Over the last few years, “hoarder house” has become a well-known term in society. Some people jokingly refer to disorganized homes as “hoarder homes” however, there is truly a difference between chaos, clutter, and hoarding. Continue reading for 11 questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure which camp you fall into.
The Rise of Hoarding-Awareness
In 2009, a new show called Hoarders debuted on the A & E Network. This show brought Americans inside the homes of people who struggle with compulsive hoarding disorder. Compulsive hoarding disorder is a difficulty in letting go of possessions that often results in unhealthy living conditions.
The show was a success. People all over America were simultaneously entranced and disgusted. After all, they asked themselves, how could someone live like that?
Hoarding is a Mental Health Issue
The truth is, people who hoard rarely have a choice in how they live. Hoarding is a mental health issue often brought upon by trauma, personality, or family history. Many people with hoarding compulsive disorder often keep their items because they make them feel safe or it reminds them of happier times.
When well-meaning friends or family try to help hoarders clean or declutter their hoarder house, it often results in conflict and stress, rarely is the help successful.
If you’re not sure whether the chaos you’re surrounded by is normal, everyday clutter, or if you or a loved one have a larger issue, look through the questions below and see how they apply.
11 Questions to Ask if You Think You (or Someone You Love) Have a Hoarder House
Here are questions to consider when you’re trying to determine if you or a loved one need help in a potential hoarder house situation. Depending on your answers, a therapist may help shed more light on your situation and feelings.
Is my home cluttered or a hoarder house?
Life happens. It’s easy to accumulate stuff. Many people have clutter, but where do you draw the line between clutter and hoarding?
If you have rooms you can’t use, if you have items in walkways, if you have clutter piled on top of clutter, you may have crossed the line from cluttered into hoarding.
Could I handle cleaning my home on my own?
Different people have different standards for how clean they like their homes to be. If you WANT a clean home, but cannot clean because of all your belongings, it may be time to seek some help.
Often clutter, cleanliness, and mental health go hand-in-hand. If a person becomes depressed, clutter may accumulate. When clutter accumulates, it’s harder to clean. When a home is messy, it makes it harder to come out of the fog of depression, and so on.
When your home is overrun with belongings, it’s hard to perform regular household cleaning like dust furniture, clean counters, wash dishes, do laundry, and vacuum floors.
The combination of lack of regular cleaning, plus an overwhelming number of belongings, often leads homes becoming inhabited by roaches, mice, rats, and other pests that could spread diseases and make inhabitants sick.
Dust and mold often thrive in these situations, resulting in poor indoor air quality.
If you want to clean your home but don’t know how or don’t feel you can handle it, that’s a sign of a problem.
Is my home unsafe?
Clutter on surfaces is one thing, but when a home becomes unsafe, it’s definitely a problem.
What is an unsafe home?
Boxes stacked on top of one another that may fall over and hurt someone, passageways through rooms that make movement challenging, doorways and windows (aka escape routes) blocked off, and massive amounts of weight on floorboards are all examples of ways our belongings can make our home unsafe.
Am I comfortable in my home?
Your home is your haven, and your belongings should bring you peace. If your home is a source of discomfort for you or those who live with you, it’s time to make some changes.
Do I keep items other people would dispose of?
Some people have a tendency to save items “just in case” or “for a rainy day” which is understandable, but if you have TOO many items you’re saving that you’ll realistically never use, you may have some hoarding tendencies.
Examples of items other people would throw out:
- Plastic bottles
- Old newspapers
- Take out food containers (except a few)
- Broken electronics
- Broken appliances
- Old shopping bags (except a few)
If you look around your space and see these items, grab a trash bag and try to throw some out. How does it feel?
How do I feel when I think about getting rid of something?
Imagine walking around with a cardboard box or a trash bag and filling it with items you no longer use and need. Are you excited about the space you’ll have, or are you uncomfortable?
If the thought of letting anything at all go gets you panicked, angry, or sad, it may be time to speak with a therapist about your situation.
Is there an underlying reason letting go is hard?
Many people who have a tendency to hoard belongings have experienced trauma in their past. This trauma may have been abuse, losing a loved one, living through severe poverty, or any other number of things.
Experiencing trauma makes us hang on to what we’ve got a little tighter. It makes sense, but it’s not a very healthy way to live. If you’ve experienced trauma and your home is cluttered, acting sooner rather than later is a good idea if you’d like to avoid it becoming a hoarder house.
Are my belongings and collections being honored?
It’s okay to have a collection and love your stuff, but these items are meant to enrich your home and your life. If you are keeping belongings and collections stuffed in boxes and totes or if you can’t find them at all, are they worth having?
Letting some belongings go will let you to enjoy and honor the items you choose to keep.
How functional is my home?
What would you like to use your home for? Most people would probably answer making memories, feeding and caring for family, resting and relaxing. Think about doing these things in your home.
Can you cook a healthy meal for your family in your home? Can you get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed in your home? Is there a place in your home to relax and play?
Now take it a step further and think about your ideal living situation. Would you love to park your car in the garage so you don’t have to scrape ice off your windshield? Do you dream about hosting your family for Thanksgiving? Would you like to babysit your grandkids for a weekend?
If your home is not working for you and your goals, it might be time to make some changes in your living situation.
How are my belongings affecting other people?
Nothing in our lives should be more important than the people we share it with. If your belongings are affecting the lives of those that live with you negatively, it’s definitely a sign of a hoarding house.
Let’s think about the previous question. Your home should be functional for you, but it should also be functional and comfortable for your loved ones. If you’re putting your belongings above your family, there is likely a problem.
Am I embarrassed about my home?
If you’re ashamed of your home, and not because of the size or furnishings, but because of the clutter, it’s time to do something about it. Our homes are a reflection of ourselves and if you’re not happy with yours, make those changes!
Help for Hoarder Houses
Hopefully, the questions above have helped you make some sense of your situation. If you have determined that you have hoarding tendencies, it’s best to seek professional help from a therapist and a professional organizer with special training and experience with clients with hoarding tendencies.
If you’ve determined that you’re not a hoarder, but are feeling motivated to declutter just to make sure, I’d suggest starting with an inspirational book such as Declutter like a Mother by Allie Casazza or The More of Less by Joshua Becker. They’re both sure to light a fire under you, as will these quotes about decluttering.