Help for Hoarders
Compulsive hoarders have difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items and an excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs. These items clutter the living spaces and keep the person from using their rooms as they were intended, and these items can cause distress or problems in day-to-day activities.
Facts about hoarders:
- The average age of a person seeking treatment for hoarding is about 50. They tend to live alone and may have a family member with the problem. It is estimated that serious hoarding problems are present in at least 1 in 50 people.
- Most often, people hoard common possessions such as paper (mail, newspapers), books, clothing and containers (boxes, paper and plastic bags). Some people hoard garbage or rotten food. In more extreme cases, people hoard animals or human waste products.
- Some hoarders consider themselves “thrifty” and think that their behavior is due to having lived through a period of poverty or hardship. The behavior can worsen, however, when a hoarder experiences a traumatic event or serious loss such as the death of a spouse or parent.
The signs of compulsive hoarding are many:
- Difficulty in getting rid of items.
- A large amount of clutter that makes it difficult to move around easily.
- Losing important items like money or bills in the clutter.
- Feeling overwhelmed by the volume of possessions that have “taken over” the house.
- Being unable to stop taking free items, such as advertising flyers or sugar packets from restaurants.
- Buying things because they are a “bargain” or to “stock up.”
- Not inviting family or friends into the home due to shame or embarrassment.
- Refusing to let people into the home to make repairs.
What makes getting rid of clutter difficult for hoarders?
- Difficulty organizing possessions.
- Unusually strong positive feelings (joy, delight) when getting new items.
- Strong negative feelings (guilt, fear, anger) when considering getting rid of items.
- Strong beliefs that items are “valuable” or “useful” even when other people do not want them.
Effects of hoarding:
- Severe clutter threatens the health and safety of those living in or near the home, causing health problems, structural damage, fire, and even death.
- Expensive and emotionally devastating evictions or other court actions can lead to hospitalization or homelessness.
- Conflict with family members and friends who are frustrated and concerned about the state of the home and the hoarding behaviors.
How to help a hoarder:
- Recognize that, until a person is motivated to change, they may not accept your offer to help. Further, motivation cannot be forced.
- Respect the fact that the person has a right to make their own decisions at their own pace.
- Have sympathy and understand that everyone has some attachment to the things they own.
- Encourage the person to come up with ideas to make their home safer, such as moving clutter from doorways and halls.
- Point out that hoarding interferes with the goals or values the person may hold.
- Develop trust by asking for permission before throwing anything away
Once the “stuff” has been removed, a good, thorough deep cleaning of the structure should be undertaken to clean the home of dust, dirt, grime, animal feces, mold and/or and any other type of biological contamination. SERVPRO of Dearborn Heights North/East Garden City has experience in cleaning up hoarding situations and can provide you with compassionate and caring assistance in dealing with these difficult and complicated situations. Call us at (313) 228-5134 for a free, no cost assessment for all of your cleaning needs. At SERVPRO, we work to make it “Like it never even happened.”