Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Signs Your Loved One Is A Hoarder

It's a blurry line between packrat and low-level hoarder. Here's a few quick ways to tell when the person who loves to save is verging into hoarding territory:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?


  1. Irrational sentimental attachment to objects. My parents bought my grandparents' house shortly after my grandmother's death and my mother will not part with anything that belonged to her mother. Drapes that don't match her furniture, decor that is not her style, magazines...it all must be secured and preserved. Entire rooms are unavailable for use, but thank heavens we saved grandma's November 1997 copy of Country Cottage!

  2. Oh, and this is on top of my mother's own hoarding tendencies--my lifelong.