Hoarding is a clinically recognized mental health condition. The world-renowned Mayo Clinic defines hoarding disorder as the persistent difficulty discarding or eliminating possessions. These can include items that have no value and may even otherwise qualify as garbage. A person afflicted with hoarding disorder experiences significant, even debilitating, distress at the thought of having to part with items.
As a result of hoarding disorder, excessive accumulation of items occurs. Over time, the sheer volume of these items impinges upon and ultimately eliminates the livable space in a residence.
If you’ve a person in your life who does meet the classification of a hoarder, that individual not only needs professional mental health intervention but he or she also requires assistance in physically eliminating the clutter of hoarded property. If you desire to assist a person in this type of situation, there are seven tips to employ to assist a hoarder declutter.
Listen without Judgment
The first step to consider taking if you want to help a hoarder declutter is to gently and non-judgmentally approach that individual and express your support and willingness to listen. Initially, you do not even need to direct attention in your conversation to the hoarding issue itself. The ultimate purpose of this initial step is to establish a direct rapport with a person struggling with hoarding and to let them know that you can be a trusted confident.
Gradually, you can ask generally questions about the state of that individual’s live and broach the subject of the number of items that person appears to be accumulating. You must be patient and this is not the time to pass any type of judgment on the hoarder. This remains a time for listening.
Suggest Multifaceted Assistance
Properly communicating with a hoarder is vital. The importance of remaining nonjudgmental throughout this process cannot be underemphasized. Once you feel you’ve established a rapport with your hoarding loved one, once you feel that the individual has at least a decent amount of trust in you, suggest the possibility that the person might benefit from certain types of assistance.
In reality, a hoarder needs help along two general courses. First, he or she needs professional therapy. Second, an individual in this position needs practical assistance to aid in decluttering and eliminating the hoard.
You must keep in mind that many, if not most, hoarders do not initially perceive that they have a problem. Indeed, a person with hoarding disorder is likely to think he or she is doing what is proper, doing what is necessary, in accumulating items. Such an individual may be inclined to got to fairly significant lengths to protect a hoard, including becoming combative.
The key is to remain patient and never push the hoarder and demand that items be eliminated immediately. A proper strategy is to suggest that getting rid of some items in the residence will make it more livable for the hoarder. For example, if the kitchen is filled with items (as often happens), reducing the hoard can free up appliances. The same holds true for the bedroom and bathroom. Eliminating items from these areas allow a person suffering from hoarding disorder the ability to begin having a more comfortable, balanced – normal – life.
Develop a Plan of Action with the Hoarder
Another important tip to bear in mind when helping a hoarder declutter is to get that person to buy into the process as much as possible. At the heart of that objective is developing a plan of action with the hoarder, an action plan the hoarder has ownership in creating.
At the heart of the plan is the establishment of specific criteria pertaining to what items will be kept and what items will be discarded. The action plan also needs to delineate the manner in which the discarding process will operate.
For example, when items are initially selected for elimination, they can be placed and kept in a staging are for an agreed period of time. Taking this interim approach gives a hoarder the comfort of knowing that if he or she has second thoughts about a particular item, it is not going to be immediately irretrievably gone.
Ease into the Declutter Process
Your initial inclination may be to dive into the declutter process and get moving quickly. That is a natural inclination – for you. However, taking such an approach with a person with hoarding disorder may derail the declutter process all together. Bear in mind that a person did not become a hoarder overnight. A hoard typically did not develop in a short period of time.
Decluttering a hoard is something that by definition cannot be undertaken with the bat of an eye. It is a deliberate process that must recognize the feelings of the hoarder his or her self.
Let the Hoarder be the Ultimate Decision Maker
Reference to the hoarder having a sense of ownership over the declutter process cannot be understated. Indeed, it is so important that it bears repeating here as its own, separate tip.
When it comes to the pace of the declutter process, when it comes to what items will be eliminated and how, when it comes to any aspect of helping a hoarder eliminate property and restore order, the hoarder is the decision maker – period. The only exception is in a situation in which a person has become physically or mentally incapacitated to the point of lacking the ability to understand what is going on around him or her.
Don’t Hesitate to Obtain Professional Assistance
You do not need to take the burden of hoarder cleanup up on your own shoulders. There experienced, compassionate professionals that can assist you and a hoarder in cleaning up and decluttering. Such a professional understands the tactics and strategies that need to be followed to accomplish the objective of decluttering and cleaning up a hoard.
Implement Strategies to Prevent Accumulation and Clutter in the Future
Finally, in the absence of a specific strategy to prevent accumulation and clutter in the future, a majority of people with hoarding disorder will start hoarding again. As a result, implementing specific strategies to prevent an over-accumulation of items in the future is vital.
These strategies include ongoing support from a mental health professional. They also include practical strategies like eliminating items that have not been used in the past year.
By following these tips, you will be able to provide meaningful and ultimately effective assistance to a hoarder. You will be in the best position to see positive results when it comes to helping a hoarder declutter – and stay clutter free into the future.
Images: Help a Hoarder