Nearly everyone has seen the TV Show Hoarders and wondered, “how did they get this way?” Most young people would never have imagined themselves growing up to become a hoarder. But after years of tough times in their lives, they find themselves in a situation where they can hardly walk through their own house without tripping over the things they own. Once you become a full-blown hoarder, it is far more difficult to break through to someone and help them live a more normal life.
Hoarding has been classified as a mental disorder. So, while we might use the term to describe someone who is messy, it’s not always the case. Studies suggest that as many as 19 million people in the United States might suffer from a hoarding disorder. Thankfully, people who have a good support system and who seek therapy have been known to get over their symptoms of hoarding. Even so, it’s important to look out for these red flags to see if you’re on the road to becoming a hoarder. And if so, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
40. It’s Not Always As Dramatic As What You See on TV
People with hoarding disorder are not always as dramatic as what you see on TV. Millions of Americans have hoarding tendencies, and the level of severity often depends on how much their family has intervened to help them clean and organize. Most people who will eventually grow up to be hoarders start out being very possessive of their belongings when they’re around 13 years old. As the years go on, you might notice that someone is very messy and disorganized in their 20s and 30s, and they are still very possessive about their belongings. As a parent, you can alleviate this pattern in your own children by teaching them how to share. If they’re an only child, you’ll have to teach them how to share with you and your partner, as well as other relatives. trans
Hoarding symptoms only get as bad as what you see on TV if this person has gone their entire life and well into middle or old age without anyone intervening in their behavior. Maybe they grew up an only child, or were allowed to keep possessing as much as they wanted. Or, they spent a lifetime feeling a sense of scarcity, where they believed they needed to hold onto everything for fear of it being taken from them. There will never come a day when a meticulously clean and generous person suddenly makes a 180-degree turn into becoming a hoarder when they turn 50 years old. This is often a long process with red flags that you can spot along the way.
Some people are worried that if their house is cluttered, it means they are a hoarder. However, that’s not true at all. Clutter is inevitable, because no one is perfect 100% of the time. The difference between normal clutter and hoarding is that one is temporary, and the other is not. For example, if you recently moved, had a baby, or started a new job, your house is probably a bit messier than usual. During major life events, it’s completely normal for clutter to accumulate. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to live in a cluttered household forever.
In a normally functioning person, clutter begins to go away as soon as you get used to your new surroundings and routine. There might be a weekend or a holiday break where it will become easy for you to clean up and get organized. However, if your life always looks like a chaotic mess, there is a deeper underlying problem going on. Some of you out there might feel overwhelmed, or like there simply isn’t enough time to clean and get organized. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We all know people who are indecisive. Problems with decision-making could start out in life over the simplests thing, like choosing what to eat for lunch. This personality trait on its own doesn’t mean that you’ll end up being a hoarder. But one of the most common threads among people with hoarding disorder is that they generally have a difficult time making any decision on their own. Part of a hoarder’s hesitancy to get rid of things is making the decision to do it in the first place. No one has ever asked them, “Do you want to keep this, or throw it away?” And their base instinct is to do nothing, and they become comfortable with keeping everything and never taking action to make difficult decisions in their life.
This may have come from a childhood where your parents never gave you a choice. Maybe you were served meals by your parents and school cafeteria without being asked what you wanted to eat. Your parents did all of the shopping for you until you were an adult. This may have come from a loving place of wanting to make your life “easy” for you. But it obviously backfires, and can do more harm than good. Part of the therapy process of helping a hoarder is to teach them how to sift through all of their options in life to make decisions on their own. If you are doing this alone, start with small steps, like, “Do I want chocolate, or vanilla?” Build on that, and make bigger decisions.
Everyone has sentimental objects in their homes. These are most likely objects tied to memories from your parents or grandparents, or the time when your children were still small. It helps connect us with happier times, and it can be a source of beautiful memories that would be difficult to access without it. However, people with hoarding disorder tend to get overly sentimental about objects that wouldn’t matter to most people. For example, if you get married, you probably want to keep certain sentimental objects like the program, menu, favors, wedding dress, and photographs. But a normal person wouldn’t hold onto the dirty napkins from the wedding buffet.
When you go through your belongings, ask yourself if you really need that thing to remember the happy memory. Maybe one object from that event will suffice, instead of ten. Scrapbooking can also be a really good way to place your objects into a book, instead of keeping them in boxes and containers. You can also write down those beautiful memories in a journal. Remember that the happy memories exist in your mind, and your heart. And you can access that joy at any time! Just close your eyes, breathe, and think about that moment. You don’t need the object to accomplish that.
Many hoarders are actually very creative and inventive people. They will see objects that almost everyone else would consider trash, and they can imagine multiple uses for those things. Another positive thing about that is that it could contribute to sustainability. Sometimes, artists truly do find a way to reuse and recycle materials that they have collected over time. For example, if you look at the Phantasma-Gloria at Randyland in Los Angeles, this man created a gorgeous mural of sun-reflecting glass out of old wine bottles. His mural is considered to be a great form of recycled artwork, and tourists visit from all over to see it.
However, the difference between artists and hoarders is that the latter never actually follow through with those plans. Most people have a “someday” project in mind, but they just don’t need to accumulate objects to make it happen. A hoarder might say that they are collecting junk to prepare for their big art project. But the vast majority of the time, they never actually do any art, because they never find the time or motivation. Let’s be honest. In 2020, all of us have had a lot more free time on our hands to finally tackle these old projects that we have always wanted to do. If you haven’t gotten to it by 2021, chances are you never will.
Animal lovers out there can probably understand the mindset behind animal hoarding. These are people who have a huge heart, and they wish they could save every stray cat and dog on the planet. However, they can’t seem to recognize when enough is enough. This is a sense of wanting to give love away without protecting their own energy. Many of these people will begin their animal hoarding habit by fostering pets that need a home from their local animal shelter. But instead of returning them to the shelter or handing them off to a new forever-home, they end up adopting them. Most animal shelters have a limit to how many pets they give to each household, but hoarders know that they can simply go to a different shelter and start the cycle over again.
This pattern continues, and animal hoarders may even begin to trap strays on their own. They genuinely love these animals, and believe that they are doing something good by saving them. But the reality is that one human can’t take care of so many pets. They become blind to the fact that many of these animals are sickly, and need to be taken to a veterinarian. Or, they simply can’t afford to give that many animals a high quality of care. If you accumulate a lot of pets to surround yourself with love, try to work on the quality, rather than quantity.
34. The Clutter Impacts Your Life, As Well As Your Family
One of the major differences between occasional clutter and a true hoarding disorder is that it negatively impacts your life. This will hurt the lives of the person who is doing the hoarding, as well as all of their family members. For example, if you can’t walk through your home without tripping or climbing over something, that’s a huge problem. If there was an emergency, and a firefighter or EMT needed to navigate your house to save your child, could they do it safely? Could someone lift you out of bed and put you on a gurney down the hallway to get to the ambulance? Sometimes, time is of the essence, and it could make a difference between life and death.
Even something as simple as being embarrassed of a dirty house is an awful thing to feel about yourself, and it can lead to depression. This also has a huge negative impact on a child’s mental well-being. If your family has been trying to get through to you that your clutter is a huge problem, try to look outside of yourself to see their perspective. Are your collections serving anyone but yourself? Or are the hurting others? With these new social restrictions in place, chances are that you can’t have people over right now, anyway. But always try to pretend that someone could see your home at any moment, and try to keep it safe for yourself, and your family.
33. Organizing Seems Far Too Daunting to Even Start
We have all gone through some version of feeling so overwhelmed, we don’t even know where to begin. It’s easier to just give up, and tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow. But “tomorrow” almost never comes. The only way forward is to take action now. Just pick something, and keep going. Once you take action on your goal, it’s like a snowball effect. You just keep rolling until you gain momentum, and your house is finally clean and organized. The same concept goes with anything else you could possibly want in life.
But for hoarders, part of the issue is that they would never get to the step one in the process. Part of the organization process is deciding if an object belongs in one of three categories; trash, keep, or donate. Just the mere thought of it seems far too daunting. In the hoarder’s mind, the solution is to pretend like the clutter is not a problem. After all, you’re not forced to make a decision or face a difficult choice if you pretend it’s not necessary. They become so blinded by their denial, that they genuinely don’t recognize that they’re hoarding at all. If you can at least recognize that you have a clutter problem, that’s fantastic, because that’s step one in the process. You’re already there, and you just need to take action.
One of the biggest common factors among all hoarders is that they fearfully conserve resources. However, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily poor. Hoarders come from a variety of socio-economic and racial backgrounds. You could have a rich shopaholic that hoards clothing, because they fear being seen in the same outfit twice. Or, they could be a poor person who’s afraid of running out of food. What the both have in common is that they have a scarcity mindset. Instead of knowing and believing that these items will always be available to them, they assume that it’s necessary to gather and hold onto them.
In 2020, we have a lot more people running to grocery stores to stock up on goods like toilet paper. If you have a serious health condition and you need to stay away from crowded places, it’s logical to have the mindset of stockpiling enough goods in order to avoid going to the grocery store every week. However, even though we’re in unprecedented times, there is still a fine line between stockpiling and hoarding. Remember that essential stores are still open, even during a national emergency. There is no need to panic and buy an entire year’s worth of items. Hopefully now that you’ve experienced “worse case scenario”, you can see that everything will be fine within a few weeks.
Many hoarders who have a fear of food scarcity will hold onto cans and boxes of food long after their expiration dates. They try to justify this behavior by saying that the food is “still good” to eat, even if mold and rot is clearly visible. This isn’t true! There are horror stories out there of people eating moldy food, and it leads to them contracting a horrific flesh-eating virus. It can also cause diarrhea and vomiting. In reality, holding onto this expired food is taking up space and making it more difficult to find the food that is still edible.
Most of the time, collecting expired food stems from a fear of running out of food. Maybe you grew up in a household where you experienced food scarcity, and it has traumatized you. If this sounds familiar, try to start using up your cans and boxes that are about to expire, and keep the ones that still have time left. Notice how long it truly takes you to go through this stockpile. Remind yourself that in the United States, there are plenty of ways to get food, even in the worst of times. You can still reach out to friends, charities, food banks, soup kitchens, and spend what little money you have at Dollar Tree. In fact, if you have hoarded food, this could be your chance to give back to the community. A lot of people are in need of food right now. So if you can give some cans of food away to a food bank, you’re going to help others in need.
Every hotel gives away free cosmetics for their guests to use. If you brought your own full-sized products with you on the trip, you might have pocketed a tiny bottle or two in your luggage. Doing this once or twice is normal, especially if you believe you could use those products on an upcoming trip. Sometimes, this truly comes in handy, especially if you have run out of shampoo at home, and you can grab a sample bottle to last until you have a chance to get to the grocery store.
However, holding on to a large collection of tiny bottles and free samples you have received over the years is a form of hoarding. While they might be cute, these bottles don’t actually hold any value. Truthfully, the quality of the shampoo and conditioner you get for free is often worse than what you can find in the dollar store. Cosmetics also expire after a certain period of time, and they can cause infection or severe allergic reactions if they touch your skin. If the sample is older than one year, I would recommend throwing it away.
Storage units are great if you need a place to temporarily put your stuff when you’re in-between moving from two houses or apartments. But if your goal in getting a storage unit is to store all of the excess stuff you have accumulated in your own household, that’s a problem, and a sign of hoarding. More often than not, those objects put in a storage unit aren’t necessary to function in your everyday life. If they were, they would be in your home. It’s typically an item you plan to use “some day”, or something you feel sentimentally attached to, yet not so attached that you want it in your home.
In the TV show Storage Wars, people bid on abandoned storage units that people stopped paying their rent. More often than not, these people were paying $50 to $100 per month in rent to hold on to their worthless junk. Logically, this doesn’t make any sense, because the net worth of those items typically adds up to less than the cost of holding onto them. If you’re guilty of doing the same, take a visit to your storage unit, and be honest with yourself about keeping these things. More often than not, it’s better to donate those items to people who can use them, and save that rent money to potentially buy back those objects if the day ever comes when you want them again.
Since many hoarders are in denial about how messy their house actually is, this usually leads to dust and mold forming, as well. If your home becomes filled with either of these things, you’ll notice that allergies worsen, as well as other health conditions. And if you have pets, your carpets are most likely filled with fur that is wreaking havoc on your lungs. When mold becomes bad, it could mean condemning your house, making it virtually unlivable. So always be on the lookout for leaks, or any potential areas where mold could form.
Keep in mind that if you clean, and yet can’t seem to get rid of the dust, your vacuum might not be powerful enough. Recently, I purchased a Dyson, since I heard so many good reviews about it online. After vacuuming just one room in the house, it filled the entire tank with dust and dirt. Once I went through the entire house, my family noticed a significant difference in the cleanliness in the air, and allergy issues basically disappeared. If this happened in a home where we at least attempted to vacuum regularly, I can only imagine what difference it would make for someone who never does.
27. Buying Things Just Because They’re on Clearance
One of the most common hoarding traits is to make purchases of items on clearance. Most of the time, these are objects or clothing that don’t necessarily fit, and have little to no practical use. They bring absolutely no value to your life, but the fact that you can get these items so cheap is why you bought it in the first place. In some cases, this can be harmless, especially if it only happens once a year during a special event like Black Friday. But if this becomes a consistent habit, these purchases will quickly stockpile.
Instead of buying random items on clearance, have a running wish list in the back of your mind. You may also want to create a wishlist on Amazon of the things you actually want and need so that you can visually see everything in front of you. This way, if you ever find one of these items on clearance, it will be incredibly exciting. You may even tell the story to your friends and family about how you got that must-have item for such a steep discount. But how often do you remember those random clearance items that you bought without planning to? Odds are, you might forget they even exist, because they’re in the back of the closet. If they’re not creating value or happiness for you, it’s time to donate them to people in need.
26. You Can’t Recognize When Things Are Getting Too Messy
Can you look around your house and acknowledge when it’s dirty? Or do you tend to let things go for a long time? Some people let clutter accumulate, because they become comfortable with the mess. They might even say they prefer it messy, because they call it “organized chaos”. Does it take a really close friend or family member to point out that your place is, in fact, a mess? Do you get defensive, arguing that it’s not that bad, or comparing yourself to an extreme case on the Hoarders TV show to make yourself feel better? This might be a sign that you’re on the path of becoming a hoarder.
For a long time, psychologists believed that hoarding was one of the symptoms of having OCD. However, while there is a crossover of people who are both hoarders and have OCD, there is a huge difference between the two. People with OCD recognize their compulsions, and feel annoyed by it. They’re aware that it’s going on, and they wish it could stop. They might ask their partner or loved ones to help them stop their compulsions. Hoarders, on the other hand, will continue their behavior without really recognizing or realizing that they’re acting out this compulsion to keep things. Pay attention to what your friends and family say about your living space. If they say that it’s a mess, the odds are that they’re not picking on you. They’re simply telling the truth, and they care about you enough to be honest.
Like many other mental illnesses and disorders, hoarding can be passed down from parents to children. Typically, the original hoarder has gone through a traumatic childhood, which makes them grow attached to material things, rather than people. However, when kids grow up seeing how their hoarder parent lives, they are more likely to model them. When you’re raised by a hoarder, material things are often part of their love language. So it becomes an ingrained habit to give and receive gifts as a sign of affection rather than going on a vacation or doing a favor as a sign of love.
Even if children recognize that their parent is a hoarder, they might subconsciously take on those habits. They might start showing mild symptoms in their own everyday life, like having difficulty letting go of things. However, the first step is recognizing the problem, and working on it through therapy. Even if hoarding runs in your family, it doesn’t mean that it will absolutely doom you to become a hoarder. As long as you continue to grow and heal as a person, your genetics don’t determine your destiny.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to be a digital hoarder. Plenty of us have gone through the experience of opening a new tab with the intention of reading an interesting article, but never getting around to it. Now, imagine your browser filled with 100 open tabs. This would slow down your computer, potentially crash the browser, and make the experience of going online a total nightmare. With a digital hoarder, their desktops are also typically cluttered, making it nearly impossible to find the files they’re looking for. Just like real-life, digital hoarding needs to somehow negatively impact your life in order for it to be a true disorder.
Digital hoarders can get so absorbed by consuming information online, they will neglect their real life. They are endlessly curious, and keep going forever if you don’t stop them. If this sounds like you, take a step back, and learn to value your time. Life is short, and we can never know everything. Choose one or two topics that will actually bring value to your real life. For example, if I gather digital information about speaking French, I can study 3 hours a day and have a better experience when I travel to Paris. But if I spend the same 3 hours learning about World War II trivia, that is never going to help my life, unless I am a history professor, or plan to go on a game show. Learn what serves you, and let the rest go.
The only way to keep things organized is to have a place in your home for every single object. If there is something that doesn’t have a designated shelf, drawer, or closet to put it away, it will often be left out in the open and make a mess. One of the major differences between hoarding and collecting is that hoarders are never organized. Instead of having things on display, objects are everywhere in the home. More often than not, objects are also in places where they don’t belong. Without some foundation of organization, it’s going to be impossible to put anything away, even if you muster up the motivation to clean.
If you struggle with this, watch the Netflix series called The Home Edit, and watch how those ladies give every single thing its own place to exist. Here at Home Addict, we already made an article called How to Make a House Look Like ‘The Home Edit’ where you can learn a summary of all the tips and tricks from the show. We’re not saying you need to be perfect like the women on the show, but try to get inspired and incorporate those practices into your own home. Once you have a better organizational system going in your home, it will become easy to put things away and keep everything clean.
Most people go throughout life getting better at organizing, rather than worse. As kids, you might not be the best at cleaning. But as you mature, you realize that life is just easier when things are put away in their correct space. Adults are also busier than most kids, so they usually strive to make things more streamlined so that they simply make sense. If you find that you’re actually getting messier as you get older, this is a sign that something is going on. That needs to be nipped in the bud if you want to prevent yourself from becoming a true hoarder.
Symptoms of severe hoarding are more common in middle to old age, usually coupled with a secondary issue like depression or anxiety. You may have gone through devastating life events that made you stop caring about cleanliness. With all of the difficulties happening in the world right now, it’s understandable that you might be depressed. Just remember that you’re not alone. Reach out for help, and try to remind yourself of the times in the past where you were happy. If it happened once, it can happen again.
One of the questions doctors use to diagnose people with hoarding disorder is to show them several objects they would consider buying in the store. They are asked to pose the question, “Do I really need this right now?” before they put it in their cart. For a lot of us, that question pops up naturally in our heads when we are shopping. But for anyone who is on the road to becoming a hoarder, that’s totally absent from their thinking process, and they need practice to make it stick.
Earlier, we gave the example of buying things on clearance. Ask yourself if you really need that clothing, if it fits, or if you have the space for it. If any of those answers are “no”, you need to turn it away. Also ask yourself if you have the free cash to pay for it, or if the purchase would only be making your financial situation worse by creating more debt on a credit card. Try to only purchase items that you absolutely need. This will help you save money, and it also makes a home a much cleaner space.
People who become hoarders often have a lot of anxiety over getting rid of something. They are afraid that someday, they will look back and realize that they made a mistake by throwing something away or donating. These people do not like the idea of having to buy something that they used to have in the past, because it would be a waste of money. In some cases, this might make a lot of sense. Even if you do not use something regularly, you still may want to keep it for the future. For example, maybe you don’t always use your luggage, but it’s expensive to buy at the store. So it makes sense to hold on to a suitcase for years.
However, people with hoarder tendencies have an irrational fear of getting rid of things that they do not actually need to hold onto. Many of these items that clutter their house are readily available at the nearest Dollar Tree. So even if they were donated or thrown away, it should be easy to replace. If you feel a lot of anxiety over getting rid of things, ask yourself why you feel this way. Are your worries founded in fact, or are they somehow irrational?
Not everyone needs to be a clean freak. It’s only human to allow little messes to pile up from time to time. However, there is a major difference between someone who knows how to take care of themselves versus someone who is always very cluttered and their living space. We all know someone who is like this. Maybe now, it is not as bad as what you see on the Hoarders TV show. But if someone is already a very messy person, all it may take is a difficult time in their life where they feel a lot of depression for them to go over the edge into full-on hoarding mode.
If you know that you already have a tendency to keep a messy house, try to change that habit. Instead of seeing it as a huge chore, remind yourself how wonderful you feel when everything is clean. Put on some good music, an audiobook, or podcast, and get to tidying. This is very similar to working out. At first, you might dread doing it, but you will eventually love doing it. Once you have incorporated cleaning into your life, it becomes very easy to keep up with.
18. Parents and Grandparents Plan to Leave You A Lot Of Stuff
Some people might go their entire lives without owning a lot of things, and all it takes is one inheritance to change that. If your parents or grandparents pass away, it becomes your responsibility to take care of their personal belongings. You might even inherit an entire household full of things. Sometimes, people are so fed up with all of the old stuff, that they just want it all in the trash. But others feel very sentimental, and they want to hold on to the things that matter to their parents or grandparents. This is the beginning of hoarding for a lot of people. They feel as though getting rid of these things betrays the memory of their loved ones. Remind yourself that these objects are not one the same thing as your relative. Ask yourself this question: Would he or she want you to be burdened with their stuff? Most likely, the answer is “no”.
The healthiest thing to do is to go through the items that your relatives left behind, and find what you can genuinely use in your day-to-day life. For example, maybe your grandma was an amazing cook, and she left you expensive Le Creuset cookware. Now, every time you cook, you can think of her. It’s okay to search for the value of their objects on eBay, in case you might think they could be worth something. But at the end of the day, you should only hold on to the things that are the most valuable, and be realistic with yourself about the things that you do not have space for. The memories that you have associated with those objects are still going to be there even if you donate them to the thrift store.
In today’s world, there is a big realization that we need to recycle and reuse more things. On Pinterest, you will see plenty of “Up-cycling” tutorials on how you can reuse things in your home instead of tossing them out. While this is great for the planet, some people take it to the extreme. On almost any episode of Hoarders, you may see people holding onto plastic cups and containers because they believe that someday, they will use it for something. Some of the people even claim that they could turn those items into crafts and sell them.
One of the most commonly hoarded plastics in people’s homes are leftover plastic food containers. Unless you are giving away your leftovers on a daily basis, the likelihood that you will actually use all of these containers is slim to none. On top of that, the more those plastic containers are reused and heated in the microwave, the less healthy it is for you. While you should try to not be wasteful, it is probably a good idea to just put those containers in the recycling bin. In the worst-case scenario, and you find yourself needing to give away leftovers, you could go to your nearest Dollar Tree and get a few containers for one dollar.
Anyone who struggles with their weight can understand the frustration of finding clothes to wear while you are losing and gaining weight. Some people hold on to their old clothes because they hope that someday, they will be able to fit into them again. If you have ever seen the Netflix series “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”, you will already know that clothes are one of the most common things that people hoard in their homes. On the show, we see some people filling multiple closets in their house with clothes, even though they never actually wear them.
As Marie Kondo says, you should only keep clothes that spark joy. It is okay to hold on to some of your clothing from your past in case we lose weight, but do not keep an entire closet full of things that do not fit. In fact, if you actually do lose weight some day, you will probably be so happy that you want to treat yourself to a new wardrobe. Take all of your clothes and put them into a pile on your bed. Then, go piece by piece and figure out what should be kept, donated, or thrown away. Once you go through this process, you may be reminded of a clothing item you forgot existed, but want to fit into again. This could potentially help motivate you to lose weight.
Suffering from depression makes even the simplest daily tasks hard for someone to accomplish. It may be a triumph just for them to get out of bed and brush their teeth. So the idea of keeping their house tidy is almost impossible for them. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest reasons why people eventually become a hoarder. They do not feel motivated to clean, and this snowballs to get worse over time. Eventually, their home is so messy, they are ashamed to show other people. And when they are ashamed to have people over their house, it makes them feel worse about themselves and their situation.
Isolating yourself from other people only makes depression worse. As the hoarding gets worse, you may feel too embaressed to admit to other people that you have a problem, for fear of confronting the issues that you are having. If this sounds like your lifestyle, you should consider getting help. Just by going to therapy, and possibly getting on medication, you may be able to realize the patterns of your behavior and how they affect your living situation. It is best to get help before it escalates into a bigger problem later down the line,
Anyone who has lived as a broke college student can probably relate to the fear of running out of food. (At least, this is true for someone without a meal plan.) This is probably why there is a new trend in awareness of people meal prepping and budgeting for food. We are afraid that someday, an emergency would happen, and we would have nothing left to eat. This fear can sometimes lead to obesity, because our innate human reaction to survive lean times is to eat more and store fat.
There is also a growing number of Doomsday Preppers in the United States. With all of this fear, it has become more common than ever before for people to stock up on canned and boxed food in their house. Sadly, when people hoard so much food, a lot of that ends up going bad before it can be eaten. If you tend to hoard food, try to practice using up some of the food that is going to expire soon. By actually cooking these things, you will begin to see just how long you could survive with what you already have in your cabinets. It should ease your anxiety to know that you will be okay. And in the worse case scenario, you could just go to the Dollar Tree or ask a friend to have you over for dinner. In America, there should be no need to hoard food.
Pretty much everyone has a junk drawer in their house, but others have an entire junk room. For some people, this might be their garage. Or, it could be an unused bedroom. As the years go on, you might even forget what is in the room. For most people, even opening the door to their junk room gives them some kind of anxiety. They are afraid to look through the objects, and yet they do not want to get rid of them at the same time.
If this describes you, try to make this something fun. When you go through a lot of your old items, you might find things that you completely forgot about but you would love to start using in your daily life. That can feel like an unexpected surprise and it is a great feeling to have. Or, you might start to feel some nostalgia about the memories attached to an item. Conversely, you will find something where you think, “why the heck did I told on to this?!” These are all positive experiences. As you go along, consider boxing objects in clear storage bins, and use a label maker to make what goes in each box. If it seems too overwhelming to organize everything at once, remember that no one is forcing you to do a huge clean-out like what you see on TV. It’s totally okay to just do one hour at a time.
Some people who live with a partner tend to get used to the bad habit of not cleaning up after themselves. Yes, this is a very immature behavior, but there are some people that were simply raised to be this way. Their parents may have allowed them to continue to be messy and not worry about doing their own chores. Some of these people might go their entire lives and even marriages without having to clean up after themselves. As soon as they get a divorce, these people end up in a pile of their own filth, because they never learned how to clean properly.
If this sounds like you, we are not trying to make you feel bad. Your parents have actually done a disservice to you by not teaching you how to do your own laundry or cleaning. However, you should try to recognize if you are doing this early. It can damage your relationship with your partner. They are not your maid, and unless you’re living in your parent’s basement, they are most likely not your mother either. Every adult should have the responsibility to take care of themselves. Remind yourself that it is just as much for your own well-being as it is for everyone else around you.
Is it difficult for you to get from one room to another? Maybe there is too much furniture, an awkwardly place coffee table, a dog kennel, or something else that you need to squeeze through. It may be easy for you to get from room to room while you are young and able-bodied, but what would happen if there was an accident? If an EMT had to come and take you into the ambulance, would you be able to get out safely?
When you are young, you might not be thinking in terms of an emergency situation. And moving things around to get from room to room might have become normal to you, since you do it every day. But having a free space to walk becomes even more crucial once you get older. If you were to ever need to walk on crutches or go in a wheelchair, could you do that? Clean up the layout of your home before it is too late. Once you make mobility a priority in your home, you will begin to feel a lot better that you can walk from one room to another with ease.
Some people truly do not want to be wasteful, which is why they hold onto things. They do not want to contribute to sending their old objects to garbage dumps. This is an admirable mindset, but it is not always realistic to modern times. Years ago, household items and clothing were built to last a lifetime. Now, we might be lucky if we have something for five years. While you might feel guilty about throwing something away, you should not be holding on to junk that isn’t useful anymore. Sometimes, it really is possible to reuse old things (like cleaning a dirty pair of sneakers), but other times, it would be impossible to use something again, and it needs to be thrown away.
If sustainability is something that is important to you, invest in something that is more expensive, and a higher quality. For example, if you buy a Le Creuset frying pan, it will likely last the rest of your life. But if you constantly buy cheap frying pans from the dollar store that warp and become scratched with their non-stick coating, you cannot use it anymore. Same goes with clothing. Cheap items from places like H&M and Forever 21 can only be worn a few times before they are worthless. Buying cheap things will eventually create more waste as the years go on.
When some people get their first house, the new owners are very excited to have a garage. They decide to get bikes, kayaks, and all of these other things that they were never able to have in their childhood. But as the years go on, some people cannot even fit their cars in their garage anymore. In fact, this is one of the most common places where people hide their junk. Remind yourself that the purpose of a garage is to shelter your vehicle from the weather and keep it in good condition. It is not meant to be a junk collection site.
If you have a messy garage, you should take a weekend out of your spring or summer to go through the objects that are in there. There is a good reason why people have a “garage sale”! You might be able to get some money on Craigslist for the things you no longer use. Sometimes, it may not be necessary to get rid of everything, as long as your objects are well-organized. Consider investing in some stackable plastic shelving units that can go against the wall. There are also bike racks that can be hung on the wall. Once you are done this project, you will feel incredibly proud of your accomplishment.
One of the most commonly hoarded things are newspapers and magazines. Even in the digital age, some people still think that they might miss out on an important news story, a recipe, or a beautiful photograph in a magazine. Unfortunately, these paper goods piling up in your home become a huge fire hazard. All it takes is one spark from a cigarette, stove, or candle for everything to go up in flames.
In case you are not aware, pretty much every newspaper and magazine has digital editions of every single issue that has come out in their publication. This can be purchased through an online subscription, or it may even be free for you to find through programs like Kindle unlimited. Many libraries will also have backlogs of this information. So in reality, you should be able to go back and find the things that you are looking for without actually owning them in your home. Elderly people might struggle with finding this information on their own. So if you have a loved one who is hoarding magazines, try to help them get digital subscriptions.
One of the telltale signs that you are becoming a hoarder is if you do not want to have your friends over, because you are ashamed of where you live. Whenever you watch an episode of Hoarders, there is always a best friend or neighbor who exclaims, “I had no idea they lived this way!” This is because hoarders know deep down that their lifestyle is shameful, and they become very good at hiding it from the world. If you avoid having friends over, ask yourself why you are embarrassed of your own living space. Is it because you live in a poor neighborhood? Or is it because your house is too messy to have guests over? Maybe your house smells bad because you are allowing your pets to relieve themselves all over the place.
Whatever the reason may be, you do not have to live with so much fear and embarrassment. You deserve to have a full life, and that includes inviting people into your home. As you look at the objects around your house, ask yourself what is truly more important. Are those stacks of newspaper more valuable than a friendship? And if your house was clean, what sort of things would you enjoy doing? Try to feel pride in your home. Your surroundings are usually a reflection of how you feel inside. So if it’s a mess, you know that you need to work on something to make things better. Even if it takes a long time to clean up, it will truly be worth it in the end.
Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a collector. However, there is a huge difference between keeping a well-organized collection and a horde. For example, there may be someone who loves to collect baseball cards. They have a mountain of card boxes in their office because they just love to have these in their possession. In reality, there might only be a very small fraction of those cards that are actually valuable. It would make more sense to display the few cards that are truly special, instead of holding on to thousands of cards that do not have any monetary or sentimental value.
When you ask any collector what their favorite object is, they can usually point out one or two items that are near and dear to their heart. Remind yourself that the most important objects in your collections are the ones that bring you the most joy. Also ask yourself if there is a dream item that you would love to have in your collection, but you cannot afford. If it is possible, you may want to consider selling some of the things that you do not actually love as much, and use that money to buy one of your dream items. For example, maybe you could sell 5 items that are worth $10 each and use that money to get yourself a $50 item that you have denied yourself because you thought it was too expensive.
Okay, this next one is pretty gross. There are some people out there who do not seem to care if their dogs are cats go to the bathroom on the floor of their house. In the minds of some pet owners, this is “normal” for pets, since they are animals. Some people are so desensitized to it, that they will even take their time cleaning up peeps and poops when it happens. This is not okay. Even if you clean up urine from a floor, it will eventually leak down to the floorboards, which will destroy your floors over time, but it is likely that your house smells disgusting and you do not realize it. If you are a renter, you will most definitely lose your security deposit. And home owners will find it is almost impossible to sell their house later in life. Over time, our nose becomes desensitized to certain scents if we are exposed to it on a daily basis. So you might actually smell awful, and you are not even aware of it.
Parents should always be housebroken. Whether you have a dog or cat, they are always able to learn how to control themselves. Cats should always have a litter box sitting somewhere in the house, even if they are indoor-outdoor pets. Dogs usually do much better if they are on a schedule for their walks. If your dog is having an issue obeying your commands, consider going to a pet training school. Some people claim that they do not care if their pets go to the bathroom. But deep down, it must grate away at them to know that their home is filthy. Remind yourself that this is for your own well-being for you to get this under control. If your love your pets, you want them to live in a clean environment, too. So if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the doggo!
Have you started to notice that your friends do not enjoy going over your house? Every time you invite them over, do they quickly suggest that you go out shopping instead? This might be an indication that they do not feel comfortable going to your house. Unless they dislike someone you live with, it could be that your home is too messy for them to handle. More often than not, your friends will be too polite to let you know that this is the reason why they are declining your invitations. So you might go years without ever knowing that this was a problem.
If you suspect that this may be the truth, it is time for you to do some cleaning. And if you feel that you need some help with this situation, do not be afraid to ask your friends to come over to help you. Someone you know might actually enjoy cleaning and organizing and would be happy to help. However, do not treat them like a maid, and always be grateful for the time they give you. They are there to help you together as a team, and not as a worker. Always show your gratitude by taking them out to dinner, or doing something to help them in return.
A lot of people hold on to broken things believing that they will get it fixed someday. This may also be true with clothing that has become torn and ripped. They believe that maybe they will eventually pay someone to fix it, or watch a YouTube video to get it up and running again. Depending on what the object is, you might get the project done eventually. However, you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about that object. Are you really going to fix it, or are you just using this as an excuse to avoid throwing something away?
Do some research into finding out how much it would cost to repair each of the broken items that you are holding onto. For example, if you find out that it will take several hundred dollars to fix your lawn mower but it would only cost $100 to get a brand new one, it does not make sense to hold on to the broken machine. Once you do all of this cost analysis, the decision to keep or get rid of something should be much easier. One of the most commonly hoarded items are old cars. Since vehicles are such a huge investment, we don’t want to get rid of them. But it’s actually possible to recycle your car and get a few hundred dollars, no matter how bad the condition may be.
2. Convincing Yourself That Some Day, You Could Sell Something
On many of the episodes of Hoarders, a lot of people truly believe that the items they have in their homes are going to be useful in case they need to sell something for emergency cash. Before you make an assumption about these things you’re holding on to, you should do some research online to see how much these things are actually going for. For example, there are plenty of people out there who held onto their Beanie Baby collection because they thought they would be millionaires. But don’t always take these numbers you see on eBay at face value. Remember that just because someone lists an object for a lot of money does not necessarily mean that that is what it is actually worth. For example, I can list my old socks on eBay for a thousand dollars. Does that mean old socks that I bought for $3 are actually worth that kind of money? Of course not!
On eBay, you can search for items that have successfully sold in the past. Pay attention to how frequently these items are being sold. Can you only find one of these things that actually sold in the past year, despite the fact that there are 50 other people trying to sell it? Or is it the sort of thing that is selling once a day? This will give you a good indication of how valuable your item actually is. Also remember that it takes time to sell an item and to receive your money online. So this is not actually a very good plan to get some emergency cash anyway.
1. Believing Your Kids Might Need Your Stuff Some Day
Last and not least, many people become hoarders because they are convinced that their kids will eventually want to inherit their stuff someday. Most people do not even think about how their belongings will be handled once they die. A parent might have the best intentions in mind, especially if they are afraid that their child will not be able to afford to pay for certain things like mattresses, furniture, or baby items. Some people even think their belongings are “worth a fortune”, and their kids can use it as a sort of inheritance. Think about it this way: by holding on to things you plan to pass down to your kids, you are already assuming that your child is going to struggle with money as an adult. Why do you already have so much pessimism?
If your kids are already grown up, have an honest conversation with them before you secretly hold on to objects for years. Ask them if they want your hand-me-down furniture and collections. You may be unknowingly burdening your kids with additional expenses once you pass away, rather than helping them. When someone dies and their house is being sold, it takes weeks of cleaning, renting moving trucks, and so much more. It’s not fun. Once you have this conversation, you will know what items are actually appropriate to hold onto, and which ones are not. Remember that there are loads of thrift stores out there filled with furniture that has been previously used. Your kids are not going to miss holding on to your old couch or mattresses, and it would be far better to take care of things before it’s too late.