We tend to see an uptick in some of our services during the summer months prompted by the odors that develop in hot weather. One of those is hoarding, which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.” Hoarding has been on the rise in recent years, currently affecting 1 in 5 people. The American Psychiatric Association officially registered Hoarding Disorder (HD) as an official mental disorder in 2013.
There is significant variety in how HD affects people from the causes, to things hoarded, and severity. There are various risk factors for hoarding including personality, family history, and stress levels. What we have found is that there is typically a historical disposition towards clutter when what we call a “trigger” event occurs that the affected person(s) is unable to cope with effectively. This could be losing a job, the death of a family member, a health issue or some other traumatic event, and drugs. We have assisted clients that hoard animals, urine, mail, clothing, or simply everything that makes its way into the home. The hoarding is exacerbated by isolation. It may be a depression or debilitating illness/injury that prevents the hoarder from keeping up with their home, but as the situation worsens, embarrassment causes them to withdraw further and try to hide the situation from friends, family and neighbors.
Hoarding can cause significant damage to a home. The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization created a clutter hoarding scale with five levels of hoarding ranging from clutter to total inaccessibility of areas of the home and interruptions to the utilities. It can also lead to other issues such as rodent infestations and mold. The sooner it is addressed the better it is for the person’s quality of life, health, property, and pocket book.