NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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When Collections Become Hoarding

When Collections Become Hoarding

            According to the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation, (OCD),  between 700,000 and 1.4 million people in the United States exhibit compulsive hoarding behavior.

            Hoarding is defined by the Mayo Clinic as the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding creates cramped living conditions and homes filled to capacity. Many homes only have narrow pathways through the house that wind through stacks of clutter.

            The Mayo Clinic states that hoarding, which is also known as compulsive hoarding or compulsive hoarding syndrome, can be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, many people who hoard do not have OCD-related symptoms. Researchers are working to better understand this disorder and define it as a distinct mental health problem.

            Hoarding creates personal complications that include unsanitary living conditions, posing health risks. Hoarding can interfere with performing daily tasks such as bathing and cooking. Above all, the clutter is a safety and fire hazard.

            Some of the common characteristics of individuals who hoard are the accumulation of large quantities of objects, documents, papers, or possessions beyond apparent necessity or pleasure. They struggle with parting and letting go of possessions. They may have a wide range of interests and uncompleted projects. A chronically disorganized person gets distracted easily and has weak time-management skills. A hoarder often makes decisions differently than a non-hoarder. People who hoard do not see these characteristics as a problem. That makes it hard to treat the disorder, but treatment can help people who hoard live a safer life.

            Coaching is an important skill to have when dealing with people who hoard. . Here are some coaching skills to consider:

            • Listen without making a judgment.

            • Treat people who hoard as you would like to be treated, with respect and dignity. 3

            • Focus on the person’s good qualities, not the mess. Find ways to draw out his or her best assets and not focus on faults.

            • Recognize small steps of progress in eliminating clutter.

            • Remember that good coaches help shape the decision so it’s easier to make; they do not make the decision for the person.

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