Most of us have heard about hoarding. We have a mental picture created by tv shows of what hoarding looks like. According to the shows, it’s a huge mess. Piles of stuff everywhere. It’s dark, dreary, and overwhelming.
People we know say things like, ‘I’m a hoarder’. But, what do they mean by that? Are they saying their home is as full as the ones on the tv shows? Do they have an enormous accumulation of stuff in one room or many rooms? Or, more likely, do they have a problem with some clutter they haven’t yet dealt with? Maybe, they just bought their eleventh pair of yoga pants and are claiming they are a hoarder because they can’t get rid of even one pair!
What does hoarding really mean?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version five published in 2013 (DSM-V) a person with a hoarding disorder:
- (has) Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions regardless of their monetary value.
- This difficulty is due to strong urges to save items and/or distress associated with discarding.
- The accumulation of possessions results in the inability to use rooms as they were intended.
- The hoarding causes significant distress or impairment in relationships (including maintaining a safe environment for themselves)
The DSM-V reports that between 2 and 6 percent of the population in the United States has a hoarding disorder. This statistic only accounts for those people who come forward to be diagnosed.
Now that we know what the criteria for diagnosis is let’s take another look at what hoarding is all about.
Having a serious problem with hoarding means that the hallways or passage ways around the house are probably cluttered.
There is a risk of tripping or falling with too much stuff blocking the passage ways in the house.
The doors to the outside are hard to open all the way and there may be only one true exit from the house in case of an emergency. If there is an emergency an EMT would not be able to bring a gurney into the house. This is a safety issue.
Rooms not used as intended
If the hoard extends into the kitchen, the oven and countertops are also probably full. Afterall, these are empty places to put things. Or so it may seem to someone with this disorder.
The bedroom and bathroom may also be full of clutter. So full that the bathroom is not usable, and the bedroom usage is limited at best.
In fact, the person challenged by a hoarding disorder may not be able to sleep on the bed! They may be camping in the living room, pushing things aside so they can get comfortable on the couch.
Isolated, ashamed and embarrassed
If a person has a hoarding disorder, they may feel or may have been told that their home is not a safe place to entertain family or friends. Their children will not visit or let the grandchildren visit.
People who believe they have this disorder often feel a lot of shame and embarrassment. They are overwhelmed and do not know where to turn. Money may be tight, yet they may keep spending it on items to get a temporary rush of enjoyment.
Over the next few months, Jonda Beattie and I are going to interview professionals who work with the hoarding population and share their insight on people who hoard and people who think they have the hoarding disorder. Please reach out to us to let us know if you are such a person and would like to participate in an interview.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and Chronic Disorganization.