What is the Difference Between Hoarding and Just Being Messy?

Life can get busy. Sometimes between work, school and kids we don’t always have the time keep our house as tidy as we’d like. When you look around it can seem like our tornado of a home would be a good contender for the reality TV show, Hoarders. However, there are some distinct differences between hoarding and having a messy home. 

What is Hoarding?

The first thing to clear up is that hoarding is a disorder. People will have an ongoing difficulty throwing things away or parting with possessions because they believe you need to save them. Hoarding disorder can be developed after someone experiences a traumatic life event that they have trouble coping with. This could be the death of a loved one, loss of a job or losing possessions in a fire. Hoarding can be a way to cope with these feelings of anxiety or depression while the root of the issue still lingers. 

Hoarding vs. Clutter

So we know why people develop a hoarding disorder, but let’s talk about where the line of clutter vs hoarding is drawn. Hoarding will disrupt the daily function of a person’s life. Such as creating a restricted living space where only small pathways in piles of clutter are used to get around. Spaces with intended uses are often covered and unusable—such as a kitchen stove being piled with mail that you can no longer cook or the bathtub filled with dirty clothes that you can no longer use the shower.

| What is the Difference Between Hoarding and Just Being Messy?
| What is the Difference Between Hoarding and Just Being Messy?


Some symptoms of hoarding can include the following: 

  • Problems with planning and organizing
  • Getting and keeping too many items that you do not have a use or space for
  • Difficulty throwing things away, regardless of their value or condition
  • Clutter piling up so that you can no longer use a room 

If you find yourself saving things, reflect on why you want to save that item. Most hoarders save things for the following reasons: 

  • You think you will need these items in the future
  • The item reminds you of a happier time, person or pet
  • You believe an item is unique and won’t be able to find it again
  • You are most comfortable surrounded by things
  • You don’t want to be wasteful

Often, this can result in a house that has an unsanitary amount of trash, piles of things like clothes or newspapers and unsafe living conditions for occupants and pets. 

Hoarding Vs. Collecting

Hoarding disorder is different from collecting because collecting is the process of carefully selecting items to display in an organized fashion. Collections can be large but they will not cause any difficulty in functioning or safety hazards.

How To Talk to A Hoarder

If you know someone who may be showing early signs of hoarding disorder and want to help, it’s important to be respectful and go slow. Some hoarder intervention tips include:

  • Not pressuring them to let you into their space
  • Use respectful language. Do not refer to their possessions as junk or trash
  • Include them in any calls to the authorities. Including them in this process will make them more likely to accept help. You should only call authorities without their permission if they are in serious danger.

If you or a loved one want more information on hoarding solutions and need professionals to help, contact Aftertime-Bio to discuss services and solutions.

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