- The most immediate and telling sign of hoarding is that the rooms in their home can no longer be used for their intended purpose due to junk build-up. I.e., all meals are taken on the coffee table because the dinner table is completely obscured. This situation lasts for years, not days.
- Utility becomes obscured by quantity. Their collections of value-less items move above the range of 20 to 30, ie, keeping hundreds of plastic bags, several dozen empty glass bottles, thousands of twist ties, etc. A cost/benefit analysis reveals that the cost of keeping these items (lost floor space, missed social opportunities, junked up living space) is greater than the benefit of their use.
- The keeper in question demonstrates stronger emotional attachments to these value-less items than to family and friends, ie, extremely upset about unauthorized recycling of plastic bags, yet nonchalant about failed interpersonal relationships.
- The keeper creates a "nest" which they rarely move from, ie, a cushy chair or couch on which they spend the majority of their time. The floor around this nest may be completely covered in old magazines, catalogs, books, etc.
- The keeper consistently demonstrates avoidance behavior. When an outsider attempts to offer help to make the home more livable, the keeper stonewalls, procrastinates, and denies that there is a problem. Blaming is another common behavior.
- The keeper may have suffered a severe personal trauma at some point in their life. For example, abusive parents who threw away or altered the keeper's personal belongings as a child, making them feel like they must keep all their things close at hand.
There are many more and these are primarily my unscientific observations. However I'm a big believer that "the more you know..." so keep an eye out for the above.
Do you have other signs of hoarding you'd like to share?