The Definition of a Hoarder

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding And The Meaning of ...
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding And The Meaning of ...

Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding And The Meaning of Things (Photo credit: Earthworm)

A hoarder is a person that buys, acquires, searches and stores items that have very little or no value.  Some of the most common items that are hoarded include magazines, newspapers, plastic bags, household supplies, clothing and food.  Hoarding leads to a number of negative effects in different areas ranging from social, financial, legal, emotional and physical areas.

Hoarders portray symptoms and behaviours such as:

  • Inability to throw away their possessions.
  • They suffer from severe anxiety when it comes to getting rid of items.
  • Difficulty in organizing and categorizing their items.
  • Indecision about where to place their possessions

Most of them also suffer from functional impairments such as loss of living space, discord in the family, social isolation as well as health hazards and financial difficulties.

Different hoarders have different reasons for their behaviour. Some of them believe that these items they collect may be useful at a later date or have some unique and irreplaceable value.  They may also keep some possessions because they remind them of an important event or person, and if they throw them away, they will be throwing the memories as well. Others are not able to designate where some items belong; therefore they think it is better to keep them. Some hoarders may be perfectionists and they may not be bale to sort out the piles of possessions because of the fear that they may not be doing it in the right way.

Hoarding may be a disorder on its own or be a part of another disorder. Some of the most associated disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive compulsive personality disorder, depression, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Rarely, it can also be associated with Pica, Psychosis, dementia, and Prader-Willi syndrome.

It is important to know the difference between hoarding and collecting. A hoarder is usually embarrassed about his/her possessions and are highly uncomfortable when another person sees or touches them. Aside from that, they have clutter, which will end up eating into living space. On the other hand, a collector will have a sense of pride over the items they collect. These items are usually well organized and categorised, and the collectors feel a sense of satisfaction when adding to them.

If not checked, hoarders may end up without any space to live in or the space may not only be dangerous but also unhealthy.  Most of them may live without the necessary comforts, and it may be very difficult for them to allow another person into such a space in order to fix the problem. For those living with family, hoarding is usually a source of resentment, anger and depression. It may also lead to eviction, loss of child custody, separation and divorce.

Fortunately, there are many ways to help a hoarder. One of them is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which deals with the underlying elements of hoarding such as acquisition, difficulty in discarding and disorganization of possessions. Apart from the CBT, loved ones can also help hoarders by understanding them and being patient because it will take them quite sometime to learn how to declutter the home.

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Ways to Identify a Hoarder

Personal hygiene implements. Photo taken at He...

It is not that hard to identify a hoarder as there are certain qualities that are used to characterize them. Some of these include:

Personal hygiene implements. Photo taken at He...

Personal hygiene implements. Photo taken at Hereford Museum and Art Gallery, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Ghastly bathrooms

Most hoarders normally neglect personal hygiene thus you will not even want to be caught anywhere near the bathrooms. The room which should be one of the cleanest rooms in the house probably doubles up as a storage room for all their stuff thus it cannot be used for its intended purpose making it turn into a small garbage pit since most of the time they will not even find the time to clean it.


Shopping bags

It is not uncommon to see a hoarder with numerous shopping bags that are stacked in one corner of the house most probably in a neat file. These are mostly used to purchase things that they don’t even need thus most of the time you will also find a number of unopened packages that are just lying around. These does not seem to bother the however as they will still go out to the stores and get more and more shopping bags that will be added to the already bulging pile either in the home or at the office.


Black Mold, insects and Rodents

As a result of not taking care of hygiene the way they are supposed to, you will most likely find that the house mates of the hoarder include black mold, rodnts and insects. These are usually provided a suitable environment to breed and no one seems to mind the fact they don’t even help to pay the rent. Jokes aside, this can end up being very disgusting not forgetting to mention the fact that they help to spread disease and illness which will definitely affect the life of an individual in a negative way.


Lack of a social life

Perhaps due to making “junk” their best friends, you will not find a hoarder with much of a social life. They may find society judgmental perhaps when they visit the house and cannot even find a place to stay. This makes them retract from the social limelight where they prefer to be alone and continue doing their stuff without any interruption. Most of them don’t even notice what they are doing until family and other loved ones point this out where they can decide to either change or ignore and continue with their lonesome lifestyle.


Yard clutter

When the house has been filled to capacity, the hoarder will most likely spill over their most “prized possessions” into the yard. This makes it look very ugly since there is no hint of organization that is put forth in such a place. You can find different types of things from furniture, clothes, magazines, cats and anything else that the individual finds hard to let go off. Most of the time you will not even find a clear pathway that leads into the home thus you can get stuck at the gate with no means of getting into the inside of the house. Even when the situation is this bad the hoarder might still think that it is normal behavior.


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