The emotional toll hoarding takes often plunges individuals into frustration, emotional distress and despair.While it’s clear the impact hoarding takes on the individual suffering from this compulsive disorder, it can be easy to forget that hoarding’s influence extends to family members and other loved ones who must deal with the fallout.
The burden can be long-lasting and painful, and leave you feeling like you can’t control the outcome. We’ve seen firsthand the considerable toll hoarding takes on entire families. They often experience stress, anger and a sense of loss.
It’s even more dire for partners, children or other family members who live with someone who has a hoarding disorder, since studies have shown constant and extreme clutter can cause a wide range of physical and emotional difficulties.
Hoarding cases are complex and often highly charged. As a loved one of a hoarder, you don’t need to suffer in silence. Below, we’ll help you:
- Understand hoarding
- How the disorder can impact you
- What you can do to help your loved one - and yourself
What Is Hoarding?
It’s important to understand that hoarding is not collecting. Collectors typically keep their items well-organized. They take pride in their items and display them or catalog them in a well-coordinated or presented manner.
People with hoarding disorders, on the other hand, have a strong perceived need to keep the items, but to the point where clutter, distress and even impairment occurs. Hoarders have difficulty getting rid of items, and become emotionally distressed at the thought of doing so.
Possessions they acquire may go beyond what you probably consider a collectible, like plastic bags, paper, containers and multiples of everyday items.
A lot of factors can go into why a person hoards. Considered an obsessive compulsive disorder, hoarding can be influenced by:
- Biological factors like genetic links and cognitive deficits
- Psychological factors such as mental health and attachment to possessions
- Social factors like relationships, major life events and support.
Hoarding also is associated with other mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
The severity of a hoarding case typically falls into one of five stages. Knowing which stage your loved one is experiencing is important to ensure the right help is provided.
How Does Hoarding Affect Me?
As a loved one of a hoarder, you know the emotional and physical impact that hoarding can take on you. The effects of this disorder have a far greater reach than the hoarder’s home.
Embarrassment, frustration and hopelessness are just a few of the emotions you may be experiencing. For family members who are living in the home of a hoarder, especially children, they may feel even greater shame, often feeling like they have little control over the life they are living. They likely isolate themselves from their friends, avoiding inviting them over because of their embarrassment.
For family members who live outside the home of a hoarder, you may feel isolated as well from your loved one. You have the best intentions - you want a clean, safe home for the person you love. It can be difficult to understand, however, that simply urging the hoarder to clean and get rid of their belongings can cause a tense environment - ultimately resulting in the hoarder isolating himself from you.Strained Relationship
This isolation and tense environment, over time, can strain what was once a close relationship. Ultimately, you may feel as if you’ve lost a family member, even though that person is still physically here.
This can add a great deal of stress, frustration and sadness to your life - and ultimately impact your mental, emotional and physical health.
In the home, children may experience a constant battle with the hoarder, who often will express denial that there is a problem. In the short-term, this may lead to arguments, anger and resentment. In the long-term, familial relationships may sever completely.Safety Issues
Severe stages of hoarding are plagued with dangerous conditions that affect the safety of both the homeowner and anyone who comes into the home.
The home can become dangerous because of hazardous conditions that include:
- Soiled areas and sanitation issues
- Poor animal sanitation
- Rotting and expired food
- Bug infestations
- Broken plumbing and electrical issues
- Impassable hallways and doorways
- Structural damage
When entering the home of a severe hoarding situation, it’s important to protect yourself against these hazards. Full personal protective equipment (PPE) may be advised, including respirator masks, disposable coveralls and safety goggles.
What Can I Do?
Hoarding is a deeply rooted psychological issue. It can’t be changed overnight, and professional intervention often is required.
As a loved one, you want to help. But it’s important that you take care of yourself and get the help you need to ensure your loved one is getting the help he or she needs.
Professional hoarder cleaning services can assist the hoarder with cleaning and organizing his home so he can begin rebuilding his life. Professional services that are experienced in hoarding situations can help alleviate some of the emotional and physical toll the situation is taking on you as well.
Here’s how hoarder cleaning services can help. They will:
- Assess the situation first to determine safety issues, as well as staff and supplies needed.
- Form a cleaning strategy to designate what work will be done, when it will be done and by whom.
- Arrange for equipment and supplies, including trucks, dumpsters, cleaning supplies and other contractors.
- Implement the cleaning strategy, and restore the home to make it once again safe and livable.
But what makes hoarder cleaning services different than traditional cleaning services you may use to tidy up your home? Professional hoarder cleaning services specialize in hoarding situations, which can be complex and difficult to remedy. They also:
- Understand that the cleanup process is a difficult time for everyone involved, and perform their work in a way that is compassionate and respectful.
- Are trained to deal with hazardous situations, including unsanitary conditions and blocked walkways.
- Have no emotional attachment, which allows them to advocate for the hoarder’s best interest, yet remain neutral to belongings in the home. This keeps the cleaning process moving.
- Can offer a quicker completion, which allows you to focus on the well-being of your loved one.
- Have an extensive network of other reputable services that can assist, including contractors, city officials and professional organizers.
We also strongly recommend that you consult with a mental health professional - an important component in getting your loved one the help he or she needs. Developing a support network for both yourself and your loved one is essential to finding success during this challenging time.
Hoarding disorders are difficult to treat. When trying to help, family members often hit a wall, leaving them at a loss as to what to do. This feeling of helplessness can provide a great deal of stress on you, and ultimately, threaten the relationship with your loved one.
A specialized hoarder cleaning service can help alleviate that stress by forming a plan, coordinating strategies and resources, and providing compassionate support.
Seeking professional help also can catch the disorder in its early stages, create a safer environment for those experiencing extreme hoarding cases, and ultimately help put your loved one on a path to wellness.