Understanding Hoarding and How to Help

by Fast eddys Monday June 24th 2019

Understanding Hoarding and How to Help-ho-001

Genuine Hoarder behaviour is often confused with hoarding tendencies yet there is a considerable difference between stocking up or saving and with hoarding.

If you have a family member or friend who finds the need to collect items having no value and becomes distraught at discarding items, then perhaps they have a hoarding disorder.

To support a hoarder gain control over his or her life, here are steps you can take to encourage them to clean up their property.

Overview of Hoarding Disorder

Unlike someone who is a collector of objects recognised as ‘collectables’ with an accepted value, a person with a hoarding disorder collects an excessive amount of items, taking over their home.

According to American Psychiatric Association, hoarding disorder “is characterised by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions.”      Hoarders are often characterised as being lazy or stubbornly attached to their possessions but psychologist Randy Frost of Smith College states there are people who have hoarding tenancies and others who genetically pre-disposed to hoarding.     The hoarding tendency often starts in adolescence and only continues to worsen as the person gets older according to https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/conditions/hoarding-disorder          

Results of Hoarding Disorder

The effect of this disorder on both the hoarder and their family and friends is one of growing conflict with others.

As a hoarder loses the ability to maintain a safe and healthy place, spaces gradually become unusable. As a result, hoarders can find that they grow more socially isolated, as their home becomes increasingly uncomfortable for visitors.

Steps to Assist a Hoarder Take Control of Home and Life

Seek the help of an experienced therapist. Coming to an understanding of their hoarding disorder is a powerful step for both you and your family member or friend.

Reach Out and Listen to a Hoarder without Judgement. Be careful to listen without judgement as gaining a hoarder’s trust is fundamental; this will enable you to make suggestions about their situation and the steps they may take.

As with Hoarding itself, helping a hoarder will take time and resolving the situation will not happen immediately.

Engage professionals that can facilitate both you and the hoarder develop an action plan.

  • Professional hoarder property clean-up specialist or organiser
  • help from other family or friends
  • A professional Rubbish removal company

Gradually Start the Clean-out Process

When first embarking on the clean-out process, create a staging area where unwanted items can be sorted and then stored. This will aid the hoarder in feeling comfortable with permanently removing items from their property.

We asked Jane Wilson from Fantastic Cleaners in Melbourne what advice she can to offer to those who wish to help their friends or loved ones who suffer from hoarding.


Clearing a hoarders house is not as easy as just picking up things and throwing them away. It’s a complex process that may take time and even counseling. There are a few things you can do to help your friend with this process:

  1. Provide a listening ear and respond to their requests for help. Don’t leave the hoarder to deal with his or her problems alone. Show moral support by going along with the person for a session or two.
  2. Help them take small steps towards recovery. Once the therapy has begun, they may ask the person to accomplish different tasks between sessions, such as clearing out a closet or cleaning out a corner of a room. On this stage of therapy, you can help your hoarder friend by offering to hold the box or bag the items will be collected in.
  3. Expect setbacks and be patient. On a bright day, a hoarder may be capable to clean-out an entire closet, but on the next day they may be incapable to get rid of anything.

What is the best way to start cleaning out a house?

Some professionals advise cleaning out one room at a time. This is helpful in 2 ways. Its easy to manage and not seem so daunting for the hoarder and they can see the benefits of having a clean home and access to more of the residence.

Jane recommends the following Steps

  1. Replace the habit of hoarding with the habit of organising. It’s good to start from something small, like for instance, making the decision to throw away papers after a week, or spending some time each day cleaning different parts of the house.
  2. Implementing clear rules also helps. For instance, you can make it a rule to keep the kitchen table and chairs free of clutter. Then when you get used to that, you can move to other spaces, like a closet or a very messy cupboard. Make it a task to clean the clutter from that space and commit to keeping it clean.
  3. A good method to start is something I like to call “The three boxes rule”.

Place 3 boxes in the room you’re clearing out, and label them Keep, Donate and Discard.

Then start by picking items from the room and place them in one of the three boxes. Some items could be truly important to the person, like family heirlooms and other valuable item but they could donate other items, which is always a good thing to do and provides people with a sense of accomplishment.

Jane also recommends seeking advice from community organisations like anxietyaustralia

Joe Simmons runs a Professional Organiser Service and has helped people with hoarder disorder and offers this advice.

"I have seen hoarders take items out of skip bins and rubbish piles, putting these items back in their homes. Easing distress in the hoarder is paramount.

Using a professional Rubbish removal company ensures that the items can be removed quickly and disposed of properly. This means you can be with the hoarder, reassuring them its ok and make them comfortable with removing the items. 

Some professional Rubbish Removal Companies will take items to charity shops and items that can be recycled to the recycle centres. This too may be of comfort to ;the hoarder in this stressful time."

Other Resources to Help You Help a Hoarder

There are many support services to assist hoarders, their family members and friends in addressing a hoarding situation.

  • Support groups for family members of hoarders
  • Mental health professionals to work with a hoarder for example
  • Adult or Child Protective Services
  • Animal welfare organisations (if pet hoarding is an issue)

We would like to thank Jane for her contribution to this article

Jane Wilson

Head of Marketing for Fantastic Cleaners Melbourne

www.fantasticcleaners.com.au/melbourne/ | facebook | instagram.com


At Fast eddys, we can  provide a discrete Hoarder & Deceased Estates Clean-out Service.

We clean-out your home, garage, shed and back yard. Our team are sensitive to your needs and can Clean Up your Property In A Polite & Respectful, Confidential Manner With Minimal Fuss.


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