What is it?
Two behaviours characterise hoarding: acquiring too many possessions and difficulty getting rid of them when they are no longer useful or needed. When these behaviours lead to enough clutter and disorganisation to disrupt or
threaten a person”s health or safety, or they lead to significant distress, then hoarding becomes a “disorder.” A major feature of hoarding is the large amount of disorganised clutter that creates chaos in the home. Such as:
- Rooms can no longer be used as they were intended
- Moving through the home is difficult
- Exits are blocked
What kinds of things do people who hoard typically save?
It may appear that people who hoard save only rubbish or things of no real value. In fact, most people who hoard save almost everything. Often this includes things that have been purchased but never removed from their original wrapper. The most frequently saved items are:
Other commonly hoarded items include:
- Junk mail
- Craft items
Why do people hoard?
Not wasting things: The most frequent reason for hoarding is to avoid wasting things that might have value. Often people who hoard believe that an object may still be useable or of interest or value to someone. Thinking about whether to discard it leads them to feel guilty about wasting it.
Fear of losing important information: The second most frequent reason for saving is a fear of losing important information. Many hoarders describe themselves as “information addicts” who save newspapers, magazines and brochures. They keep large quantities of newspapers and magazines so that when they have time, they will be able to read and digest all the useful information they imagine to be there. Each newspaper contains a wealth of opportunities. Discarding it means losing those opportunities. For such people, having the information at hand seems crucial, whereas knowing that the information exists on the internet or in a library does little to help them get rid of their often out-of-date papers. Hoarders are often intelligent and curious people for whom the physical presence of information is almost an addiction.
Emotional meaning of objects: A third reason for saving is that the object has an emotional meaning. This takes many forms, including the sentimental association of things with important persons, places, or events, something most people experience, just not to the same degree. Another common form of emotional attachment concerns the incorporation of the item as part of the hoarder”s identity getting rid of it feels like losing part of one’s self.
Characteristics of objects: Finally, some people hoard because they appreciate the way objects look, especially their shape, color, and texture. Many people who hoard describe themselves as artists or craftspeople who save things to further their art. In fact, many are very creative with their hands. Unfortunately, having too many supplies gets in the way of living and the art projects never get done.
Why can’t people who hoard control their urges?
Understanding this requires knowing what happens at the moment the person decides to acquire or save something. For example, they forget that they don”t have the money or space for the item, or that they already have 3 or 4 of the same thing. When faced with the idea of throwing it away, hoarders have different thoughts than most other people. All their thoughts center on what they will lose (e.g., opportunity, information, identity) or how bad they will feel (e.g., distress, guilt) while none of the thoughts focus on the benefits of getting rid of the item. Saving the item, or putting off the decision, allows them to escape this bad experience. In this way people become conditioned to hoard.