Hoarding is often thought of as the extreme accumulation of belongings, but what some might not realize is there are different types of hoarding.
At first glance, some of these hoarding tendencies don’t always reflect what most people picture this form of obsessive compulsive disorder looks like.
Below, we’ll explore some of the different types of hoarding, and what you should do if you believe your loved one has a hoarding disorder.
Most collectors are not hoarders. In fact, most of us have had a collection at one point or another in our lives. Hoarders often think of themselves as collectors, however. Hoarding is not collecting.
For some, it can be a fine line attempting to determine whether someone is a collector versus a hoarder. Collectors appreciate and take care of their pieces. They often proudly display them, or keep them safely stored so they are not damaged. Collectors also are often knowledgeable about their pieces, eager to show them to visitors and describe them in detail.
While hoarders, on the other hand, may think of themselves as collectors, how they display and store their pieces is often the opposite of what is outlined above. Hoarders often are ashamed of the chaos in their homes, and rarely invite people over.
Their “collections” eventually turn into a source of embarrassment, and hoarders frequently continue to have a compulsive need to acquire pieces to add to their collection, even though they have no free space to display these items. Often, these additional pieces have no relevance to the original purpose of the collection.
In addition to collections, hoarders might acquire other objects as well. These include:
- Books or magazines
- Paper (newspapers, mail, etc.)
It’s important to note that it’s common for people to have shelves of books, DVDs and other periodicals in their homes. Those who research as part of their jobs or everyday life, or those who love to read, watch movies or listen to music, often do.
However, these items usually are arranged in an orderly manner. In a hoarder’s home, this is not the case. Often, piles of books line hallways or block entrances. Broken CDs are mixed in with working discs. Outdated electronic gadgets no longer work and are stacked in corners, and clothing that is no longer worn is strewn about, covering bedding or sitting in piles on the floor.
Non-wasters do not like to waste anything, even if items no longer work or are broken, or if the hoarder already has several of that particular item. Sometimes, there are specific types of items hoarders do not like to waste:
- Recyclers: Hoarders who are recyclers keep items with the intention of finding a new use for them. Even if an item is damaged, a hoarder will claim he plans to repair the item and re-use it for a particular purpose. While recycling and re-using is environmentally-friendly and in itself does not make a person a hoarder, if items continue to pile up and the hoarder never actually recycles the old items, a person’s house turns into a storage unit and can become unsafe.
- Food hoarders: This type of hoarder will claim he/she does not want to waste food or food supplies, and is keeping these items for an emergency. Often in the home of a hoarder, you will find expired canned foods, rotting and spoiled food, and extreme quantities. This type of hoarder gets peace of mind from keeping large quantities of food in the event an emergency or shortage of money occurs. However, often, food spoils before it can be consumed, causing unsanitary conditions in the home.
- Bargain-hunters: Many mental health professionals believe compulsive shopping is related to or a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. Like hoarding, research shows this behavior is accompanied by other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The thrill of a bargain can create a boost of happiness, and once those items come home, they often lose their value. While many people buy in bulk and store these items in an organized manner, for hoarders, these bargains often end up in a pile and are rarely used.
Animal hoarding can be one of the most disturbing types of hoarding. Animal hoarding occurs when a person has a large number of animals, but fails to meet their basic needs. This includes failing to provide food and clean water, an overall clean environment or veterinary care.
Often, animals who live in these environments suffer, whether it’s from malnutrition, unsanitary conditions or overcrowding that can cause extreme levels of stress in the animals.
Many times, animal hoarders have good intentions. They take in strays, and want to help. But in hoarding situations, they often do more harm than good. Many times, in fact, populations of animals within the home can grow when litters are produced, and the total number of animals can easily spiral out of control.
It might be unusual to think of hoarding as related to your electronic data, such as files and emails you accumulate over time. In fact, it’s not unusual for someone to have thousands of emails in an inbox.
If it’s not part of your usual routine to delete your emails after reading them, that’s one thing. However, if you’re extremely reluctant to delete emails and other files on your computer, and get anxious at the thought of doing so, you may be experiencing what’s known as digital hoarding.
Digital hoarding is the accumulation of electronic files. With this type of hoarding, someone loses perspective, and experiences stress and overwhelming feelings of disorganization to the point where it impacts other parts of the hoarder’s life.
Research shows that more recently, data hoarding has become more common. It’s a sign that even as times change and electronic equipment evolves, hoarding can still manifest itself in new ways.
What You Should Do
It’s not uncommon for a hoarder to fall into several of the above categories. For example, animal hoarders also often live in homes that are cluttered with trash, items that no longer work and piles of “collections” that no longer have value.
Hoarding disorders are difficult to treat, and often require professional intervention. In addition to seeking help from a mental health professional, services specialized in hoarding can assist with cleaning the home in a respectful and compassionate manner.
Our article, What Do Hoarder Cleaning Services Include?, outlines why choosing a reputable hoarder cleaning service is so important, and how one can support the hoarder and the hoarder’s family throughout the entire process.
Take a look at our ebook as well, which provides insight into what stage your loved one may be in if you suspect hoarding.