Reality TV has popularized shows like “The Hoarder Next Door” and “Hoarders: Buried Alive” leading people to casually throw around the word “hoarder”.
“Hoarder” has become a pejorative to describe a home or situation consider cluttered or messy. Adult children often describe their aging parents as hoarders because of the amount of stuff in the house.
But true hoarding a psychological disorder that necessitates help and understanding.
How can you tell if someone is a collector, a “pack-rat”, or truly a hoarder? Here are 3 ways to tell if you need to seek professional help (like a Professional Organizer).
is your aging parent really a hoarder? read on to learn more....
Collection vs. Compulsion
There are differences between collectors, pack-rats, and hoarders.
For example, an acquaintance has an aging parent who has collected obituaries from her hometown newspaper for years. Is this behavior collecting, being a pack-rat, or hoarding?
If the years of obituaries were pulled from the paper and in a large stack to be looked at “someday”, that would be considered being a pack-rat.
If there were years of full newspapers stacked on the floor, blocking exits, or causing safety concerns, or full of pests, that is hoarding behavior.
But this woman carefully clips the obituaries from the newspaper, pastes them into scrapbooks, and has the scrapbooks organized by year. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of the family histories with others. This makes her a collector.
Hoarding and Dementia
If a loved one had pack-rat or hoarding tendencies throughout their life, those collecting behaviors can intensify as they age, especially if dementia is present. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease tend to experience an increased desire to collect things—even items that are used, broken, dirty or worthless.
“These actions often signify a desire for reassurance and security in the face of deep fears and anxiety experienced by many individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementia.
For example, an elderly woman with Alzheimer's Disease may begin collecting tissues because they are soft and give her comfort. Her caregiver begins to find tissues stuffed in pockets, purses, furniture, closets and even the bathtub.
Another dementia patient may refuse to throw anything away, resulting in piles of garbage or junk spread throughout their house. Others will hold onto items because they fear their memories will be lost without tangible evidence of the past.
As dementia patients lose track of what is happening in the present, those items often become more and more important to them as a source of control and a misguided connection to reality.”
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Nobody Wants the Family Heirlooms: What to Do When it Happens to You
6 Things to Not Bother Collecting Anymore (and How to Tell What IS Worth Holding Onto)
Clutter Hoarding Scale
Knowing the levels of clutter and hoarding can be determined using this standard image.
Images 1-2 Cluttered, but Low Concern
These images qualify as "low concern" on the Clutter Hoarding Scale.
Images 3-5 Guarded and Elevated Concern: Consult with a Professional Organizer
Many Professional Organizers have the skill set to help a family with decluttering and organizing rooms that are "guarded or elevated concern" on the Clutter Hoarding Scale.
Images 5 and up High and Severe Concern: Contact a Hoarding Specialist
These images show potential issues structure and zoning, health and safety, household functions, and animals and pests. This is where a Hoarding Specialist should be contacted.
Being messy doesn't equal being a hoarder
Knowing the difference between a collector, a pack rat, and a hoarder can be immensely helpful to families. There are professionals available to help families at every step: seek them out if needed.
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