Helping A Hoarder Clean

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.


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4 responses to “Helping A Hoarder Clean”

  1. kristin says:

    Unfortunately, the TV shows don’t help with the perception of hoarding or hoarders. I’ve known several. There’s nothing “funny” or amusing about it. It’s frustrating and depressing and confusing and a ton of other emotions.

    Good luck…you should do a series on this. You’d be a lot more sensitive and considerate than the TV shows are.

    I think I have an issue with cleaning items/personal care products. I could go a year or so without buying toothpaste and deodorant and shampoo. And I’m not a couponer. I just HAVE to be stocked up on it. It’s odd.

  2. todderinfav5admin says:

    Kristin–I think your “issue” is just a logical stocking up on basics. If you were collecting half-used tubes of toothpaste and ratty toothbrushes, that would be hoarding. Thanks for your sensitivity torwards the problem, you definitely.

  3. Kimberly M. says:

    My kids call me a hoarder but I am no where near a hoarder. My house has too much in the attic and the basement but there is more than enough room to move around and I don’t drive so how do they really expect me to get rid of it. I have really been cleaning stuff out and now they are screaming that I am getting rid of everything. LOL My biggest problem is getting rid of clothes I really like but just don’t wear because they might be either too tight or too loose. But lately I have been looking at it saying, “have I wore it in the last year” if the answer is “NO” it goes. I do have to admit–at one time when I was a seller on Ebay I did hoard. I had so much stuff in certain areas of my house or yard you could hardly more–not in the living area though.

  4. todderinfav5admin says:

    Kimberly, I wish I’d seen this earlier! You sound like a very thoughtful, self-aware person who understands that you might have tendencies to hoard. But you choose to control those urges. Ebay is tough–because you can excuse anything by saying “it’s for the business!” You’re tough, my friend. 🙂

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