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How to Recognise Signs of Hoarding in a Loved One

You may have some suspicions that your loved one has a hoarding issue. Some signs are obvious, such as hygiene concerns or incredible collections of specialised items. Others seem like normal, typical habits that you may not give a second thought. Here are some of the less obvious signs that your loved one might have a hoarding problem.

A pile of trash

They Prefer Meetings Outside of Their Home, or Refuse to Let You Pick Them Up

Hoarding often comes with a significant amount of shame. Your loved one may try to keep their hoarding a secret by meeting you at your home or at a third location instead of inviting you over. Alternatively, they may let you pick them up or drop them off, but refuse to let you inside. This helps them conceal the extent of their problem.

Some hoarders have such a tremendous accumulation of things that the items start to pour out into their front gardens or other pieces of property. In these cases, they may not even let you meet them in front of their homes.

Concealing the hoard helps your loved one feel a sense of control over the issue. They know that, at some level, others will find the amount of things that they have inappropriate. Some fear that if family members learn about the hoard, they will be rejected or asked to part with some of their hoard.

Hoarders often have unpaid bills and debts

A post-it note pad with the words 'pay debt' written on it

If you frequently hear your loved one stress about money problems or keeping their bills paid, this may indicate a hoarding problem. In order to amass a great number of things, one must usually spend some money to acquire them. Your loved one may be prioritising new items for their collection over their utility payments. They may also need to replace daily items more frequently, as some items could be lost to the hoard or soiled.

They Never Address Home Repairs

Girl sitting on floor beside a toilet

If your loved one is seemingly always complaining about a home repair, but they never seem to address it, this could indicate a hoarding problem. Because hoarders are protective of their hoard, they will not want anyone to suggest that they fix it- even at the cost of routine home repair. In some cases, the moment that a household object goes out of use will become an escalation moment for the hoard. For example, if a toilet gets clogged so deeply that it needs a plumber’s attention, your loved one may stop using the toilet altogether and shift to using the tub or sink to accommodate their needs.

They Are Extremely Possessive of Their Things

If your loved one has a hoarding problem, they may become anxious or possessive when you attempt to address their belongings. If your loved one has an extremely heavy purse, filled to the brim with old receipts, wrappers, and half-used bottles, for example, they may become angry when you suggest that they throw the unnecessary items in the bin. They might also try to justify their needs for these items, citing unlikely or rare occasions where those items would be necessary.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s potential hoarding problem, you are not alone. The most helpful thing you can do is be a loving support and encourage them to get the help they need.

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Clearout NI

Therapeutic Decluttering and De-hoarding services (Northern Ireland)

Tel: 02895 555 600


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