1. New stuff in, no old stuff out
It’s not uncommon for most of us to bring new items into our homes when we spot a good bargain, but some 75% of hoarders buy to excess – to the point where there’s literally no more space in their homes for their stuff. They find it impossible to part with what they have, so their new stuff merely gets added to their old stuff.
2. The clutter is a disorganized mess
Messy people tend to have various piles of mess scattered liberally throughout their homes, but they usually know where important things are, and occasionally sort through their piles before they let things get out of control. When it comes to a hoarder’s clutter, there’s no sense to its organization. What’s more is that the ever-increasing amount of clutter in a hoarder’s home makes sorting through it an almost insurmountable task.
3. Braking at the sight of a garage sale sign
Garages sales are to hoarders what shots of their favorite booze are to alcoholics. They get a high when they see a sign for one, and it intensifies as they buy each object, justifying their need to make their unnecessary purchases as they go. Freebies are the ultimate buzz for hoarders, with some 50% of them acquiring free things to excess.
4. Hanging on to worthless items
Things such as broken Christmas ornaments, old magazines, and clothes are garbage to the normal person, but to the hoarder, they’re still things of value. They think that their old magazines might worth a lot one day, or that tossing a given item out because it was Mom’s would result in unbearable sadness and guilt.
5. Telling themselves that they’ll use it one day
Hoarders tell themselves that it’ll be much more worthwhile to hang on to, say, a food processor with a broken motor rather than go out and buy themselves a new one, when it’s obvious that getting a new one would be more efficient and cost-effective. They minimize what it would take in terms of time and money to transform something broken into something useful.
6. Getting defensive when being nagged about the mess
Prone to anger and irrationality to cover their internal guilt and shame, hoarders tend to become overwhelmingly defensive when those that are allowed to see their messes tell them to do something about it.
7. Their homes are a no-entertainment, no-socializing zone
As a general rule, hoarders are averse to having people in their homes. In addition to being embarrassed at the predicament they find themselves in, some 25% of them also suffer from social anxiety, meaning that entertaining from their homes would be painful regardless.
How to approach a loved one you suspect is a hoarder
Take the following steps if you feel that you or a loved one is a hoarder:
• Go to ocfoundation.org to get more information
• Read Buried in Treasures, a self-help book by Sketekee, Randy Frost and David Tolin
• Seek professional help if you have a mess that’s creating distress. Cognitive behavioral therapy seems to work best in this regard