Everyone has that one or two messy family members. The house is full of clutter and things that pile up, spread around and accumulate. And while sometimes that is not that big of a deal, in some cases, that can be an indicator of a more serious issue. Thankfully there are always obvious signs your loved has a hoarding challenge. Learning how to recognize hoarding behaviors is important because over-collecting can cause damage to homes and lives. Perpetual hoarding behaviors will negatively affect your loved one's quality of life. So, to help you recognize your loved one has a problem, we made a list of signs to recognize. When you do notice your loved one is having difficulty managing their home understand it can lead to dangerous falls, and a poor standard of life. Don’t delay getting professional help when you see the signs below.
Look out for the signs your loved one has a hoarding challenge
Seniors are the age group that often has cluttering issues.
Don't ignore the clutter
A house full of clutter is one of the signs your loved one may have a hoarding challenge. To be clear, it's not unusual for someone's house to be messy and cluttered at times. You can tell when a messy home situation is a temporary thing. Clutter occurs in every household from time to time, and it rarely takes more than a few hours to clean everything up and put away things nicely. However, when you walk into someone's home and see a piles of random objects that prevent a clear path, and stuff piled onto furniture that could be deemed as hoarding. You will also notice that with time the mound of things is not getting smaller. The havoc in a hoarding situation is getting progressively bigger, not better.
When your loved ones are open to the prospect of decluttering, you can offer to help and organize everything. Let them know that you won’t force them, but that they can have a helping hand when it comes to moving furniture and heavy items. The last thing you want is for seniors to get injured while decluttering. Remember that it’s important to offer them support and understanding.
According to research, hoarding is an issue that affects seniors the most. So, when confronting them about this issue, be delicate. Chances are they already know they have a problem; they simply don't know how to fix it. Approach them gently and give them advice about strategies for decluttering instead of attacking them. If you are unsure how to help them, there are many tips and online guides you can show them about getting rid of unnecessary possessions. The most important thing is that you offer them understanding and support. The book The Clutter Remedy: A Guide To Getting Organized For Those Who Love Their Stuff is a guide and the most revolutionary way to get decluttered without any drama.
Throwing things away causes emotional pain
There is a psychological element to hoarding that's very visible. People who over-collect things can form extreme emotional attachments to the stuff they collect; however, those items can go unused, they don’t serve a purpose, they’re not sentimental and the person doesn’t love them anymore. They keep stuff many times because the items symbolize things that happened to them in their lives. When they don't throw away or donate those unwanted items the home become impossible to manage and stops functioning as a home. Instead the house is more like a giant storage unit.
You will also notice that people with hoarding behaviors are very reluctant and evasive to any suggestion of getting rid of certain items. They will become visibly anxious and start showing signs of emotional distress. The term hoarders is not a nice term, so be sure to approach the subject without using that word. People with over-accumulation will offer many different excuses to keep their belongings. So the best approach to help clean up the situation is to not talk about getting “rid” of stuff. When you start out talking about getting “rid” of their things, they will very often turn their anger toward you. In their mind, you are forcing them do something they don't want to do. The first important step is to help them realize that nothing will leave without their permission. Talk about making the home beautiful again, and arranging pretty things in an organized way. The collectors have emotional pain or trauma, and that triggers the collecting. When you don’t have a plan that involves keeping everything and thinking of storage possibilities the decluttering, and organizing will never get accomplished.
The next step to getting organized is to read a great book called "The Clutter Remedy: A Guide to Getting Organized for Those Who Love Their Stuff "by Marla Stone that will guide you through decluttering a home in an orderly manner.
A room with a lock can be one of the signs your loved one may have a hoarding problem
There is always that one room you are not allowed in.
Another thing that may signal that something is wrong with your loved one is that they may want to hide hide their cluttered habitat. They start collecting items in one room and don't let anyone in. You will notice that they give you a different excuse as to why you can't go into that room every time you visit. They will start to panic knowing you are going to visit. That evasive behavior is the first stage of hoarding issues, where people hide their treasures and pretend everything is ok. It's best when you intervene quickly before the situation escalates. Eventually the whole house will be full of whatever is being collected, and the entire process of decluttering will be much more time consuming.
Social anxiety is common in hoarding disorder
One thing that goes hand in hand with hoarding disorder is shame. People are ashamed because they know they have a problem with no control over it. Shame can be incredibly destructive. It will ruin a person's self-respect and confidence. So people tend to isolate themselves from the outside world. They think everybody can see that they have an issue when they go out in public. Isolation from other people pushes one deeper into their hoarding habits. So someone suffering will create stronger emotional attachments to things and bring more junk into the house creating a toxic circle of abuse. This situation is a challenging situation. When you notice your friends and family becoming isolative and skipping social events and gatherings, that is signal something is wrong.
Don’t hesitate to get professional help.
These are some of the more common signs your loved one may have a hoarding challenge. Signs like your loved one shopping compulsively, renting secret storage units and never letting you borrow any of their stuff. You have to be vigilant and pay attention to their behavior. The good news is there is a way out. The first step is recognizing there is a problem. And remember, hoarding is also a mental health issue. So, it would help to get clear on what triggers the behaviors. Then be supportive and non-judgmental. Don't rush and demand a loved one or friend to get organized. A forceful approach will cause emotional distress.
Notice something strange about your friend? Find out the signs your loved one may have a hoarding problem!!!
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Marla is known as the Declutter Your Strategy™ expert. Marla earned her BA in Psychology and a Master's in Social Work and is the founder of