Get Hoarding Tendencies Under Control

Reality TV shows have focused new attention on the issue of hoarding. Maybe you’re buried alive, or maybe you just need to empty out that hall closet. Learn what psychiatrists now know about hoarding along with techniques to manage mild tendencies or intervene in more severe cases.

Understanding the Facts About Hoarding

1. Recognize hoarding as a mental health issue. The psychiatric criteria for compulsive hoarding are still being developed, but some facts are clear. The symptoms include a strong urge to acquire items and trouble with discarding them that interferes with daily life.

* Those who struggle with this dilemma may suffer from depression or attention deficit disorders, but sometimes they have no known history of mental illness.

2. Identify the underlying causes. Certain personality traits are characteristic of hoarding. You may be indecisive and try to avoid making mistakes by holding onto everything just in case. You may also be prone to procrastinating and have difficulty getting organized.

3. Know the risk factors. Anyone can become a hoarder, but older women who are socially isolated are most at risk. Keep this in mind if you think you need to change your own life circumstances or if you’re caring for an aging parent or another relative.

4. Put yourself to the test. Compulsive hoarders may need professional intervention, but there are also tests that can help you make an initial assessment. Search online for the Hoarding Rating Scale Interview. It has 5 simple questions with replies ranged from “no problem” to “extreme.”

Coping With Mild Hoarding Tendencies

1. Organize your valuables. The organization is a key distinction between being a collector and being a hoarder. Create an attractive display for your prized books or antique dolls so you can feel good about them and enjoy sharing them with others. Hiring a Professional Organizer is one way to help you identify workable strategies to create a system that works for you.

2. Stick to your budget. Buy only what you can afford. Look for bargains or save up in advance for major new purchases. Having a Monthly Budget Planner can help keep track of your monthly and overall expenses.

3. De-acquisition as needed. Every librarian or museum director appreciates the value of de-selection guidelines. Make your best stuff appear more attractive and accessible by getting rid of items in poor condition or objects of lesser quality.

Interventions for More Severe Hoarding

1. Contact the appropriate authorities for health and safety threats. Animal hoarding, fire hazards, or nonworking utilities can pose urgent dangers. Call the board of health or animal control immediately for such emergencies.

2. Arrange for a professional evaluation. Talk with your family doctor or consider engaging a geriatric care manager. These professionals provide expert assistance to the elderly and their families to help them locate appropriate services and maximize the independence of elders. Most offer a free initial telephone consultation.

3. Find local therapists and resources. Seeing a therapist is an individual decision, but you can present options if you’re trying to help a loved one. Many patients improve thorough, targeted behavioral therapies and home visits.

* Clutters Anonymous is a self-help group with a 12 step program like Alcoholics Anonymous. 

4. Enlist support. Caregivers and their loved ones benefit from building alliances. Ask your local council on aging about relevant programs in your community. Look into professional services like house cleaning agencies and storage centers. Ask friends and family to pitch in with removal tasks and providing more opportunities for socializing.

5. Remain compassionate and sensitive. Be respectful and non-judgmental to avoid exacerbating any feelings of shame. Offer sincere praise as progress is made. It’s usually easiest to start by focusing on tasks like sorting rather than throwing things away. Ask for permission before touching anything.

Those TV shows may be helping compulsive hoarders to get the assistance they need. Still, the solution usually extends much deeper than just tidying up the house. Recognize the warning signs for hoarding so you and the people you care about can restore order in your emotional lives and in your homes.

Hugs and Love,

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