I have a lot of “stuff” in my apartment, old assignments that I keep for reference, years of old birthday cards, gifts and other random items that I have accumulated over the years that now overfill my drawers and clutter my desk. You can almost say that I am hoarder of pointless items, however there is a big difference between being a bit disorganized and being a hoarder. A hoarder is classified as someone whose ability to function has been obstructed by piled up items. These people often experience severe anxiety or emotional detachment when throwing away items. They either feel that they will need these items in the future, have an intense emotional attachment to them, or just don’t want to be wasteful. However one’s own health and the health of their family is at risk.
Hoarding as a mental disorder
An estimated 3-5% of the American population are hoarders and this number is increasing. This is a common problem that is difficult to treat Hoarding is recognized as a mental disorder similar to major depression disorder or anxiety and attention deficit disorder. Studies have found that the frontal lobe, the area that is responsible for weighing options and thinking rationally, works different in the minds of a hoarder. As a result, their priorities are different than that of a non-hoarder. Symptoms and behaviors of hoarders include:
- The inability to throw away possessions and anxiety when attempting to do so
- Difficulty organizing
- Feelings of embarrassment and distress
- Suspicion of others touching their items
- “Just in Case” mentality, fear of running out of an item and needing it in the future
- Loss of living space, social isolation, family problems, and health hazards
Hoarding is a health and safety hazard
Overtime items begin piling up in the living room, kitchen, bedroom, garage, etc., making it impossible for the residents to live comfortably. These obstacles increase the risk of tripping and getting a serious injury, pose a fire hazard, attract infestations of vermin such as bacteria, maggots, and rats, and cause respiratory problems due to the build-up of dirt, dust and mold.
Hoarding can negatively impact relationships
Hoarding not only affects the person hoarding, but also, their relationships with their families, friends, neighborhood, and community. Hoarders often do not realize that they have a problem; therefore they cannot tell if their actions are having an effect on their relationships.
Families: Family members often feel embarrassment, frustration and resentfulness towards the hoarder, which results in a very tense environment. The family cannot spend time together because of the lack of living space.
Friends: Hoarders also tend to not have a social life and are often confined to their homes. They live in a very anxious state, compulsively save everything, and have a “just in case” attitude which can be emotionally straining.
Neighborhood: As far as their neighborhood, extreme hoarding cause fire hazards, plumbing problems, and the build-up of “trash” causes infestation which pose a threat to their neighbors.
Community: If there are complaints from neighbors, the city will get involved and take correctional action. In some cases, animal control will be involved (if the situation involves animal hoarding) and even child services in cases where a harmful environment is present.
Ways to treat a hoarding problem
Often hoarders refuse to get help because they do not believe that they have a problem. It is usually up to their families and friends to intervene. This is portrayed on numerous TV shows such as TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive and A&E’s Hoarders which follows different people on their hoarding issues and how the problem was solved. Approaches used include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which teaches people to see the objects around them in a new light. They help the hoarder learn to make more reasonable and quick judgements when deciding on whether or not to keep an object, and practice throwing away items while sorting through the emotions that they trigger. Another approach is to hire a professional organizer who can give an objective opinion and help to clean up the clutter. Lastly, one can find other places in which to store their possessions such as a their attic, basement, or self storage unit.
Here at U-Stor-It, we promote maintaining a healthy living environment. If you are finding yourself with too much stuff and not enough space, come check our storage units at any of our 5 self storage locations in the Chicagoland area! We can guarantee you top-notch security on all of our units to make sure that your valuables are kept safe.