Helping a Hoarder Pack & Move
There’s been a lot of attention given to hoarding, especially now that there have been some primetime shows featuring this problem. For anyone not familiar with this issue, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Many of us tend to have some difficulty letting go of things or throwing them away, but hoarding takes that practice to the next level. Needless to say, this can make it incredibly hard to move. So today, we’re going over some tips that can help a hoarder move.
Understanding hoarding as a mental illness
At its most basic level, hoarding is characterized as having a difficulty with getting rid of old stuff. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA, says major anxiety often accompanies the thought of throwing something away. Depression, attention deficit disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder are also related conditions and can be found in a person who hoards.
Keep in mind that it’s normal for you to feel a little scared about getting rid of old stuff. This apprehension becomes hoarding when this starts getting in the way of your life. For example, the above ADAA article says that “a lack of functional living space is common among hoarders.” While it’s still not clear exactly what causes hoarding, there are some symptoms that the Mayoclinic.org lists as red flags.
Storing so much stuff in areas like kitchens or bathrooms that these rooms become impossible to use
Piling up garbage to the point it can endanger the health of those who live in the house
Keeping or collecting things which clearly have no use, like rotting trash
Hoarding to the point that it becomes socially isolating — for example people have been known to ‘disappear’ and stay in their homes for long periods of time
Feeling extreme, overwhelming anxiety at the thought of throwing away objects with no tangible value
You can view the full list here, but keep in mind this guide is not a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatment. If you think you or a loved one has this condition, please see a doctor. Do not diagnose yourself.
How to help a hoarder move
While again, this advice is not intended to replace the guidance of a trained professional, there are some things that can help a hoarder move.
Negotiate a middle ground — This blog post by the daughter of a compulsive hoarder says it’s best to figure out a way to compromise. Sometimes it can be impossible to convince a hoarder to throw things away before moving. So in those cases, the only option may be to find a compromise. Try suggesting a method to organize their possessions while reminding them that you are not throwing anything away without their permission. In some cases, you might have to suggest they use public storage to hold their items during a move. Keep in mind that may not be a great long-term solution, but sometimes it’s all that can be done.
Don’t force a hoarder to throw things away before moving — An xojane.com article chronicles what happens when someone tries to force hoarders to throw things away — it can backfire. In the case of the writer of this article, the person with the condition simply hid the thrown items and replaced them. Instead, talk to them and ask them why they are keeping each item. Collaboration rather than confrontation may be a better solution.
Suggest that they get help — The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has guidelines to staging an intervention that may come in handy for your loved one. Again, the emphasis is not on imposing your will on the person you suspect to have a hoarding disorder. Instead, try collaborating with them and suggest they seek assistance for hoarding before moving.
Don’t give up! Helping a person with a mental health problem requires patience
Like many things in life, the progress to recovering from a mental health problem is filled with bumps. Some progress can be made, followed by regression. Don’t lose patience. And remember, try to focus on the condition as the problem — not the person! It’s easier said than done, but this mindset can prevent you from taking the inevitable slights personally.
Also, Ferguson has helped people move in tricky scenarios — we might be able to help with a complicated moving situation, so give us a call at 604-922-2212. If we can’t help directly, we can always give a good referral.
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