I’ve been a Brownie leader for nearly 10 years, and for almost every one of those 10 years, I have been “blessed” with many craft supplies. Although I’ve kept many (fewer recently), that doesn’t make me a “hoarder” – a term that has become rather mainstream lately. With TV shows like “Hoarders” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, people will often describe their home (or, more often than not, a friend’s or family member’s), trying to determine if they fall into this category.
I strongly believe that my grandmother was a hoarder (she was never diagnosed), and although my family saw some of the warning signs, we didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation until she had to move to a retirement facility. It was then that we realized that she likely hadn’t slept in her own bed for a couple of years. It was very difficult to come to this realization, but I say this because it is the driving force behind what I do professionally. Although I work with disorganized individuals of all levels, I have a strong desire to help hoarders themselves and their families. This is not something to be taken lightly. There are many layers to this disorder, and unfortunately there is no quick, easy fix.
If you believe that a friend or family member is a hoarder, please, please, please do not throw things out behind their back. You may think that they won’t notice, but they will. And as soon as they realize, they will likely be angry at you, and a sense of resentment may evolve. Also, they will often turn around and bring in more than you had thrown out in the first place, thereby exacerbating the problem. Simply be an encouragement, and support them if and when they are ready to face what lies ahead. If you find it overwhelming, there are support groups available.
Here are some of the red flags that may suggest that one should seek additional help.
1. Collectors showcase their items. They are proud of their collection, and want people to be able to see all of it, if not at least a portion of it, and perhaps rotate the items on a regular basis. Also, often collections have value. The value may vary based on demand, buyers, and interest, however it has value. A hoarder is not able to show off their items. They are reluctant to have people in their homes because of the state of the home. Also, the items accumulated typically have little or no value, and there are multiples of items. For example, a collector may have 30 Cabbage Patch dolls, in the original boxes, in mint condition. A hoarder may have 10 broken computers from the 80’s that are essentially obsolete.
2. A collector will have specific areas for their collection. They may have a cabinet in the dining room and some stored on the mantel piece, but they have a specific home, and it is confined to a specific area. A hoarder is unable to use a space for its intended purpose because a large quantity of items (various items) have made that space unusable. For example, he or she may not be able to have guests stay over because they are unable to access the bed in the guest room. A very strong warning sign is whether or not a person is able to use the kitchen without it being a hazard – use of a bathroom is another.
3. Lastly, a collector will enjoy their collection. They will look around proudly and appreciate what they have taken time, and often substantial money, to accumulate. However, in a hoarding situation, there someone experiences significant distress about the amount of stuff the person has. The distress does not necessarily have to be experienced by the person who is accumulating the items, as it may instead cause emotional turmoil for family or friends.
If you would like to discuss a specific situation, please contact me directly. I look forward to reading your thoughts below. Please keep them of a general nature, without specific details. Thank you.
By guest blogger Liz Voce. Liz is a Professional Organizer in the Toronto area. She stays busy (but very organized) running her company Sort It. Read others posts she’s written for GirlGuidesCANblog, including: The Crafty Cluttered Guider, and Thrills, Chills and Spills.
Author’s bio: Liz is not a psychologist, but has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and is currently taking additional courses through the Institute for Challenging Disorganization in order to continue pursuing education on this topic. She is not able to diagnose someone as a hoarder.
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