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A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value.
Hoarding is considered a significant problem if:
- The amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms.
- The clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationship suffers
What's the difference between hoarding and collecting?
Many people collect items such as books or stamps, and this is not considered a problem. The difference between a “hoard” and a “collection” is how these items are organised.
A collection is usually well ordered, and the items are easily accessible. A hoard is usually very disorganised, takes up a lot of room and the items are largely inaccessible.
For example, someone who collects newspaper reviews may cut out the reviews they want and organise them in a catalogue or scrapbook. Someone who hoards may keep large stacks of newspapers that clutter their entire house and mean it’s not actually possible to read any of the reviews they wanted to keep.
Signs of a hoarding disorder
Someone who has a hoarding disorder may typically:
- keep or collect items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
- find it hard to categorise or organise items
- have difficulties making decisions
- struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
- become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
- have poor relationships with family or friends
Hoarding can start as early as the teenage years and gets more noticeable with age. For many, hoarding becomes more problematic in older age, but the problem is usually well established by this time. It’s thought that around 1 or 2 people in every 100 have a problem with hoarding that seriously affects their life.
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