In recent years, the problem of hoarding has got a lot of media attention, primarily because of the popularity of reality TV shows that document the problem, as well as the suffering of the hoarders themselves. If you are concerned that someone you know may be a hoarder, confrontation can be a first step in helping him or her regain control over his or hear life.
Here are some ideas for constructively and effectively confronting a hoarder:
Hoarding vs Messiness
Obviously, before you confront someone over their hoarding, it’s important to make sure that he or she is actually a hoarder and not just someone whose standards of neatness conflict with yours. There are many people who live comfortably, safely, and happily in homes that are moderately dusty and cluttered. The problem is when the clutter in a home renders it no longer functional and presents a danger to both the people who live there and to those living nearby.
When considering whether a person has a hoarding problem or is just messy, think about the impact that the mess has on the person who is living in it. Is the person unable to use appliances, sleep in his or her own bed or cook because of the mess? Is there a problem with bugs or rodents? Is there a foul odor in the home? Are animals or humans living in the home suffering?
This quiz can be helpful in determining whether someone you care about is a hoarder or who is simply takes a more casual attitude toward housekeeping.
Identify Resources First
Before confronting a loved one over their hoarding, be prepared to offer him or her practical assistance in getting the problem under control. If you can give the hoarder information about resources, he or she may be more likely to listen to what you have to say and agree to a recovery plan:
- Mental health centers in your community might be able to offer support and referrals to professionals who specialize in treating the causes of hoarding behavior. If an individual is elderly, elder services agencies can also help.
- Some professional cleaning services specialize in hoarder homes; Contact a few to find out about prices and policies. If the home itself is damaged, you may also have to get in touch with contractors that can make repairs.
- If you are dealing with an animal hoarder, contact the animal welfare department in your area. They are typically better equipped than other agencies to deal with the problem of hoarded animals.
Regardless of your own feelings about your loved one’s living situation, it’s important to keep negative thoughts to yourself and to center your discussion on the welfare of the hoarder. Explain that you are concerned for him or her and that you believe that the situation is dangerous. Acknowledge that there may be some factors that you don’t know about and be sure to listen to what the hoarder has to say. Present the resources that you’ve found and offer to help the hoarder work out a plan of action.
Hoarding behavior doesn’t start up overnight and won’t end overnight. Your loved one will probably need a combination of services to address the problem, including therapy, housecleaning services and medical interventions. When possible, and if invited to do so, work with the professionals who are helping your friend as a way of providing both support and accountability that can help keep your friend on the road to recovery.