Hoarding has been a long-time known disorder. It has been linked to a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is most common in the middle aged to the elderly population and it can develop at pretty much any time of a person’s life. There have been studies and connections that suggest that a lot of times it runs over generations.
Hoarding during COVID has become significantly worse since during COVID a lot of people who were not keeping objects and cluttering material, started doing this as well, so it “unlocked” the hoarding tendencies even more. Hoarding of products and food was on the rise as people bought products and food online. Hoarders were isolated and were unable to even reach their families, let alone specialists, so they started cluttering even more items. Also, due to fears, some people begin hoarding materials and food despite not having a disorder. COVID has caused so much damage and anxiety to people, that all mental health has since deteriorated even more.
Sadly, my mother was a hoarder who collected newspaper articles, empty bottles, plastic bags, and other objects. She would keep the newspaper articles and tell me that she would read them once she is old and retired, but the number of news articles that she had and papers was immense, so she, me, or her great-grandchildren one day would have never been able to read them. Hoarders are often misunderstood because they don’t want to hoard and they don’t realize how much they keep. They feel the need to keep those objects and they feel as if those objects are really valuable. I did not understand that about hoarding back when I was a child, so I remember I would tell my mum that I wanted to throw away some of the newspaper articles but she would get very angry and defensive and forbid me to throw anything away.
Hoarding also leads to antisocial behavior since once people start hoarding, somewhere deep down they realize their apartment looks more like a warehouse or even a landfill than a place to live in or to invite people in. The objects my mum hoarded took over her entire place, including the living room couch, floor, dining table, and even the other side of her double bed. She stopped inviting anyone to her home because everything was everywhere. Sadly, nobody could come in, because they didn’t even have a place to sit down. I needed to meet friends outside in a shopping center or restaurant because they had nowhere to sit. I regret not learning about hoarding behavior and disorder and how to help my mum when she was alive. Therefore, I am writing this article, hoping that other people will read it and manage to prevent their parents, relatives, or friends from becoming “consumed” by objects. I am hoping that they can also help them declutter and live back in harmony and feel so valued and appreciated.
Being gentle with hoarders and explaining to them that they need to declutter some items can help them. You can start with a very small place, like a table or a bookshelf, and gradually continue. It is recommended to offer them your help, as that way they would not find an “excuse” not to do it and they would be motivated and determined and you can be there and help them and lead them to their success and praise them once they clear a certain space. Another way to help hoarders would be to take them out for walks and suggest that if they clean their place, they can then invite their friends over and have social life with those friends they have been missing so much. And last but not least, some very good therapists that could help with that kind of mental disorder are available – and now they are even available online or by phone.
Early signs to recognize a hoarder is – them not wanting to separate with unnecessary objects, them keeping multiple objects and never using them and them getting defensive and overprotective when it gets mentioned that they need to declutter their home. Be aware of those signs, and make sure to be next to them and help them through that difficult time.
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