Health & Wellness

The Dark World of Hoarding

by D.J. Wilson –

The beginning of a new year causes us to pause and reflect on improvements we can make in our lives.  As we toast 2012, many of us make resolutions to get organized.  For some this means straightening out a few closets.  For others it’s emerging from the gallows of severe clutter.  Today’s lifestyle lends itself to accumulation.  Materialistic societies place emphasis on things rather than people.  Proof lies under Christmas trees as materialism is passed onto our youth.  We watch commercials and are falsely convinced material things will bring us joy, comfort, and security on our quest for happiness.  It is a blessing to have our basic life necessities met, but having too many things has a negative effect such as hoarding.

The world of hoarding is a dark and lonely place. Hoarders feel ashamed and find it difficult to reach out for help or remain in denial.  Those with a propensity toward pathological collecting have suffered through trauma and feel a lack of control.  They develop strong emotional attachments to things considered “trash”.  Many times the accumulator feels unhappy yet refuses to accept help when encouraged by well meaning family members due to fear, sadness, denial or shame.  Something as simple as a disposable plastic cup is difficult to discard.  Objects take over as hoarders mentally and emotionally assign value to things that are truly worthless.  You may have heard the expression “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  In hoarding, junk is a treasure.  It is a sensitive subject which needs understanding and compassion.  Many people who accumulate feel overwhelmed and depressed.  It has negative impact on social life due to fear of embarrassment and rejection.  It is commonly a root of family problems.  Some hoarders keep their life a secret, allowing only selective people into their home.

Entering the home of a hoarder is shocking to those who live in maintained homes.  Piles of clutter are usually found throughout the home.  Hallways become narrow due to clutter as bedrooms and even beds are piled high with things. Narrow passages may cause one to trip or fall and present an extreme fire hazard.   Many hoarders don’t sleep in their own beds once clutter overcomes the bedroom.  A number use their showers for storage and can’t bathe and can’t cook dinner because the counters, sink and oven are filled.  When clutter is severe, it is hard for a hoarder to differentiate trash and cleaning becomes a monumental task.  They often re-buy things they can’t find and create more accumulation.  A severely cluttered home is an economic and sanitary burden.  Many homes have mice and bugs.  Hoarding doesn’t occur overnight and needs patience and courage to correct.  It’s best to begin with the help of a qualified therapist and the assistance of a well educated professional organizer.  A therapist will work with the emotional aspects of hoarding and an organizer will deal with the stuff.

Organizing is like learning to walk.  Take baby steps by starting with small areas first.  Getting rid of clutter is exhausting and emotional, so it’s best to go at a comfortable pace established by the organizer.  You’ll learn storage techniques and how to evaluate an objects worth to determine what stays and goes.  Once clutter is gone and things are stored properly, locating items becomes easy.   The New Year offers an opportunity for change.  Since hoarding is detrimental to health and well being, let go of the guilt and shame and seek help immediately.  Don’t let clutter be a roadblock to happiness and health.  With proper guidance, hoarding tendencies can be corrected and quality of life can be greatly improved.

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16 Comments on "The Dark World of Hoarding"

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Pat
4 years 6 months ago
Friends, As I approach retirement, one of my main goals is “stocking up.” When my income is going to be less, it is going to be very comforting to have on hand: storage jars, Christmas decorations, books, various sets of china and crystal, nice accessories for my home, art and craft supplies, and tools. My cookbook collection is so nice, I should have it insured by Lloyds of London. Preparing for Y2K enabled us to prepare for disruptions and shortages. I have faith that eventually all my possessions will be VERY orderly, boxed, labeled and have a notebook with the locations of things. It is a “work in progress.” The items I inherited from a very regal grandmother with exquisite taste, a great grandmother, long-distance grandmother, aunt and wonderful mother fill my heart with contentment. Yes, you do have to polish silver, and dust things; but, each time I handle… Read more »
Elisangela
4 years 7 months ago

How lvoely!! Moi aussi j’aime bien Hélène et ses recettes, son billet sur son réveillon à l’anglaise était un pur régal… :-)

BayTree
4 years 8 months ago
Family members had been living the lives of hoarders for decades, despite repeated family discussions. When in their upper 80’s, it became clear that they were not caring for themselves anymore partly due to the hoarding: rats were living in their basement, mice throughout the house, scorpions, etc, only narrow pathways through many rooms, blocked exit doors, clothes were piling up, unwashed, and not bathing themselves, it was time for an ‘intervention.’ Not fun, but necessary. After they moved to assisted living, we have spent the past three years cleaning up tons of papers, magazines, just-in-case items, extra furniture, closets full of unworn clothes, etc, etc. Took many, many loads to the dump, recycle, Goodwill, and sold a lot of it. Still working on the results of years of neglect. Lessons: If you are a hoarder–please don’t leave it to ‘someone else’ to clean up. Before it’s too late, you… Read more »
Old Soldier
4 years 8 months ago

We are “hording” incandescent light bulbs since our betters in Congress have bought the man-made climate change nonsense. We also have more canned food in the pantry than we need on a day-to-day basis, just in case. We don’t buy clutter, but we do have a lot of keepsakes from our travels and gifts. Every year at Chistmas I tell my family “don’t buy anything for me”, except some necesities I would buy for myself at some point. It can be done. “Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

jd
4 years 8 months ago

“Clutter Control” by Jeff Campbell. I have the book here – somewhere…..

Michael Miller
4 years 8 months ago

I highly recommend “Organizing from the Inside Out” By Julie Morgenstern. They also have an audio book edition available. You still have to figure out what it is you want to keep, this will show you why your current organizing attempts have failed (and keep failing).

Another tip with parting with things:
1. Do I think I will ever really be able to get to it/use it?
2. The cost of me seeing it everyday versus the cost or replacing it?
3. The possibility of someone else using/benefiting from the item since I cannot?

May
4 years 8 months ago
I started watching hoarders and was horrified. But then I started realizing I have many of the responses they would have about parting with things. I watch it to help keep my “collecting” at bay. My house is nothing like the ones on the show but I realize I have the potential. Not so much with the obvious that should be thrown away, papers, spoiled food, etc., I could never let it get to that point, but I am an artist with diverse interest so I tend to keep many things I know I can use in art some day. I collect faster than I can create. I sew, knit, do stained glass, Faberge eggs, beading, etc. I just get way ahead of myself. It scares me but I have a hard time parting with supplies. My house is too full but it is a far cry from what you… Read more »
KEEPER OF MANY KEYS
4 years 8 months ago
MESSAGE FOR POOR PITYFUL DOUG– NOT MARRIED???? WELL THEN YOU STILL SEEM TO HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF SOME SPACE AND CREATED ROOM FOR YOURSELF–WHAT’S KEEPING YOU THERE? TO YOU AND ANY OTHERS IN FREELOADER POSITION –I WOULD SEE YOU AT THE DOOR WITH REVERSED WELCOME MAT AND A SWIFT KICK TO THE PANTS ON YOUR WAY OUT. YOU WOULD BE THE FIRST KEPT THING I WOULD THROW OUT.== IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT THEN YOU GET OUT AND STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN AND .QUIT COMPLAINING. DON’T BITE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU. I LOATHE ALL YOU DO GOODERS INTRUSIONS WHO ARE SO QUICK UNDER THIS LATEST GUISE TO MOVE IN AND JUDGE YOURSELVES IN CHARGE–. WHILE REALLY YOU ARE ROBBERS HELPING YOURSELVES AND TURNING OTHERS THINGS INTO MONEY IN YOUR POCKETS .–MY CUP MAY RUNNETH OVER BUT IT IS MY CHOICE -BUTT OUT !
Daisy Mae
4 years 8 months ago

When my parents, who lived with me in their last years, passed away I had to dispose of all of their belongings. It was an emotional time and difficult deciding what I could do without regret. I ened up sorted everything, gave away clothing to thrift shops and what was left I put in boxes and labeled them with the year they were packed. My rule is “after one year if I did not miss these items, dispose of them.” I do that with all my personal items as well. When its time to dispose of them, I make a decision to throw out, donate, give to friends, etc. Never had any regrets.

MARY
4 years 8 months ago

I CAN RECOMMEND 2 GREAT BOOKS:
“CLEAR YOU CLUTTER WITH FENG SHUI” BY KAREN KINGSTON

“IT’S ALL TOO MUCH” BY PETER WALSH

PETER WALSH HAS A SHOW ON THE “OWN” OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK ABOUT DEALING WITH CLUTTER.

JUST REMEMBER WE CAN’T TAKE ANY OF IT WITH US WHEN WE DIE AND DO WE REALLY WANT TO LEAVE RELATIVES THE BURDEN OF DEALING WITH IT. UGH

Alicia
4 years 8 months ago

Well Said……

Collector
4 years 8 months ago
It is even more difficult when your family doesn’t realize or refuses to admit it’s an illness, then comes in in your absence, “cleans” house for you, throwing out literally thousands of dollars of antiques and collectibles with the clutter (not trash) and think they helped. Now there is no communication and they wonder what they did wrong. I was recovering from 3 major surgeries in 7 months – they were not there for that and I continued in a downhill spiral. Then when I was at my lowest, didn’t ask for help and they came in and “helped” and helped themselves to what they wanted as well. Sometimes family will treat you worse than your friends ever thought of doing. I know for a fact from my neighbors some of what was thrown out in the trash. They salvaged a few things for me. True story I’m sorry to… Read more »
Doug
4 years 8 months ago
I’ve lived with a hoarder for years now. I actually am the one who needs professional help because I am unable to do anything about it. We’re not married so divorce is not an option. We argue daily. It’s certainly not healthy for any relationship. Makes for an extremely dysfunctional relationship actually. Keep thinking this will eventually change but like an addiction to anything, like alcohol or drugs or cigarettes, it feeds on itself. “I’m helping others by saving all this stuff and giving it to charitable organizations” but only a small portion of it goes in that direction. A lot of it is returnable bottles(.10 if returned to a store) but many have to be returned out state. Another huge pile of it is coupons. Gotta save on purchases, right? Try two homes she owns, two garages, 10 or 11 rented storage units(100.00/month+) an eviction from one apartment last… Read more »
Saver
4 years 8 months ago

Besides nostaliga items and some collectables, I save things that may be of use or needed in the future. My problem is when I need something important, if put it in a “safe” place, I may have trouble finding it and take a couple hours digging in the storage building to find it since boxes and shelf locations are not cataloged.

Over my earlier years there has been a lot of stuff I’ve given away, thrown away, or sold that I wish I had now. Just looking at the prices of some similar, older items on Ebay these days reminds me of how much I could be supplementing my income today. There’s an old saying: “Too soon we get old and too late smart”. But then, who knew there would be such a thing as Ebay today?

flcookie
4 years 8 months ago

I think I am about to fall over the line. I pray I will be able to rid myself of much un-needed stuff…..
Thanks for the article.

Grouchy One
4 years 8 months ago

There is a fine line between “collecting” and “hoarding.” When someone crosses it, watch out!

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