What’s the Difference Between Hoarding and Clutter?

Vacuuming carpet

The dictionary definition of clutter is ‘a lot of things in an untidy state’. Compare that to hoarding, defined as; ‘ the compulsion to continually accumulate a variety of items that are often considered useless or worthless by others accompanied by an inability to discard the items without great distress’. You’ll see that both are very different.

Clutter is something you might find in an attic or shoved away in drawers and cupboards. It’s an accumulation of ‘stuff’ that you’ll be well aware needs to be sorted out and disposed of… if only you had the time. Hoarding on the other hand may not even be recognised as such by the person doing it. They’ll acquire possessions in a haphazard way, there’ll be no ‘theme’ as there would be if someone was collecting and everything amassed would begin to take over every space in the house not just cupboards, sheds and spare rooms.

When is hoarding considered a problem?

Hoarding is considered a significant problem if:

The amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms

The clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationship suffers.

Reasons why someone might hoard

  • Hoarding is a disorder that may be present on its own or as a symptom of another disorder. Those most often associated with hoarding are obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression.
  • A hoarder may also have suffered some kind of brain disorder. Research has shown that abnormal brain development and brain lesions could lead to compulsive behaviours of hoarding.
  • Altered serotonin levels may also play a role in compulsive hoarding as well. Hoarders may develop the condition much later in life. In addition, hoarders have less awareness that their condition is abnormal compared to patients with OCD.
  • It could also be hereditary, as people who have grown up with a hoarder may find it comforting to surround themselves with clutter.
  • A stressful event, such as a death of a loved one might trigger hoarding behaviour.

What are the signs of someone with a hoarding disorder?

The signs of hoarding can include the following:
  • Compulsively acquiring things that have no meaning and for which there’s no space.
  • Getting increasingly reluctant to throw things out, even if they have no value and getting upset at the thought of getting rid of them.
  • Creating disorganised piles of books, magazines and clothes to the point that rooms can’t be used in their usual way.
  • All the accumulated possessions prevent the person from having a bath or cooking a meal.
  • Arguments arise when others want to help clear everything out of the home.
  • The home becomes unsanitary as the result of being unwilling to part with empty food containers etc.

How to help someone with a hoarding disorder

  • Read up on hoarding so you understand it. It’s more about the person and less about the ‘stuff’.

  • Instead of calling the hoarder’s possessions rubbish, focus on the safety aspects of holding onto so much stuff.

  • Offer to help. You can work with the hoarder to overcome the problem without being judgemental or angry.

  • Encourage the hoarder to seek professional help. Hoarding is a recognised mental health issue and there are many ways it can be treated.

Enlist the help of a professional hoarding cleaning service

Ultimately, hoarding is dangerous and if someone doesn’t step in, then the health of the hoarder and those who live with them will be at risk. A professional hoarding cleaning service will apply their expert knowledge of the condition and how to tackle it to the problem and then step in and systematically remove the clutter. Not only that but they will be able to deal with any nasty surprises along the way. A reputable company will understand what a distressing time this is for everyone but ultimately, they will do the job and make the home a clutter-free zone.

Looking for a professional hoarding cleaning service? Get in touch with specialist hoarding cleaners Direct Cleaning Group by calling 03300 02 02 88 or sending an email to info@directcleaninggroup.co.uk.

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