I’m a hoarder and need help! What do I do?
Admitting you have a problem with hoarding is the first step. The hoard didn’t occur in one day so expect a lengthy process for the physical act of de-cluttering along with the emotional healing that goes along with it.
With the assistance of a professional organizer and/or counselor, create a plan for digging out of the mess. Start by putting together a support team of people willing to help you. Consider the following:
- Look for a counselor with experience in working with clients who hoard. If you can’t find a counselor who specializes in hoarding, look for someone who focuses on addiction issues.
- Research professional organizers in your area who have been trained in working with clients who hoard. The money invested in a professional organizer is money well spent.
- Ask friends and family for assistance with specific tasks. If they are willing, give them specific jobs such as going through the cupboards and throwing out expired items or organizing paper into piles of like items. If they turn down your request, accept their no.
- Recruit cheerleaders–people who will applaud your de-cluttering, especially when others question your decisions on letting go of things. Tell them how they can encourage you when others attempt to sabotage your efforts through their comments or actions.
NOTE: Depending on friends and family for help with clearing out the hoard may not be a good idea; there’s a reason why there are professionals to do this work. Your family may have experienced a great deal of pain in connection with the hoard. It may be that the very most that they can do for you is try to be patient for just a little while longer, as you work with the professionals. And sometimes, that may not be possible; your family may be too hurt and exhausted to be patient with you in this effort. Remember that you can’t make your family responsible for your recovery; you have to take on that responsibility for yourself.
My parent is a hoarder! Does anyone comprehend how this affects me?
As the child of a hoarder, you are in a difficult situation. The experts emphasize compassion and understanding for the hoarder’s point of view, yet they rarely address the effects of the hoard and the hoarder’s behaviors have on other family members. Whether or not you live with your hoarding parent, your parent’s love of stuff affects you emotionally and physically.
On an emotional level, there may be a lot of negative feelings. You may feel angry and betrayed, cheated of a normal childhood and a loving parent. Growing up with a parent who displays more loving behavior towards “stuff” rather than their own children can result in depression, severely damaged self-esteem, and a host of other issues.
Physically, you may feel drained from playing caregiver to the non-hoarding parent. Should you attempt to help clean the hoard, exhaustion sets in. Spending time inside of the home of the hoarding parent may cause health issues in itself due to possible mold or air quality issues.
But there are people out there who understand what you are going through. More than you think.
As you begin to seek healing, here’s a few things to remember:
- Accept that you do not have the power to change your parents, and that you do not have the obligation to rescue them.Your hoarding parent may never stop hoarding and may never have a normal relationship with you. You can’t change your hoarding parent, but you can change you. Focus on things you have the power to influence, beginning with your own happiness and emotional health.
- Establish healthy boundaries with your hoarding parent and with all people in your life. Your parent’s hoard is not your fault and you are not responsible for it now. You can choose to help with the de-cluttering or you can choose to walk away. You can try to find help for your parent. But you are not to blame.
- It’s okay to reach out to get help for you. Maybe you never learned how to clean because you were never taught. A professional organizer can help. Maybe you struggle with anger and resentment so much that it causes issues with your life as a whole. A counselor can help.
I’m married to a hoarder and don’t want to live like this! How can I help my spouse stop the hoarding behaviors?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for this. Hoarding is almost like an addiction. Some experts call it an addiction. Whatever you want to call it, the hoarding is only a symptom of deeper issues. Clearing out the clutter and cleaning the house will not cure hoarding in itself. It’s like putting a band-aid on a wound that needs more than a band-aid.
But the hoarder isn’t the only one who matters. You matter too. You need a home that you can live in, not just a building filled with stuff that you sleep in.
The first step is getting help for yourself. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change you. See a counselor to learn how you can establish boundaries so that you have one place in the house that is clean for you. A space of your own that doesn’t belong to the hoarder. Start there. Once you have one room for yourself, set goals to reclaim other spaces from clutter.
Ask your spouse if he or she would be willing to attend counseling with you. Telling the hoarder to go see a counselor might meet a negative response. Asking a hoarder to join you in a counseling session for your benefit might receive a warmer reception.
If you don’t like the idea of seeking out a counselor, consider looking for a life coach who can work with you on goal setting. Set a goal for re-claiming one room at a time and determine the action steps you need to take in order to create the home you desire.