help hoarding disorder

Is a loved one affected by a hoarding disorder?

If you have a friend or a family member who struggles and needs help with a hoarding disorder, you may feel frustrated, helpless, or worried about their well-being. A hoarding disorder is a mental health condition that involves ongoing difficulty throwing away or parting with possessions, leading to severe clutter and a risk to safety. People affected by it may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of their items and may have problems with organization, decision-making, and problem-solving.

A hoarding disorder can interfere with a person’s quality of life in many ways. It can cause stress and shame in their social, family, and work lives. It can also create unhealthy and unsafe living conditions, such as fire hazards, poor hygiene, infestations, and injuries. Hoarding disorders can also affect the people who live with or care for the person who hoards.

If you want to help someone with a hoarding disorder, you need to approach them with compassion and respect. Here are some tips on how to do that:

How you can help

Educate yourself about hoarding disorders. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hoarding disorder. This will help you understand the person’s perspective and challenges better. You can find reliable information from reputable sources, such as the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic. For example, you can learn that hoarding disorder often begins during adolescence and gradually worsens with age, causing significant issues by the mid-30s. You can also learn that hoarding disorders are not the same as collecting items and that people with hoarding disorders have a strong emotional attachment to their possessions.

Avoid criticizing, judging, or shaming the person.

People with a  hoarding disorder may feel embarrassed or defensive about their situation. They may also have low self-esteem and feel isolated or misunderstood. Criticizing, judging, or shaming them will only make them feel worse and less likely to trust you or accept your help. For example, you should not say things like “Your house is a mess” “You are being selfish” or “You need to get rid of this junk”. Instead, you should use supportive and respectful language, such as “I’m concerned about your health and safety” “You have a lot of valuable skills and talents” or “You have the right to make your own decisions”.

Express your concern and empathy.

Let the person know that you care about them and their well-being. Acknowledge their feelings and emotions without dismissing or minimizing them. For example, you can say “I know this is hard for you” or “I can see that you are attached to these items”. You can also show your support by listening to them, validating their feelings, and being respectful of their choices. Research shows that empathy and validation are key factors in building trust and rapport with people who hoard.

Offer your support and assistance.

Ask the person if they would like your help with anything, such as sorting, organizing, or discarding some of their items. Respect their wishes and boundaries, and do not force them to do anything they are not comfortable with. You can also offer to help them find professional help, such as a therapist who specializes in hoarding disorders. For example, you can say “I’m here to help you if you want me to” or “Would you like me to look for some therapists who can help you with this issue?”. However, you should also be prepared for possible resistance or refusal from the person who hoards, as they may not be ready or willing to change their behavior.

Encourage them to seek treatment.

The main treatment for hoarding disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a skills-based approach to therapy that helps people learn how to better manage their beliefs and behaviors that are linked to keeping the clutter. CBT can help people with hoarding disorders overcome their fears of discarding items, improve their organizational skills, cope with negative emotions, and increase their motivation to change. You can suggest that the person talks to their doctor or a mental health professional about CBT or other treatment options. For example, you can say “I think it would be helpful for you to talk to someone who understands what you are going through” or “There are treatments that can help you with this problem”. You can also provide them with some information or resources on how to find a qualified therapist who has experience in treating hoarding disorder.

Be patient and realistic.

Helping someone with a hoarding disorder can be a long and challenging process. Do not expect quick or easy solutions, and do not pressure the person to change faster than they are ready to. Celebrate small successes and progress along the way, and remind the person of their strengths and achievements. For example, you can say “You did a great job sorting out those books” or “I’m proud of you for taking this step”. You should also be aware of the possible relapses or setbacks that may occur, and support the person through them without blaming or criticizing them.


1st Hoarding Clean Up specializes in providing help to those affected by a hoarding disorder by decluttering, organizing, and cleaning hoarded homes. Whether it be through extreme cleaning, odour neutralization, or even the preparation of your home for sale, we offer the best hoarding cleanup service in British Columbia. Contact us today and request a free consultation.

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