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Are You a Hoarder, or Just Messy? Either Way, Clear the Clutter

Serious hoarding is a compulsive disorder that affects about 5 percent of the population, but there are ways to deal with the problem.

By Leah Zerbe

tags: MENTAL HEALTH



Are You a Hoarder, or Just Messy? Either Way, Clear the Clutter

A clutter problem doesn't necessarily make you a hoarder.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The topic of hoarding is hot, even though it's a pretty unglamorous condition. Reality TV shows are providing an inside view into the world of hoarders, people who jam-pack their homes by accumulating free items, or even fall into serious debt purchasing things, and then won't get rid of stuff they no longer need. "I think we have always been fascinated by unusual behavior, and hoarding behavior and the situations in which many of those who suffer it live are beyond what many people can imagine," says psychologist and hoarding expert Michael Tompkins, PhD, author of Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring (New Harbinger Publications, 2009). "Many people are baffled by what they see and wonder how anyone could live in these conditions. In addition, I think people are fascinated, in part, because they know someone who may have this problem." The increased attention to the phenomenon may lead to more understanding and empathy, Thompkins adds. "Too often, these individuals have been labeled as lazy, dirty, or worse. Now, as an audience, we are discovering that what was thought to be laziness or a character flaw is a real mental health problem."

And there certainly are many people in living with the condition. People with serious hoarding problems account for at least 5 percent of the population. The good news is, no matter if you or a loved one classify as a hoarder, or just a messy person in need of some organization, there are ways to live clutter-free lives again.

So how do you tell the difference between a true hoarder and a messy person? A true hoarding problem is maintained through two problem behaviors—compulsively accumulating items, and avoiding getting rid of things even though they're not useful anymore.

•  A highly cluttered home that makes it difficult for the person to live comfortably or effectively in the home, or even threatens a person's health or safety.

•  Someone who can't declutter a room, meaning discard certain items, sort, categorize, and store items) in a few hours or a day.

•  Someone who doesn't allow others into his or her home.

"Someone who is messy yet has great trouble getting rid of things may over time meet the definition of a true hoarding problem," says Tompkins. "A major feature of a true hoarding problem is the large amount of disorganized clutter that creates chaos in the home. People can no longer sit on the sofa or at the kitchen table. They find it very difficult to move around the house, and the doors and windows are blocked with clutter such that they could not exit the home quickly in case of an emergency.

"A messy person, who can let go of things and can, when pressed, organize, file, and store items in a relatively efficient manner, is not likely to have a true hoarding problem," he adds.

Published on: May 24, 2010
Updated on: May 3, 2011



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Thanks for sharing this

Thanks for sharing this informative blog with us.. Tavlor

This is such a great resource

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It’s the old what goes around comes around routine.
Micheal

I was once "diagnosed" as a

I was once "diagnosed" as a hoarder because I owned A LOT of books. All of them stacked on bookshelves, and all of them books that I'd read and intended to read again (and again, and again), but apparently owning more than 100 books was deemed "unhealthy and obsessive" by some self-appointed expert...

Messy people

I know many people who live their lives in a total mess. How, I don't understand. I could never live like that. Not that I'm super-tidy or anything, but a little order and maybe cleaning your apartment once a week is not too much.
דרושים

organizing my life

I have always been messy, not a hoarder or anything, but a little messy. I found that when I organize my home and I move on to organizing my life. I have been trying to get my Maine reverse mortgage underway for a while and now I can find the time to do so.

no matter if you or a loved

The good news is, no matter if you or a loved one classify as a hoarder, or just a messy person in need of some organization, there are ways to live clutter-free lives again. Refinance My Mortgage

Not a hoarder

Me too, Salim! My kids are pretty messy, but so am I, and it can get rough around the house at times. But when it comes down to it, I can get things organized and in their proper place. And my house is NEVER a safety hazard, so I come through with flying colors on most of this. What a relief!

Betty L.
Mother of 2
Professional House Cleaning

hoarding/desorganization

although I would not consider myself a pig (aka, messy), I do confess & have confessed to be disorganized, specially by the hunch that through this article now is confirmed; my perfectionism & inability to let go of things & thus avoiding going through the ritual of loss.
I thank the article for crystalizing this for me.
I also think that the most perfect description for identifying with this article is found in the last sentence on page 1:
"A messy person, who can let go of things and can, when pressed, organize, file, and store items in a relatively efficient manner, is not likely to have a true hoarding problem,"
so I guess there's hope for me! (smiles)

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