What is Hoarding?

Hi, and welcome to this edition of our Hoarding mini-series.

In this week’s post we’ll be talking about what hoarding is, from a psychological and a practical perspective.

The psychological effects of hoarding are intertwined with the more tangible aspects of hoarding.

For example, when someone that’s hoarding collects more possessions, they have an emotional reaction to this.

They get something new for their home, they get a strong reaction.

Some of the reactions are positive – an adrenaline and endorphin rush that gives the hoarder a happy feeling, which reinforces the behaviour of acquiring more things to continue getting that happy feeling.

For others, it might be frustrating to be buying more things they know they don’t need and really don’t want but can’t stop themselves from buying.

There’s a pull towards that accumulation of material things, which most likely has an underlying, mostly unconscious origin.

The unconscious pull is strong and undetectable unless talked through with a counsellor or psychotherapist that will help the hoarder to work through their difficult past (distant or recent) that might have led them into hoarding.

There are more emotions that hoarding can bring up for the hoarder and their family and friends.

The consequences to the environment are also important because they might impact on the hoarder’s personal and professional lives.

Stacey now will talk to us about this a bit further.

Hoarding is when a person is saving lots of different items within their home regardless of whether or not those items add any value to their lives.

According to the mental health charity Mind, if you hoard, you might:

  • Have very strong positive feelings whenever you get more items added to your home   
  • Feel very upset or anxious at the thought of throwing or giving things away any items that you have accummalated   
  • Find it very hard to decide what to keep or what to get rid of

The charity also states that, hoarders may believe the following:

  • That they need to keep things for the future
  • That they will not be able to cope with how they feel if somebody were to start throwing things away
  • Throwing things away will harm other people or the environment
  • You have to keep things because you must not waste them
  • You should arrange or dispose of things perfectly or not at all
  • Your belongings are making you happy or keeping you safe
  • Your belongings are all unique and special, even if they are very similar
  • You simply need more storage space, or more time to sort things out.

Lots of people share some of these beliefs to an extent, but don’t feel them as strongly or as part of hoarding.   

Hoarding could affect you in lots of different ways, some examples below are:

  • It can lead to health and safety issues such as being unable to leave your home quickly in case of an emergency.
  • Feeling embarrassed and ashamed of your home which could lead to feelings of isolation. This feeling of isolation could happen because you do not want people to visit your home and to not know about your situation.
  • You could struggle to stay on top of paying bills or finding important paperwork that you need to stay organised because of the clutter that you live in.
  • Buying the same items that you already have but you do not realise this because you cannot find them.
  • Avoid letting visitors into your home which could lead to housing or safety problems as those visitors could be trying to carry out repairs or safety checks in your home.
  • Your personal hygiene could be affected in extreme cases where you cannot access your bathroom or washing machine.
  • Your health could be affected in cases where you cannot access the kitchen properly or there is no space in your fridge to store, prepare, cook and eat healthy food for you and/or your family.
  • You could be restricted from accessing areas of your home due to it being very cluttered for example, your bedroom or hallways.
  • Children could be affected by a person with a hoarding disorder. Where severe hoarding exists, families rarely have any space at all and are forced to combine bedroom spaces inappropriately, for example an older child could be forced to sleep in the same bed as a parent. Sometimes children can be forced to live in one space that serves multiple functions. For example where there is space on a sofa, this sofa could be used for sleeping, doing homework or eating.

If you recognise any of the things mentioned in this post, for yourself or a friend or relative, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

We can help with the practical – Stacey is a professional organiser – and the psychological – Karin is a counsellor working online.

See you next week!

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