In Canada, it’s estimated that 1.5-6% of the population have a hoarding disorder (that’s between 570,000 and 2,280,000 people). Hoarding varies from extreme (like we see on reality TV) to mild (like someone who holds on to their kids’ clothing and toys from 30 years ago). If left unchecked, both can lead to health and safety hazards in your home.
Definition: Hoarding is collecting or keeping items because you believe you cannot throw them away.
Severe hoarding cases are considered a mental illness and can put the hoarder and those in their home in danger. When someone cannot part with these “collections,” they may need outside help to clean or organize their home. They may also require specialized support from a mental health professional for more severe cases to get over the fear of removing these items from the home.
If you know someone with a hoarding disorder, you may be tempted to help them. Doing this on your own can lead to more severe issues and anxiety, especially if they don’t recognize they have a problem. If their hoarding is rooted in deeper mental health issues, you (and the hoarder) may need additional professional support.
Here is the same three-stage process we often use with our decluttering clients:
Those with a hoarding disorder often believe that their “things” represent their feelings and memories. They think that if they get rid of these items, the memory and emotion will disappear with them. This is why simply asking someone to “clean the 10 years of newspapers out of the guest room” won’t be helpful.
Instead, collaborate with them to help them find other ways to keep these items, so they don’t cause a health or safety hazard in the home. For example, if they hoard old clothing, you can suggest they take photos of the items before donating them to a new home. You can help them create a photo album of the pictures. This can help them keep the memory and emotion while donating the actual item to someone else to enjoy.
You can also seek the help of an objective third party (like a professional organizer who has experience working with people who have hoarding disorders). They have the tools and training to better guide the homeowner through the process gently and with empathy.
If collaborating doesn’t work at first, they may need the support of a psychologist who works with this group of people. They have additional tools that may help uncover the root cause of the hoarding disorder. It may be triggered by PTSD or other traumatizing life events, which makes the situation more delicate.
Professional mental health support can provide empathy, patience, and the working knowledge to deal with the emotional triggers and support the decluttering and organizing process.
Clean and Declutter
Once the hoarder is ready to begin the process, hire a professional organizer to support them. They can gently help the homeowner sort through their stuff in a slow incremental process so it’s less overwhelming.
Perhaps your elderly mother has an extensive knitting collection that hasn’t been used in a decade. Professional Organizers can find an elderly care home or non-profit organization that can use these supplies. If your elderly father is holding on to your old tricycle (from 30 years ago), we can help them find a new young family or childcare centre who can make new memories on the bike.
Where to find a professional organizer for a hoarder
As a member of the Professional Organizers of Canada, Your Cleaning Concierge has the expertise to help with decluttering and organizing and provides referrals for professional psychologists who specialize in this area. We use empathy and patience to work with those with a hoarding disorder or anyone who needs help organizing.
Contact us today to chat about how Judie and her team can help you declutter and organize your home.