“Ten years ago I nearly suffocated in my home.”
“You’re never really free of your past.”
“It doesn’t matter how much time passes or how far you come, it can be really difficult to separate yourself from the person you used to be. For some people this might be trying to erase the memory of an awful haircut, for others it might be a period of alcohol-fuelled depression – for me it’s my life as a hoarder. Every day when I wake up and look around at my room I’m grateful to be able to breathe clean fresh. I’m grateful to be able to see my carpet, to see the light streaming through my windows and not be surrounded by mountains of magazines, books and letters.”
“When I was in the throes of my hoarding I was beyond the help of any professional decluttering service. My home was a lost cause to any professional team of cleaners and even my friends had given up on me. Luckily, I still had my Mum to help me out. She’d gone through a similar phase when we were young and when she saw how I was slowly following her footsteps she knew that I’d need help to get through my problem. I’m eternally grateful for her patience and support – without her I would not be able to sit my clean desk in my dining room and write this piece explaining hoarding.”
What is hoarding?
Hoarding is when a person collects or acquires an excessive amount of items. These items can be anything at all. They could be disposable objects that have little or no value or they could be very valuable indeed – the important thing is that the person feels the need to keep a large amount of items, to the point where the belongings become unmanageable. Now, if you leave a lot of dishes in the sink, let bills stack up and are generally untidy that doesn’t make you a hoarder. You only have a hoarding problem if the amount of clutter that you have obtained interferes with your everyday living or if the clutter is causing you negatively affecting your quality of life or that of your family.
How is this different from collecting?
Many people have collections of things and sometimes these collections can border on the excessive but that doesn’t necessarily make them a hoarder. Someone who hoards will be obsessively compelled to do so, they won’t be gaining any pleasure from the action and there will be no structure or organisation of their items. At the beginning they may hoard items to ease their anxiety, but this is not the same thing as gaining pleasure.
Why do people hoard?
People hoard for a variety of reasons, as with all OCD manifestations the route of the behaviour is usually anxiety. Often you’ll find that there a variety of reasons for a person to hoard, they might start as the result of a depression, then as time goes on they may become more and more socially isolated as a result of their new compulsion, which could then lead to psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia or manic paranoia. All cases are different and should be treated as such.
How is it treated?
Hoarding is a complex and difficult condition that is not simply cured over night. A great deal of patience is required on the part of the hoarder’s support network, as the compulsion to hoard is often deeply embedded into the person’s psyche. A therapist might choose to take the hoarder through a course of cognitive behavioural therapy in order to understand why the hoarding has begun, but it’s crucial that the hoarder takes the responsibility of clearing their own home.