Disorganisation and clutter are not necessarily precursors to hoarding but they are part of the warning signs. The key difference is why disorganisation and clutter are happening. There are many reasons someone would be unkempt or disorganised. It could mean they are:
- Too busy
- Need a strategy
- Need support
Any of these issues can be managed and the clutter disbursed, and organisation completed. What happens when an environment morphs from mild clutter to hoarding? Is there a progression?
Hoarding generally begins at a younger age. The symptoms may appear so mild that they aren’t noticed. An accumulation of items and a reluctance to part with non-essentials like empty food container, newspapers, and rubbish may not seem initially concerning, but over time the pattern escalates and living spaces become cramped. Once the pattern of being messy or unwilling to throw things away morphs into hoarding, people move from being unwilling to unable to stop their behaviours. They resist changing or stopping the behaviour by rationalising.
Some of the signs of hoarding include, but aren’t limited to:
- Buying multiples of an item
- Buying items that aren’t needed
- Refusing to throw away rubbish
- Stacking like items in rows
- Encroachment on living spaces with stacks of items
As the disorder becomes more pronounced, relationships begin to suffer and safety becomes an issue. Full blown hoarding symptoms may look like this:
- Refusal to reduce the number of items or remove clutter
- An inappropriate sense of security based on the clutter
- Belief that items – including rubbish – have significant personal value
- Belief that items are important for future use
Homes that are filled with clutter are at risk for becoming unsafe and pets and family are also at risk. Some hoarding includes hoarding pets, which magnifies the safety issues.
People often experience hoarding behaviours in connection with issues like depression or anxiety. Often people do not seek help with hoarding but are willing to seek help for their mental health. A doctor can help diagnose and treat each of the issues at hand. Treatment can be difficult due to reluctance to give up possessions and an urge to replace them once gone.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of hoarding, early intervention is valuable. Being able to address the behaviour and get a treatment plan early makes a big difference in the outcomes. There is help and hoarding can be managed with the right tools.