Many of us are guilty of owning clutter. But when does a clutter problem turn into hoarding? This post delves into some of the signs that you may be becoming a hoarder and what you can do about it.
What Is Hoarding?
Hoarding involves obsessively collecting items and not wanting to let them go. It is characterised as a form of OCD. Not all hoarders are dirty - in fact some hoarders are still able to keep uncluttered areas of their home very clean. Almost all hoarders are collectors of some item, however not all collectors are hoarders - a healthy collector will be able to keep their collection organised and contained, whereas a hoarder does not have these boundaries.
Roughly 2.6% of people are believed to have hoarding disorder. It affects men and women equally, but tends to be more common in older adults. Of course, hoarding habits often start young - it takes time for clutter to slowly build up and become a noticeable problem.
What Are Some Signs You May Be Becoming A Hoarder?
Most people do not realise that they have started to become a hoarder or are in denial. Below are a few signs to look out for that could suggest you are becoming a hoarder.
You’re keeping things others throw away
Do you keep onto newspapers, receipts, beer bottles, packaging or letters? Some of these items that people find trivial are seen as collectibles or sentimental possessions to hoarders.
Your clutter is making things you need inaccessible
Are cabinets or chairs starting to get buried under clutter? Can you not use kitchen surfaces to prepare food because they are piled with stuff? Once clutter starts to prevent you reaching important items or carrying out important tasks like cooking, it is clear that it has become a problem.
You keep buying new things only for them to gather dust
Do you buy new clothes only for them to sit unworn in a pile? Do you keep buying books you never read or CDs that you never get around to listening to? These are other classic hoarder symptoms. Unless it’s an investment, you should be buying things to use and enjoy.
You’re constantly losing track of important things
Do you misplace important letters in piles of paperwork? Do you have to replace important items like glasses, medication or keys because you don’t know where you put them down? Once you start losing track of where everything is, it is clear that the clutter is becoming disorganised and that you may be becoming a hoarder.
Entire rooms are becoming unusable due to clutter
Has your spare bedroom become unusable because of all the stuff you’ve crammed in there? Is this clutter starting to invade other rooms? This is another clear sign of hoarding. A healthy home should have clutter, but you shouldn’t be having to sacrifice rooms that you need to store this stuff.
You’re too ashamed to let people into your home
Hoarders often don’t invite anyone around because they are so ashamed of the clutter. While it’s true that most of us don’t like our guests seeing clutter, many of us are able to periodically tidy it up and keep it out of sight. Hoarders can’t do this because there is too much to sort through and nowhere to relocate it.
How To Beat Hoarding
The first step to beating hoarding is accepting that there is a problem - and that the only way to beat that problem is to let go of stuff. You need to be brutal and prioritize what is actually worth keeping and what is not. It’s okay to have certain things that you enjoy collecting, but there can’t be too many categories and you need to have limits on each category if you haven’t got any spare space in your home.
It may be worth asking friends and family to help you declutter as they will be able to help you determine what’s really worth keeping. Alternatively, you may be able to work with professional organisers or clearance professionals who can convince you to part with certain items. They may even be able to clear items for you (while some hoarders like to stay around while this is done, it may be better to let them get on with it and simply create a small list of items that you want to keep).
There are some items that you may be able to donate or sell. However, you need to understand that this could be a lengthy process and that not everything may be worth the hassle of trying to sell or donate. Sometimes it’s better to hire a dumpster and fill what you can with it. Look for top rated dumpster rentals that are able to responsibly dispose of your clutter.
Some people find it easier to tackle a hoarding disorder one step at a time. This could include taking on a single room or tackling a certain category of item. This won’t be as distressing as clearing out everything and could give you the motivation to throw away other items.
Identifying yourself as a hoarder is the first step to tackling the problem. By taking action now, you could prevent your hoarding from getting any more severe. Try to emotionally detach yourself from your possessions and focus on the benefits afterwards. Get help if you think you need it.