Steps to Take When a Family Member is a Hoarder

In recent years, the general public’s familiarity with hoarding has grown somewhat greater than it once was. However, many still don’t realize that hoarding isn’t just holding onto items a little longer than the average person might.

Hoarding is in fact a genuine mental and behavioral health condition in which someone may find it immensely difficult to discard many items despite them no longer being valuable.

Often, loved ones must intervene when they discover family members or friends are hoarders. While it’s best to consult with an expert if you believe someone close to you may be struggling with a hoarding disorder, this general overview will cover the basic options you have in these circumstances.

It explains the signs you should look for to determine if a family member or friend is a hoarder, and what you can do if it appears they are.

Signs of a Hoarding Disorder

Remember, only a genuine expert can diagnose a hoarding disorder. However, signs to be on the lookout for include the following:

  • Not merely holding onto items that aren’t needed, but also frequently acquiring new items when there’s no space for them
  • Persistent agitation or discomfort when asked to discard an item
  • Emotional agitation when the idea of discarding an item is even brought up
  • Clutter that becomes so out of control that an entire room (or rooms) can no longer be used as intended

Hoarders also tend to be disorganized. They may procrastinate often and have difficulty making important plans.

Contact a specialist if you suspect a loved one is a hoarder. The conditions in which hoarders live can pose significant health risks.

In the meantime, steps you can take when you think you’ve identified a hoarding disorder include:

Listening

Unless someone is struggling with a hoarding disorder to such an extreme degree that their wellbeing is facing an immediate risk, you shouldn’t surprise them by contacting a medical professional without their permission.

You also shouldn’t judge them by complaining about their living conditions. Instead, make a point of empathizing and listening to them when discussing the topic. This will eventually make it easier to convince them to work with a specialist when they agree it’s time to address the issue.

Offering to Help

Cleaning up clutter yourself may not be the best option when someone is a hoarder. However, you can help in other ways.

For example, they might be slowly becoming open to the idea of seeing a therapist, but they might also be reluctant to truly start the therapy process. Sometimes, a person with a hoarding disorder will explain that they simply don’t know how to find a therapist.

You could offer to help with this process. Or, you could drive them to therapy appointments (if you genuinely have the time to do so). Offering to help in this capacity can make it easier for them to seek the professional guidance they need.

Considering Your Options

Once someone with a hoarding disorder recognizes their problem and seeks help, they might also recognize that they can’t safely live in their home any longer. It’s often the case that those with hoarding disorders must move out of their homes and start fresh elsewhere.

Research your options regarding what to do with a “hoarder house” if this occurs. For example, there are some services out there run by people who understand the seriousness of hoarding disorders, and have experience purchasing hoarder houses in “as-is” condition, and on the family’s time schedule. Consider selling a hoarder home to such a business in your area.

Remember, a hoarding disorder isn’t just a quirk. It’s a serious condition that can be very dangerous if not properly addressed. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help a loved one with this condition. These are just a few basic ideas to help you get started.