Understanding Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding is a condition where a person feels compelled to save a variety of items, regardless of their value. It’s classified under Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.


Recognizing Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarders struggle to discard possessions, feel stressed when attempting to do so, distrust others touching their belongings, and often withdraw from social interactions, leading to isolation.


Does Your Loved One Show These Signs?

If an older adult you care about exhibits these behaviors, you know how challenging it can be to help them declutter. They might see their possessions as irreplaceable memories or useful items. Understanding their attachment is key to helping them.


Common Justifications for Keeping Items

Older adult hoarders often justify keeping items for various reasons, such as not knowing where they belong, feeling emotional connections, perceiving value in trivial objects, or believing they might need the items in the future.


The Impact of Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding affects nearly 1 in 20 older adults and can lead to safety hazards, poor hygiene, health risks, and financial or legal issues. It may also indicate conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia.


Four Ways to Help Your Loved One Declutter


  1. Identify Areas that Need Attention

Start by pinpointing the most cluttered areas in their home. Plan together how to tackle each space, ensuring your loved one feels involved. AARP suggests starting with trash, organizing items into keep, donate, and toss piles, and tackling small areas regularly.


  1. Have Compassionate Conversations

Discuss their attachment to items with empathy. Honor their independence, encourage safe home environments, and work together to decide what to keep or discard. Take breaks if conversations become overwhelming, and reassure them of your support.


  1. Explain the Hazards of Clutter

Respectfully discuss the risks of hoarding, such as increased fall risks, fire hazards, health issues from pests and spoiled food, and potential social isolation or eviction. Open conversations can motivate them to maintain a safe and comfortable home.


  1. Work Together to Decide What to Do with Items

Start small, with short decluttering sessions. Sort items into piles: keep, donate, sell, and toss. Keep items that are in good condition and bring joy, donate gently used items, discard worn-out or broken objects, and consider selling valuable items.


Changing Behavior Takes Time

Remember, this is about helping them find value in their belongings and deciding together what stays or goes. Encourage them positively, recognize their efforts, and remain patient. Celebrate small victories and offer continuous support.

The Villi team is here to help

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Reference Links:

International OCD Foundation: What is compulsive hoarding?
Hoarding Behavior in a Community
Rummaging, Hiding, and Hoarding Behaviors
Decluttering made simple
Consequences of having too much clutter
Declutter your life
Hoarding Disorder