Are You a Hoarder?
By Paul Rothbart
Over the course of their lives, people tend to accumulate things. Some of them are useful, some not so much, but they do pile up. There are closets, attics, basements, and garages everywhere with boxes and piles of stored items. Who doesn't have a junk drawer in their kitchen? For the most part, it's human nature, and when space becomes limited, people throw things out and have garage sales. There is usually no real harm in it. However, there are people who continue to save things until they fill up nearly all of their living space. It can cause major problems and is a form of mental illness known as hoarding disorder.
What Is Hoarding
Hoarding is distinct from collecting. Collectors purchase and acquire items that fit within a particular category and have some kind of intrinsic value. That value may be aesthetic, monetary, or both. Collectors also store their possessions in an organized fashion, care for them, and often display them.
Hoarders amass objects that are not part of a consistent category and thus cannot be called a collection. They often have no value and can serve no purpose for the hoarder. The possessions are just stacked about wherever the hoarder can find space with no care for their cleanliness.
The consequences of hoarding go far beyond merely running out of storage space. Hoarders often lose contact with family and friends who do not want to visit their homes because of the extreme clutter. With objects stashed everywhere, there are tripping hazards all over the home and the danger of objects falling on someone and causing injury.
Piles of paper and cloth are fire hazards and should a blaze break out, it may be difficult to exit the home in time to avoid injury or death. Firefighters may not be able to enter for a timely rescue.
There are health hazards as well. The piles of possessions often become nests for insects, rodents, and other vermin. Spoiled food creates bacteria and other hazards. The local health department or zoning board may order a cleanup and failure to comply could result in forfeiture of the property.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder
It is important to recognize hoarding disorder symptoms in yourself or a loved one and to seek help if necessary. These questions can help make the assessment.
Do you have difficulty using any of the rooms, surfaces, counters, or furniture in your home due to clutter?
Do you find it difficult to throw things away or part with them even if you have no use for them?
Does your clutter cause you anxiety and distress?
Does your inability to get rid of things have a negative effect on work, school, or relationships?
Hoarding disorder is a serious mental health issue that should not be ignored. If you or someone you care about is demonstrating these symptoms, contact a healthcare professional that specializes in hoarding disorder.
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