Many people love to keep stuff. Whether its old school records, great Granddad’s war medals, model trains, beer
coasters or clothes that are long out of fashion, we all struggle at times to know what is important to keep and what is simply stuff taking up valuable
space. Garages, wardrobes, spare rooms and sheds are commonly housing many Justins (just in case), Rons (for later on) and the widely popular But (but I might
need it, but it belongs to old Aunty Mabel, but, but, but).
A few statistics for you:
- 80% of what we keep we never use. Agency Sales Magazine
- The average person burns 55 minutes a day – roughly 12 days a year – looking for things they know
they own but can’t find. Newsweek
- We wear 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. The rest just hangs there. Calgary Herald
- 25% of people with 2-car garages don’t park any cars in there and 32% parked only one. US Department of Energy
80% of the clutter in most homes is a result of disorganisation, not lack of space. Ottawa Citizen
- 23% of adults say they pay bills late (& thus incur fees) because they lose them. (Harris Interactive)
- Home storage products have become a $4.36 billion industry. (Newsweek, 2004)
But, you may say, what about my stamp collection, or the souvenirs form our trip to India and my array of 1950’s
vinyl records are worth a fortune. That’s not junk!
Here in lies the difference between what makes a collector and what constitutes a hoarder. Add to that someone who just seems to have lots of stuff everywhere and we have a third category – the clutterer.
Let’s look at some of the defining features of each.
- Compelled to constantly accumulate stuff.
- The material goods accumulated appear to othersbe useless or of limited value.
- Unable to get rid of clutter. Trying to declutter creates dramatic emotional responses that the hoarder finds unpleasant and
wants to avoid
- The accumulation of stuff creates cluttered living spaces that prevent the space from being used for its normal activities.
- There is significant impairment in the ability to live a normal life.
- Does not perceive clutter to be annoying and may in fact find comfort in it.
- Social isolation often results from the hoarding disorder.
- The hoarding behaviour continues despite the negative social, emotional, and physical consequences that result.
- Engages in accumulating specific objects.
- Regularly attains and disposes of the collected items through sale or trade, sometimes for monetary gain.
- Socializes with others who place similar value on the collected items.
- Continues with collecting because it adds value, interest, and meaning to life.
- Displays collected items with pride.
Is often able to categorize and sort collected items with precise categories and labelling.
- Accumulates things almost unintentionally. “I have no idea how it got like this.”
- Lacks organizing skills or does not apply them consistently.
- May have difficulty with setting priorities.
- Have poor decision making skills.
- Cannot categorize and sort items in a meaningful way.
- May be motivated to get rid of clutter but unsure of how or where to begin. In other words the clutterer can see the clutter but is overwhelmed by it.
- May experience shame at their inability to control and create order in their physical space.
- Often has emotional attachments to accumulated objects and will use rationalizations or excuses as to why it should be kept.
- May have underlying emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
There are serious consequences to a hoarding disorder. There can be safety risks, physical and emotional health costs, family and social issues.
If you or someone close to you shows signs of being a hoarder please seekmedical advice.
Often caring friends or family believe that if they just get in and clean up the place or take all the offending stuff to the tip the problem
will be solved. However this is not the case for hoarders. Great psychological harm can be caused to a true hoarder by simply getting rid of the stuff in one
big clean up or it will only take a few weeks before the hoarders home is returned to the same state. If a space is cleared it will be filled up again
without correct psychological intervention.
A Collector usually only runs into problems if their collecting hobby or habit starts to impact on their lives. It may be that their collection
starts to take up too much space or become financially straining on the family budget. Whilst it may be difficult, the collector can usually find ways of
limiting, reorganising or modifying their collection to maintain its value in their life. If not they may have crossed the line to becoming a hoarder.
The Clutterer can often be the easiest to help. Friends, family or an objective third party such as a Professional Organiser can assist in
reducing the amount of stuff they have. Decisions can be facilitated about the emotional or financial value of items and appropriate storage solutions can be
found. Organising and decision making around their stuff can be a skill the clutterer can learn and simple systems put in place to maintain the
process. If there are underlying symptoms of depression or anxiety the appropriate health professional should be consulted.