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How to Help Someone With Hoarding Disorder

A picture of a house with a lot of junk in front


What Is Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a serious mental condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Its main symptom is an excessive accumulation of possessions and the inability to discard them, even if they are no longer needed or wanted. Hoarding can cause significant distress and impairment in daily functioning. It can also pose a serious health and safety hazard.

If you know someone who is struggling with hoarding disorder, you may be wondering how to help them. While hoarding is a complex and challenging condition, there are some steps that you can take to support your loved one and help them overcome their disorder.

Step 1: Educate Yourself About Hoarding Disorder.

Understanding the condition and its causes will help you to better understand and support your loved one. Some reliable sources of information include:

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) provides a wealth of information on hoarding disorder, including definitions, statistics, causes, and treatments.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides information on hoarding disorder, including the signs and symptoms, causes, and treatments. 

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers information on hoarding disorder, including its definition, causes, symptoms, and treatment options. 

The Mayo Clinic provides an overview of hoarding disorder, including the signs and symptoms, causes, and treatment options. 

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) lists hoarding disorder as a separate diagnosis, you can access the criteria and the classification on the website

Step 2: Help Your Loved One to Set Manageable Goals

Clearing out a hoard can be overwhelming, so it’s important to break the task down into smaller, more manageable steps. Instead of trying to declutter the entire house in one day, break the task down into smaller, manageable chunks and focus on one area at a time.

Helping someone with a hoarding disorder set goals for cleaning can be a challenging task, but making a plan can help to ensure that the process is manageable and achievable. The first step is to work with the person to identify their cleaning goals, which can then be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This can help to prevent the person from becoming overwhelmed and feeling discouraged.

Step 3: Make a Plan

Once the goals are identified, it's important to set deadlines for each task to help the person stay on track and motivated. Identifying the resources that will be needed, such as cleaning supplies, storage containers, and additional support from friends or family is also important to ensure that the person has everything they need to successfully complete their cleaning goals.

By helping the person make a plan and breaking down their goals into achievable tasks, you can provide the support they need to successfully manage their hoarding disorder and create a more comfortable living environment.

Step 4: Get Help Cleaning Out Items

Before beginning the decluttering process, address any safety hazards, such as clearing pathways and noting any fire hazards or structural issues. Some items may be bio-hazardous, so please consult a local biohazard clean-up crew to assist with proper cleaning and disposal. 

A dumpster rental is also a great solution for hoarders to declutter their homes. Not only is it a cost-effective solution, but it also provides a safe and easy way to dispose of large amounts of items. If you think a dumpster rental would be a good solution for you and your loved one, feel free to contact us for support with your hoarding cleanout.

Step 5: Seek Professional Help If Needed

Hoarding disorder is a complex condition that often requires professional treatment. Encourage your loved one to seek help from a mental health professional who is trained in treating hoarding disorder.

The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) maintains a directory of mental health professionals who specialize in treating hoarding disorders. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides information on how to find a mental health professional who can help with hoarding disorder

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) offers a directory of mental health professionals who specialize in treating anxiety and mood disorders, including hoarding disorders. 

A picture of the word hoarding spelled out with scrabble pieces

What Should I Keep In Mind When Helping Someone With HD?

People with hoarding disorder often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their condition. It’s important to be understanding and supportive, rather than critical or judgmental. When helping a loved one with the disorder, keep the following things in mind.

People with HD may not be comfortable discussing it with others. By listening actively and empathetically, you can create a safe and supportive environment for them to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. Keep any judgments to yourself, and put yourself in their shoes.

Hoarding disorder is a complex condition that affects people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Avoid making assumptions or stereotypes about people with hoarding disorder and try to understand their condition from their perspective.

It's important to be understanding as well, as clearing out a hoard can be a long and difficult process. It’s important to be patient and understanding of the person’s struggles.

People with hoarding disorder may attach sentimental value to items that others may see as clutter. Avoid criticizing or judging their possessions and try to understand the significance these items have for them.

People with HD have the right to make their own choices about their possessions and living spaces. They may also be resistant to change and may not be ready to accept help. Offer your help but avoid forcing them to make changes. It’s important to respect their autonomy and decision-making, even if you disagree with their choices.

It's essential to recognize and acknowledge the person's accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Celebrating successes can help keep the person motivated and provide a sense of accomplishment. This is essential for maintaining the motivation to finish the cleaning process.

Additionally, it's important to be flexible and willing to adjust the plan as needed. Not every approach will work for every person, so it's important to be open-minded and adjust the plan accordingly. By being supportive, flexible, and celebrating successes, you can help someone with a hoarding disorder achieve their cleaning goals and improve their living environment.

A close up of two people holding hands

Other Ways to Help Someone With HD

Once your loved one has set goals and obtained a professional help, if necessary, offer to assist with the decluttering process. This can include sorting through possessions, organizing items, and disposing of unwanted items.

Helping a loved one declutter their home can be a delicate task, and it’s important to approach it with sensitivity and respect for their autonomy. It's important to start by talking to your friend or family member. Ask them if they would like help and if they are willing to start the decluttering process.

With the proper support, dealing with HD can be manageable. Some additional things to take note of are:

Lead by example. Maintain a clean and organized environment and encourage them to do the same. It can help combat some of the mental challenges of the disorder and provide motivation when someone with HD sees their loved one taking care of their space.

While it may be tempting to help the person by cleaning up or getting rid of items for them, this can actually make the problem worse by enabling the behavior and not addressing the underlying issues. Allow your person to take control of the situation and provide the support they need.

Remind your loved one of the progress they have made and encourage them to see the benefits of having a decluttered living environment. They may feel uncomfortable with the changes at first. Make sure to provide that positive feedback to help them become comfortable with their new quality of life.

How Can I Help My Loved One Maintain Progress?

Hoarding disorder is a chronic condition, so it’s important to continue to support your loved one even after they have made progress in overcoming their disorder. Offer to check in with them regularly and offer encouragement and support as needed.

Preventing hoarding from recurring after a home has been decluttered can be a challenging task, but there are steps that can be taken to avoid it. Here are a few tips on helping someone avoid hoarding again:

Work with your loved one and the professional to create a maintenance plan that includes regular check-ins, cleaning and organizing schedules, and strategies for dealing with new items that come into the home.

Help your loved one identify and address triggers that may lead to hoarding behaviors, such as emotional attachments to possessions, fear of wasting, and difficulty with decision-making.

Hoarding disorder support groups can be a great resource for people who are working to maintain their progress. Help your loved one find and attend support groups in your area. There are several resources, even online ones such as the International OCD Foundation, that provide support for hoarders worldwide.

Encourage your loved one to continue seeking professional help from a mental health professional who specializes in treating hoarding disorder. They can provide guidance and support throughout the process of maintaining their progress.

Overcoming HD Is Difficult, But Possible

Hoarding disorder is a complex condition but can be overcome with the right resources and support. With time and effort, individuals with HD can improve their quality of life. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help and support them in their efforts to declutter their home and maintain their progress.

Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding disorder, it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.