When Hoarding Goes Overboard

in StemSocial10 months ago

Growing up, I used to live in a very stuffed house and I absolutely hated it. It was a two-bedroom flat and we were only four living in it but it always felt cluttered. For the most part, we were only three, my brother was in the university then so it was just me and my parents. Ordinarily, the space should have been convenient to live in because it was quite sizable but that was not the case.

Normal was not normal

There were very unnecessary items all over the house that made it hard to live in. What's funny is my parents complained about the tight living condition and the amount of junk we had like they didn't put it there in the first place.

There were way too many couches in the living room in ratio to the size of the living room. It was one too many that, there was a three-seater couch blocking the door to the kitchen. This made us access the kitchen from the back door which was actually next to our front door. Going to the kitchen was really stressful and not easy on my mum especially. This would have been avoided if the couch was simply taken away.

The kitchen was also very tight, there were two big tables filled with bowls that were never used and they easily gathered dust. The dining area had a very big table that took a lot of space and my dad had a lot of stuff on the couch. He had one for throwing clothes on, another for all his stationery and work stuff. My mum had another couch for her own stuff.

What was annoying was the amount of useless stuff among these items that were tagged important. There were old books, newspapers, wedding invites, funeral programs, irrelevant receipts, and a whole lot of papers that pile up into huge waste. The rooms were not left out, not only were there old clothes, there were more papers in the rooms.

This was our 'normal' everyday life but it was embarrassing, to say the least. It hindered our comfort no matter how much it was normalized. My mum never liked having visitors over because the visible junk was embarrassing to her. The worst thing is the junk always piled up no matter how much you took out.

The Clean-out

The breakthrough came when we moved out 10 years ago. Lots and lots of junk were thrown out which still pisses my dad off whenever he remembers. The new house had way more space and we had less junk. My dad still didn't get rid of the old furniture but the good thing is the new space is so big and everything fits.

My dad is clearly attached to his old stuff and still buys more stuff that he ends up not using. He also is still very much defensive when confronted about his hoarding tendencies.

What is Hoarding Disorder?

I've always known hoarding is a problem people have, I experienced it first-hand. What I didn't know is hoarding can be a problem so much so, that it is a mental disorder.

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. - Mayo Clinic


Hoarding usually comes with cluttered living conditions that go as far as the surrounding environment. When there's no more space indoors, some hoarders move their stuff outside to their garage, car, front yard, and just anywhere they deem fit.

These items usually have sentimental value or a story behind them. Other times, the hoarder thinks the items might be useful and wouldn't want to let go.

People who have hoarding disorder may or may not know they have it. Most times they go to the doctor for other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression only to find out they have a hoarding disorder. They may not see it as a problem and would only understand how much of a problem it is when they're made to see how much discomfort it causes their daily living.

Causes of Hoarding Disorder

As with a number of mental health disorders, the cause of hoarding disorder is not known. However, genetics, brain functioning, and stressful life events are thought to be possible causes and are being studied source.

People who have a hoarding disorder have been associated with indecisiveness. Some develop the habit as a coping mechanism when they lose a loved one or property. There's also a chance of developing the habit from a family member who had it.


Identifying a hoarder is easy and obvious.

  • Their homes are usually piled up with more stuff than they need that it gets in the way.
  • They get mad and defensive when confronted about hoarding.
  • They have a tendency to be indecisive and disorganized.
  • They have difficulty parting away with items.

Mental health professionals use the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosis. They ask the patient several questions concerning their living areas in addition to their emotional well-being.

They may also ask their family and friends with the patient's permission ofcourse. Pictures of their living area or even a visit may suffice.


The primary treatment for hoarding disorder is psychotherapy also known as talk therapy. Psychotherapy is an aspect of Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a type of therapy that aims to help you manage your problems by changing how you think (cognitive) and act (behaviour). It encourages you to talk about how you think about yourself, the world and other people, and how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings. - NHS UK

The patient is made comfortable enough to express their thoughts and feelings about their hoarding. They work on their decision-making skills and motivate them for a change.

Treating hoarding disorder is difficult because the sufferers mostly believe they do not need any treatment, this is why a seasoned professional that has dealt with treating hoarding disorder before is needed.

Real-life chronic hoarder

Hoarding disorder ranges from mild to severe. It becomes severe when it interferes with the normal living conditions to the extent that it becomes hazardous to even human health.

I recently watched a tv show about a woman who was a severe hoarder. She piled up so much junk that her living room was no different from a dumpsite. In the layers of dirt, decayed human and animal faeces were found which eventually made her house inhabitable even after cleanup.

The crazy part, she was in no way remorseful when confronted and thought she did nothing wrong. She was so mad at the cleaners and family for taking her house away even when she had her and her family's health at risk. This shows how bad hoarding gets and should be cautioned when noticed.

Holding on to memories and property is meant to be fun and not be a hazard to life. Collect not hoard.


  1. https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/seeking-therapy/what-is-psychotherapy/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356062
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/talking-therapies-medicine-treatments/talking-therapies-and-counselling/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/overview/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/hoarding-disorder/

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I call myself The Reformed Hoarder, and I am quite serious when I say that. I wasn't as bad as people on the TV shows, but I was sure heading in that direction if I had continued down that path for another decade or two of life. I had every piece of clothing I had ever owned since I was a teenager, every piece of paper (including junk mail) too. I saved the fur I brushed off my cat in a bag because I felt like if I threw it out, it was tantamount to throwing away my cat. That is the kind of mindset that causes hoarding.
I started dealing with my hoarding years before I finally saw a good therapist who diagnosed me with CPTSD and worked with me about that (which is probably the main reason I hoarded). What triggered the change was I moved into my apartment which really doesn't have any storage beyond the bedroom closet and a tiny, coffin-sized coat closet (and the kitchen cabinets). There was no place I could pack like an overstuffed suitcase and hide most of it away; the stuff was in my face all the time and was inescapable, and driving me up a wall.
So I started trying to purge stuff. It was hard. It was stress inducing. It was slow. I agonized over every decision, and could barely let go of anything at first, but I made myself keep going. It got easier with time. Later when I made a second pass at things that I had already gone through once before, I wondered why I had kept half of it, and got rid of more. You really have to learn and practice doing it, and that's why I kinda hate those TV shows; I realize that it's usually a dire circumstance like the one you saw where the home isn't safe anymore or they're going to be kicked out or something so it has to be done now, but in the long run they probably made that person's underlying problem worse. You really have to take it slow and make the decisions yourself to stop having so much stress about letting things go and get better at it. Now, I feel really good when I get rid of things, and often I'll just go on a "what can we get rid of today??" streak because I like it now. That's probably why the move stressed out your dad, because it was too fast. It takes years of practice to build up those mental muscles, as it were.

You really have to take it slow and make the decisions yourself to stop having so much stress about letting things go and get better at it.

This is it! I totally get it now. It's way too overwhelming to take away everything from a hoarder all at once. Slow and steady is the right approach.

I'm really glad you could get to that point.

Thank you! And I'm glad your family is in a less crowded place! :)




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It's a problem, of course, when you've loved a sofa, bought it and then it doesn't fit in your flat. Often it's also a problem that you work all day and don't have time to take care of your flat. That's at the weekend and you have a lot to do. The fact that doing the housework is a lot of work is often not mentioned in life.
Perhaps the sofa could have been placed in the middle or used as a room divider. Of course, the fact that you can't get into the kitchen easily makes it difficult to get to the kitchen. Your poor mum :) It might have been funny for you because it was a sports item 😂. But thank goodness the flat is bigger now.