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5 Ways to help a hoarder

During the Pandemic, I spent some time working on the frontline as a Decluttering Practitioner for clients with Extreme Hoarding Tendencies. One thing that myself and the team I worked with at the time all agreed on is that the term 'Hoarding' could be improved. So, forgive me when I use the term 'Hoarder'... it is simply because this is a label that people can easily identify this content by. As a practitioner, I know that Hoarding is so much deeper than it's label. There is a person behind each home, a story behind each item and a healing journey to begin in each case that I work on.

Hoarding is much more common than many realise, with an estimated 2.6% in our society living with this reality. These numbers have been found to be higher among individuals aged 60 years and over. This Disorder is also more prevalent in individuals with underlying psychiatric diagnosis. There is nothing to be ashamed of with Hoarding... it effects so many people of all lifestyles and backgrounds. One thing I have found to be very common is that many of my clients who 'Hoard' are extremely intelligent individuals!

As a seasoned professional, who also has personal experience of what it's like to have a loved one who 'Hoards', I have learned some valuable tips along the way. Here is my latest- what not to say to someone who 'Hoards'. It's extremely valuable to know this before you begin assisting somebody. I'll link my other article at the end- enjoy!

1. Never say: “Just chuck it away!”

Never use words like ‘chuck’. Be mindful that there is an emotional bond with the items. Instead, if they are willing to declutter and have agreed to have you help them, offer to hold up each item so that they can make a decision- it has been scientifically proven that we are more likely to want to keep an item once we have touched it. So, it’s always a good ide to declutter in pairs and have one person hold up the items and place in the correct pile (donate/recycle/keep/put away)

2. Never say: “You don’t need this, it’s rubbish!”

Never refer to this persons items as “rubbish” or “junk”. The individual who hoards does not see their items this way. Each of these items has been kept for a reason and holds some significant sentimental value to them. Instead, explore what they love about the item with them. Be patient. Be kind. Listen to their story and try to understand why each item Is special to them. In doing this, you will help them all to understand their own emotional ties to their belongings more.

3. Never say: “I’m going to do a big blitz”

One thing I’ve learned through working with Hoarding Disorder extensively is that it is detrimental to rush the process. The process has to be slow. The individual has to feel in control. Any big changes can result in a rapid deterioration of mental health and may even make the individual feel suicidal. So- no ‘blitzing’, no big, fast ‘makeovers’, just small, steady steps. After all, it is the journey of 1000 small steps that create the biggest changes!

4. Never say: “Why can’t you just collecting/shopping?”

Taking your frustrations about the situation out on the individual is – again – detrimental to mental health. Hoarding is a form of addiction and is often (in my experience) accompanied by multiple forms of addictive behaviours. If the person knew, lucidly, why they were behaving this way, they would be on their healing journey, but they’re not. So, please, have some patience. Hold your breath. Don’t inflict more shame on them. Because I can 100% assure you- they already feel deeply ashamed as it is.

5. Never say: “How can you live like this?”

This individual is deeply ashamed of how they are already. This shame leads individuals who Hoard to become secretive about their hoard and often disengage with loved ones. Approach them with love. Instead, let them know: “I am here for you. I love you. You are worthy of being healthy, happy and safe”. It may take this person some time to get comfortable with words of affirmation, or of opening up to anybody. Remember- they have been without these things for so long, it will take them some time to adjust to feeling worthy again. Be patient. Be kind.

For more information on how to help someone with Hoarding Disorder, click here to access my Guide to Helping a Loved One With Hoarding Tendencies

That’s all for today, but please- if you, or somebody you love lives with Hoarding Disorder, reach out for help. My consultations are always free and I would love to help you. I have helped many people like you!

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Sending you so much love!

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