It is always distressing to discover a family member or a close friend has a hoarding disorder. Everyone wishes for those close to them to have happy and healthy lives, and in those instances, it is important to know how to help a hoarder effectively. It can be a touchy subject, and approaching a loved one in the wrong way can cause more damage than good.
To help a hoarder, know the signs
A hoarding disorder is a condition where a person keeps items and has a hard time letting them go no matter what the value they hold. It is good to know the difference between hoarding and collecting. When someone has a collection, they have a specific interest in a type of possession.
When someone is a hoarder cleanup, they may show signs of having difficulty throwing out or giving away items, no matter what they may be. They may experience high levels of distress when even considering giving away possessions. On the other hand, being surrounded by possessions may bring them peace and safety, even if their living spaces are filled or blocked by all of their stuff.
They may also be very indecisive, disorganized, and struggle to focus. There could also be signs of other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
Understand the do’s and don’ts
It is imperative to know the best course of action when a loved one is discovered to be a hoarder. It is a touchy situation, and knowing the dos and don’ts is key to helping them.
The biggest and most important thing to do is focus on the person and not the hoarding disorder. Know that the root of this problem is not the stuff they hoarded, but instead, it is much deeper than that.
Listening to them and empathizing with their struggle can help more than one may realize since someone with a hoarding disorder may isolate themselves. Having someone care about them can make a huge difference.
When they reach out for help, be sure to recognize any positive change. No matter how slight the difference may be, it’s important to celebrate with them their small victory. Volunteering to be a part of the process and help in any way can also help them, whether with the cleanup or helping them find a good therapist and take them to appointments. It will mean a lot to them.
What else to know to help a hoarder
When it comes to helping a loved one with a hoarding disorder, one big don’t is touching their items without permission. This can lead to mistrust and possibly set them back in their therapy.
Also, it is unrealistic to expect a quick process in the clean-up. It is also important not to do the work for them, let them work on their problems independently, and not enable any of their hoarding behavior.
The most important thing is not to show any judgment and remain patient and honest with them. This is a challenging disorder to overcome, but it becomes a little more possible to conquer with the right support system around them.
8 thoughts on “How to help a hoarder”
I think that sometimes we want to help but might actually make it worse. I have learn through the years that the desire to change needs to come from the person, we can be part of the support system but we can’t live each others lives. Its good to see people talking about hoarding as the condition it is. Great post!
Yes, it’s hard to see someone who doesn’t want to change… Thanks for appreciating the topic, Ella
I have a close family member who is a hoarder and it is a terrible disorder. Counseling, organizers, etc. none of it has worked, and as he has gotten older it has gotten worse.
I’m sorry to hear that he is a hoarder. Hopefully, he finds the right treatment for him xx
Not likely, but still hopeful!
A terrible disorder, Christy. Thankfully, I do not know anyone suffering with this. Though, if I did I would certainly direct their loved ones to this article.
Thanks for always supporting the articles here, Carolyn