I casually mentioned in a post last week that my father was a Hoarder. I mean, hardcore. I may have been a little flippant about this because…well…in my World View, you can laugh or you can cry.
But I was not prepared for the avalanche of emails from you in the community about living with Hoarders, trying to help a family member who’s a terrible pack rat, even a heartbreaking email from a young lady whose mother and father were both Hoarders–she asked if she could come live with us.
I’m working with that sweet girl on a different level, but I thought we could establish some basics that might help everyone. The new estimates are that one in 50 Americans fit the diagnosis of hoarding disorder. Here’s some thoughts on where to begin.
First: a Hoarder is not a stereotypical white trash lunatic with 600 cats. People hoard for many reasons. My father was a psychiatrist, talented, brilliant, and completely unable to let go of any item that made it’s way to him.
Second: they’re not usually appreciative of your help. They might get mad at you. They might accuse you of “stealing” or “hiding”things.
Third: it’s not a matter of “let’s clean this mess up and then you’ll be fine.” Hoarding is a complex emotional disturbance with many triggers that make it difficult to treat. For animal hoarders, your route for treatment is different than with a hoarder of possessions or food. Click here for more advice on working with a person who “collects” animals to “save” them.
Fourth: until they’re ready you can’t “make” the Hoarder do anything. Click here for more resources on where to find a mental health practitioner who specializes in hoarding disorders.
When you–and the Hoarder–feel they’re ready to begin, there’s some wonderful resources and suggestions by clicking here and here and here. Ask for help–from family members, from your local church congregation or service group. You need the support.