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From the Desk of an Organizer

5 Reasons Why People Hoard

"It's not about the stuff--it's about the emotion behind the stuff."  
-Kiera Rain, Bay Area Professional Organizer

5 Reasons People Hoard
by Kiera Rain, Bay Area Professional Organizer

I grew up with hoarding on both sides of my family. My dad and stepmom's house was quite the sight. People would frequently come up to our house and think we were having a yard sale. "Nope, it's just like this," we'd have to say, sending them on their way after they'd ask, "How much for this?"

I've lived with/visited/worked with a wide array of different hoarders--A) those who you can tell are obviously hoarding from the outside, like my dad and stepmom as an example B) those who have immaculate front rooms and you would never guess all their back rooms are stuffed full C) those who hide their hoarding in secret from their spouses in off-site storage facilities D) those who call me because they are ready for change and to make a difference in their home, health and relationships E) family/friends of hoarders who call me because they are concerned about their loved one's upcoming eviction, divorce, family severance, etc due to the hoarding--where the hoarder is forced to take action.

When I come into a hoarder's life, I see things very differently than the average person because I grew up with it, experienced it, and understand it first hand. I tell people, it's like going to the surgeon--of course you're going to be nervous, anxious and embarrassed that you're lying their naked on the slab with your guts and glory showing, worried about the process and how it's all going to turn out. But the surgeon doesn't care what you look like, he cares about how to help you. He's not going to react to a naked body, he's seen it all before, he's numb to the sight of blood and guts.
He's there to help. And so am I.

5 Reasons Why People Hoard

People hoard to fill emotional voids. It's not about the stuff--it's about what's going on with them on a personal level. Here are the 5 reasons why people hoard:
1) Loneliness.  Hoarders surround themselves with things to fill the empty space around them so they don't feel as isolated. Stand in an empty, quiet room and then stand in a room full of furniture with a chiming clock, interesting knick knacks, pictures and books, and you'll FEEL the difference of the space. Unfortunately, instead of making the home warm, inviting and cozy, the home becomes so crowded it becomes a non-functioning space. People can't sit on the couches, people aren't invited over because of the embarrassment of the mess, friends and family threaten to stop coming over until the hoarder cleans up their space, etc. I help clients take back their space while making it warm and inviting again. 

2) Impoverished.  For those who grew up in the Depression Days, poverty, had "penny pinching parents," etc, buying things can be very powerful therapy. Until the retail shopping causes more damage than good. These type of hoarders love to bargain shop, buy in bulk, and always have multiples of everything.

3) Grief/Loss.  This is probably the biggest reason why people hoard. Has the hoarder lost someone very close to them--a parent, partner, child, even a family pet? Doesn't have to be death--divorce, job loss, retirement and more are all reasons to grieve. Grief is a very serious transition that we must all go through, and some people resort to trying to cope via hoarding. They try to fill the void in their lives, fill the empty space around them, shop for retail therapy to lift their spirits, and hold on to everything they have of the deceased loved one.

4) Memory.  Many hoarders feel they need to keep things so they don't forget about someone or a special event. They feel they will forget the person or occurrence if they don't have the item to remind them. I give suggestions like taking pictures of the items to keep in the "Memory Box/Treasure Trunk" and donating the items to a good home where they will be used, loved and appreciated.
I also suggest hugging that favorite old t-shirt goodbye before donating it to a good home to ease the transition process, and I also recommend calling the person you've been missing and have a long catch-up conversation. If they've passed on, write the deceased a letter or talk to them in your own special way.

5) Rescue Mentality, Commonly from Abuse/Neglect.  People will also hoard when they've been abused/neglected. Because they were rejected and tossed aside and not taken care of, they rescue items in an effort to rescue themselves. They don't want to see things go in the landfill, never to be used or cherished. They "might need it one day," so they hold onto it. I help clients see that instead of that cup sitting in a corner collecting dust for 6 years, they can donate the cup and give it a good home. The cup is not serving it's purpose if it's not being used/cherished/valued so give it a chance to be useful. 

The Before & After Pictures above and below are from one of my clients I had last week. Things were jam-packed into the room, almost touching the ceiling, with no walk-way, no way to get to the window or closet, no possibility of opening/closing the door, and couldn't even see that there was a bed in the room. Once we followed the Organizing Process, we were able to "gut" the room and sort like items together in another room, recycling/donating as we went along. Simply putting like-items neatly together (step 2 out of a 4 step process) saved a ton of space instead of just throwing everything in the room.

Copyright © 2013 Bay Area Professional Organizer

Kiera Rain
Bay Area Professional Organizer

Call for a Free Phone Consultation: 415-786-8266
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1 Comment to 5 Reasons Why People Hoard:

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Andrea on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 9:19 AM
Such a good article Kiera. Very informative. I'm the opposite of a hoarder but have some things that could go :). I love your idea of taking pictures of items and then giving them away! Hope all is well Andrea
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