Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members. For those who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from other people. Commonly hoarded items may be newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, cardboard boxes, photographs, household supplies, food, and clothing.
Hoarding can be related to compulsive buying (such as never passing up a bargain), the compulsive acquisition of free items (such as collecting flyers), or the compulsive search for perfect or unique items (which may not appear to others as unique, such as an old container).
Many companies such as maid services, junk removal firms and even basic contractors offer hoarding cleanup services. For them, hoarding cleanup is nothing more than removing what they believe to be is trash into a dumpster and charging the customer a small fortune. Aside from the fact that not everything you see is trash, as there can be valuables and other family heirlooms within the piles. But what you may not be able to see is the damage lurking behind the items. Quite a few hoarding cleanup jobs that we undertake result in the discovery of little to major water damage and mold. And when these two types of damage are seen, then you know hiring a regular contractor or a cleaning service is the wrong choice. If you have a family member or friend suffering from a hoarding condition, take into consideration the strong possibility that large amounts of stored items and trash may not be the only issue, and you could have to deal with water damage and mold. And by hiring a company not capable of going beyond just the hoarding cleanup, could result in cross contamination and further damage.
In the homes of people who have hoarding disorder, the countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually stacked with stuff. And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles and yard.
Clutter and difficulty discarding things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder, which often surfaces during the teenage years. As the person grows older, he or she typically starts acquiring things for which there is no need or space. By middle age, symptoms are often severe and may be harder to treat.
Hoarding disorder affects emotions, thoughts and behavior. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Persistent inability to part with any possession, regardless of its value
- Excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow them or distress at the idea of letting an item go
- Cluttered living spaces, making areas of the home unusable for the intended purpose, such as not being able to cook in the kitchen or use the bathroom to bathe
- Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
- Letting food or trash build up to unusually excessive, unsanitary levels
- Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, such as trash or napkins from a restaurant
- Difficulty managing daily activities because of procrastination and trouble making decisions
- Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
- Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter
- Shame or embarrassment
- Limited or no social interactions
People with hoarding disorder typically save items because:
- They believe these items will be needed or have value in the future
- The items have important emotional significance — serving as a reminder of happier times or representing beloved people or pets
- They feel safer when surrounded by the things they save
Hoarding disorder is different from collecting. People who have collections, such as stamps or model cars, deliberately search out specific items, categorize them and carefully display their collections. Although collections can be large, they aren’t usually cluttered and they don’t cause the distress and impairments that are part of hoarding disorder.