Popular reality TV programs have spread awareness of hoarding, but they have done little to dispel common misconceptions about hoarding disorder.
Hoarding Disorder is a recognized mental illness characterized by extreme difficulty in letting go of material possessions, regardless of the value of those items. Researchers have found significant differences in the brain patterns of hoarders when compared to typical subjects.
Common Misconceptions About Hoarding
How much do you really know about hoarding?
- True or False: Hoarders are lazy and just don’t bother to clean.
False. Some hoarders go to great lengths to hide their disorder. They have distinct cognitive differences related to spatial reasoning and problem solving that makes deciding what to do with their possessions more difficult than it should be.
- True or False: Cleaning a hoarder’s home for them won’t solve the problem.
True. Deciding what to do with a hoarder’s possessions will only make them feel helpless and resentful. Even if you clean with their participation and permission, without new skills, the hoarder will not be able to maintain the newly organized environment.
- True or False: Hoarding isn’t a big deal as long as no one else has to live with the mess.
False. Hoarding is more than simply excessive clutter. When taken to extremes, hoards can harbor food waste, animals, fecal matter, and more. These can cause serious health problems for the hoarder and anyone who enters the home.
Understanding the mental illness behind hoarding is the first step in helping a friend or loved one with the disorder.
What Can You Do to Help a Hoarder?
First, and most importantly, be supportive. Assure your friend or family member that you are there to help them and that you are not simply going to throw away all of their possessions.
Next, work with the hoarder to come up with a cleanup and recovery plan. The plan should include two important components: the physical cleanup of the home and psychological help for the underlying mental illness that caused the hoarding.
Decide whether you or the hoarder will be able to tackle the cleanup yourselves. If the job is too large, call a reputable hoarding cleanup crew, such as Hoarding Cleanup Services. If you suspect that there may be any type of biocontamination, such as bodily fluids or live or dead animals, or mold damage, do not attempt the cleanup yourself.
Before you hire a cleanup crew, be sure they are trained to handle hoarding situations. They should handle the cleanup with sensitivity, compassion, and respect. Bringing in a team like ServiceMaster SouthWest, that specializes in hoarder cleanup, may be easier for the hoarder than trying to tackle the overwhelming mess themselves.