Thursday, October 23, 2014


Hoarding is not a choice, it’s a compulsion.

In my line of work, I meet people who often tell me that they need my help but are quick to point out that they are not hoarders. The TV show, Hoarders has shed some light on the good and bad of this problem.
I had the privilege recently to hear Matt Paxton featured on Hoarders speak.  He provided some interesting insights into what people who have this problem and their families/communities face.

Below are my notes:


The American Psychiatric Association deemed it a disorder in 2014.  It is a protected disability which means people can get the help that they really need.  Insurance companies are also starting to pay for therapy.
  • 5% of Americans are hoarders and that number is increasing, partly due to education and awareness about the affliction.
  • Those in the caregiving field tend to have a problem with hoarding...nurses, teachers and mental health professionals.  They are not selfish, they hoard for the sake of others.
  • Those who have a problem with hoarding are not crazy, lazy or sloppy.  They are almost always the smartest in the room!

How does it happen?
Grief + Time = Hoarding
There is always a trigger.  It usually is very traumatic like a death, a divorce or abuse.

To an outsider or a family member, it’s hard to understand how someone can’t just throw things out.  It’s not an addiction but it would be like throwing out an alcoholic’s beer.  It won’t solve the problem.  You must deal with the mental side first.

Collecting is something you do with your family.  Hoarding is when your
collection is your family.  Common in animal hoarding.

Happiness & Self Worth:  Self worth is obtained through consuming.  It’s short term.  
-Home shopping is an example where the boxes are never opened.  
-Cat hoarding provides someone love but cats in turn need little care.
-Starting projects gives one a sense of self worth but the project doesn’t get finished.  An example would be a need for blankets at the church.  You feel good being able to knit them but only finish 1 but not after having bought the supplies for 100.

This feeling is not that different from the highs from drugs/alcohol.


Getting Help
If you or someone you know has been affected by this disorder, there are more resources out there than ever before.

Hoarding Scale - see what level of hoarding exists.  Goal is to educate those at a Level I or II so it doesn’t get to a Level III, IV or V.  Deal with the grief when it happens.

Seek professional help - There are therapists that specialize in this disorder.

Team approach - It’s ideal to have a therapist, professional organizer, care manager and legal guardian working together.

Related professionals include but are not limited to: physicians, nurses, health department professionals, social workers, educators, researchers, municipal planners, code enforcers and ADD/ADHD coaches.

Other Resources:
ServiceMaster of Allentown - cleaning and restoration company