I have heard large numbers of people refer to themselves or a loved one as a hoarder – but what exactly is hoarding?
Before we go any further, I would like to request that we don’t judge or label people but recognise that we are talking about a person who may be struggling with a hoarding disorder – after all it is affecting their life more than we will ever know.
There is no extensive data available in Australia at this time but evidence suggests, we could be talking about somewhere between 2-5% of the population. The Australian Bureau of Statistics projects Australia’s resident population to be 23,456,935 as at 16 April 2014 (Source: ABS Population Clock). That means that in Australia we could be looking at anywhere between 469,138 and 1.17 million people!
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) characterises Hoarding Disorder as:
“persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.”
Hoarding was only identified as a mental health disorder in its own right in DSM-5 released in 2012, a publication used widely by mental health professionals across the world. It can however also be a symptom of something else, like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder). For some, it is triggered by a traumatic event in their life.
I am sure that some of you have seen the “reality” shows on TV and even some of the recent news items in Australia. Due to the nature of such broadcasts, there are some misperceptions about the best way of treating these situations. After all, a slow and steady approach does not make for good TV!
I am not going to go into any details about treatments here today, but I do want to issue a SERIOUS WARNING:
– If you believe that a loved one is hoarding, please, please seek professional assistance. You can start with a GP, counsellor, social worker or professional organiser.
– Please do not pursue a rapid clean out of their home without the individual’s express agreement as this could do more harm than good in the long term. Yes, there are occasions where this is necessary for the immediate health and safety of the occupant, but it must be approached holistically, providing support and counselling to the individual concerned while the clean out is happening.
There is no cure but a hoarding disorder can be managed with the right support.
Jo and I have both had experience working with shopaholics, compulsively disorganised individuals, collectors and hoarders. We have also had formal training with two of Australia’s pre-eminent professional organisers and hoarding specialists. I am also working consistently towards certification with the Institute for Challenging Organization. We are not psychologists so we do not diagnose individuals, but we will work closely with clients whose lives are being negatively affected by a hoarding disorder with a focus on the stuff.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need some confidential, no obligation, judgement-free advice on what steps to take next.
Take care and happy organising!