It can be hard to visit your family and have to face the reality of their hoarding nature. It may only be a few rooms of their home which have been overtaken by clutter. As long as the door to those rooms is closed, it’s easy to ignore. However, hoarding is a slippery rope that easily affects the entire home until it’s become uninhabitable. You obviously care about the wellbeing of your family, or you’d not read this article. Once you persuaded your family of hoarding cleanup, click here for professional support.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding is generally considered a mental issue, though it actually is a symptom of something more serious. In most cases, hoarders suffer from anxiety disorders or even trauma that’s causing the hoarding. It could be a severe loss for which they feel emotionally attached to some stuff and can’t dispose of them. Another reason for hoarding could be that the hoarder has suffered from scarcity. When things are short, people tend to keep all sorts of stuff as they could be useful at another point. For example, if your family has grown up in post-war times, they might have a habit of not throwing away anything. They’d not even change furniture for upgrades if they consider the old one is still ‘fit for use’.
Hoarding vs cluttering
Clutter can accumulate in all sorts of areas in your home. Everyone probably has got a cluttered corner or drawer. But hoarding is more than just some junk here and there. It’s when clutter is taking over the living space. It may start with just one room, but bit by bit, all sorts of stuff from magazines, catalogs, to planting pots, and so on will get to the entire house.
In truly severe cases, people aren’t able to use their bathrooms or kitchens anymore because of clutter from top to bottom. The piles of junk can even block sewages and make navigating through the home very difficult.
One might compare a hoarder to a collector. However, collectors are proud of possessions and like to put them on display. They make informed decisions about what they bring into their home. That’s not the case for hoarders.
They tend to keep things that are basically waste, even if it’s used tea bags or food leftovers. The house is a health hazard and the garbage tends to attract pests and rodents. Hence, hoarders usually don’t invite guests because they don’t want anyone to see their problem.
Start a Conversation
Of course, you’re talking with your family on a regular basis about all sorts of things. But when it comes to a hoarding problem, it’s best to move to conversation gently. Try not to be too upfront about it. As hoarding is a mental symptom, they could consider it as an attack. Moreover, it is something that’s been a part of their life. Like we get up and go to sleep every day, they simply gather all sorts of clutter.
Try asking them if they could imagine doing something with a room. Sometimes, a renovation can be an excellent reason for a hoarding cleanup. For example, you could suggest turning a fully cluttered room into a library, a fitness room or a guest room. If the hoarding has become excessive, ask them how they’d feel about being able to use the bathroom or kitchen properly again. A more open question like how they feel about their house might also work.
Get a Pro Onboard
It’s not easy to convince a hoarder to do a hoarding cleanup. The root of hoarding is usually a deeper issue. But just like you can’t tell an alcoholic that they are addicted, telling a hoarder that they got an issue is pretty useless. To some hoarders, it’s completely normal to keep accumulating stuff and not to discard it. As they don’t realize the problem, they are unlikely to seek help by themselves. And even if hoarders are conscious of the situation, they might be reluctant to start the cleaning process.
Try to get in touch with a counselor or therapist. You could introduce them as a friend. Your family may not like the surprise visit from a stranger, as hoarders don’t usually want anyone else to see their mess. However, the therapist can at some point join the conversation and gently tackle the hoarding issue. You may have to visit your family more often with the therapist. And as you do so, listen to your family. Don’t judge them for whatever comes to light that has caused the hoarding.
Take the Next Step
It will be hard for the hoarder to do a hoarding cleanup. You can try to set up a plan or goal, such as starting to declutter 15 minutes a day with them. They are certainly going to experience anxiety as they have to let go of their stuff. They may feel very sentimental and become offensive when it comes to some particular items. Be understanding and don’t take it personally, take a break and listen to what they feel.
Since a hoarding cleanup is a rather large and overwhelming project, you may want to ask an expert cleanup team for help. They are trained as well as experienced in cleaning up a hoarder’s place. They also have equipment and vehicles that can haul away bulk trash. So the cleaning task would be much less physically demanding with the help of professionals.