How to Help a Hoarder

  • A happy older man smiles while standing in his organized home.
Looking in from the outside, hoarding may seem like an easy problem to solve. Simply get a Dumpster and spend a few days clearing everything out. Once the clutter is gone, the problem is solved.

But that’s sort of like throwing away an alcoholic’s empty bottles and declaring the person healed. The reality is that all you’ve done is gotten rid of the evidence of the problem. You haven’t actually fixed anything.

Hoarding isn’t just a bad habit. It’s an actual psychiatric disorder that is diagnosed using specific criteria. People who suffer from it need help—not a cleaning service.

Hoarding Treatment—Laying the Groundwork

The first step in treating hoarding is for the hoarder—and his or her family—to get educated about the condition.

Contrary to the perception given by some popular television shows, hoarding can’t be fixed in a week. It will take patience, effort, and professional help to get a handle on the condition.

Therapy for Hoarding

The cornerstone of any treatment is therapy. One of the most common—and effective—types of treatment for hoarding is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

In a nutshell, CBT teaches you how to recognize unhelpful patterns of thinking and reacting, and modify or replace these habits with more realistic or helpful ways of thinking.

Hoarders often develop strong emotional connections to objects, which makes it agonizing to part with them. CBT can help interrupt those negative thoughts.

Let’s say that someone is asked to get rid of a stack of magazines that’s cluttering a kitchen counter—and dangerously close to the gas cooktop. Her first thought might be to wonder if there’s an article she hasn’t read yet or if there’s a good recipe she might be throwing away. She becomes anxious about these thoughts, completely oblivious to how dangerous that stack of magazines might become if they catch fire from the stove.

CBT training would teach her to replace those thoughts (and the anxiety they produce) with more productive thinking. For example, she might tell herself that if she really needed one of those magazines again she’d be able to find the content online or at the library.

How Self Storage Can Help

Simply moving all of a person’s stuff to a self-storage unit doesn’t solve anything. That’s because hoarding is a disorder that must be treated—not just a clutter problem.

At the same time, self-storage can serve as a valuable tool as a family begins the process of getting a house—and a loved one’s life—under control.

Let’s say, for example, that your uncle’s home is full of old books that make it hard for him to go about his daily life. You know it will take time to sort through all of them to see which ones might have value, but you also have to get them out of your uncle’s way. Self-storage can buy you the time you need—and it will also probably help your uncle to know that all of his things won’t simply be thrown away.

Renting a self-storage unit for a month or two is probably more affordable than you think—and doesn’t require any long-term commitments.

At StorageMart, you can rent a climate-controlled self-storage unit as small as 25 square feet or so or as big as a garage. Check out our storage unit guide or rent a unit online today.

About Sarah Little

Sarah Little, Marketing Director at StorageMart, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration. She serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Association, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the lives of children.

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