immediate solutions. Hoarding proceeds slowly over time and it may take a while for any change to occur so having patience is key. Arguing, threatening, and blaming are all negative actions – changing your attitude to one that is willing to help in whatever positive way possible could reap unexpected rewards and eventually soften resistance. Discussions will become easier and more productive and trust will develop that your intentions are purely to help the situation.
- Clinical research studies – Cost is often associated with seeking professional help but there are clinical research studies that provide low-cost or even free counselling to the individual you know that is hoarding. Do some research to find if there are any current studies looking for participants in your area.
- Cleanup companies – Once you have reached the point where the hoarder is comfortable parting with some of their unnecessary items and you intend on having a company come to help clean up, again, do your research to make sure the company has the right type of insurance for the job such as – general liability insurance, workers compensation, and automobile insurance.
- Cleaning schedule – When they are ready to begin cleaning trying to tackle as much as possible is too overwhelming for everyone involved. Create a cleaning schedule and work a room at a time. If you allow the option of “throw away” or “keep” challenge how each item will be used if the hoarder chooses to “keep”.
- More than a mess – This a psychologically demanding process for all involved so remember to maintain patience and accept that change will come slowly.
- Don’t give up – Hoarding is not a hopeless road. There are professionals that specialize in hoarding and can help. The worst thing you can do is to abandon the situation. Loneliness is a catalyst for hoarding. You know help is needed and as exhausting as it may be for you, someone you know and care about needs your help whether they admit it or not, you know change is necessary.
- Follow through and maintenance – This is a process that is ongoing even after the clutter has been removed. It is very easy to slip into old habits so ensure you are promoting healthy behaviours and nip any signs of relapse in the bud. Remember to stay positive and maintain good relationships with the ex-hoarder. If they agree to further counselling to maintain newly developed behaviours be supportive and even attend the course alongside if that is an option. You’ll probably learn some new things too!
Check out how Capital Junk can help you tackle hoarding.