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5 Helpful Things You Can Say to a Hoarder

Updated on October 29, 2012

I recently published a Hub on things that you shouldn't bother to say to a hoarder in your life because they're unhelpful. But what if you do have a hoarder that you live with or are close to? You can't just say nothing! Here are five helpful things that you can say to a hoarder as you work together to deal with the situation:

1. I know that dealing with this is going to be hard for you.

It is really important to acknowledge that there is a problem to be solved but that doing so is going to be difficult for the person who has a problem with hoarding. You may not understand why it is so hard for the person to just get rid of their junk but you can certainly step back from the situation and see that it is difficult, even if you don't understand why. Try to focus on that and have empathy for the person as they go through the difficult experience of resolving this problem with you. Showing that you understand that it is hard goes a long way towards helping the person feel supported as they move forward with finding a solution to the problem.

2. Here is what I am feeling.

You should discuss your feelings with the hoarder in a calm manner using "I" statements. Do not be accusatory. For example, do not say, "you are making my life miserable with this mess". Say instead, "I am feeling really overwhelmed by the mess in the home and want to find a way to get a little bit of space for myself". There is no guarantee, of course, that a hoarder is going to be able to hear you and respond appropriately, but the chance is much greater when you approach the conversation this way than if you are confrontational, accusatory and negative.

3. How can we make this situation better for both of us?

Phrasing the question in this manner does a few different things. It states that there is a problem that needs to be resolved without being mean or accusatory about it. It shows that you want to work as a partner with the person to solve this problem, so that they don't feel like they are all alone and that you are fighting each other. And finally, it puts the ball in their court to make a decision about the best way to move forward. The truth is the hoarder may not have an answer but this is a good way to get the conversation going in a positive direction.

4. Let's take baby steps.

Part of the problem for hoarders is that they feel really overwhelmed by the process of making decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. The idea of having to do this with a whole huge cluttered house of things is very overwhelming. Make sure that you let the person know that you understand that the problem isn't going to be solved overnight. Once you do begin to work together on the cleaning process, acknowledge and celebrate all of the small achievements that are made.

5. What is the best way for me to help you with this?

If the hoarder is willing to accept help with his or her problem then you want to give them as much control as possible over the situation while continuing to show your support and enthusiasm for the project. If you just take over, the hoarder may shut down. Make sure to ask what you can do to help, where your efforts will be most useful, welcome and appreciated and how the hoarder wants you to handle certain items as the process continues. Show care and respect for this person and their belongings and they may respond in kind towards you.

Hoarding is a complicated mental health issue. It often affects the entire family and not just the hoarder. It may be necessary to work with a therapist to help figure out the best way to address this situation in your own home.

Do you live with a hoarder? Share your story in the comments below.


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  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Hoarders like keeping stuff they have the purpose for and I know a few like that I get rid off whatever I know would stay in a corner. You have interesting and informative hubs.

  • bettybarnesb profile image

    bettybarnesb 5 years ago from Bartlett, TN

    Personally, I don't know any hoarders but I watch the show sometimes on TV and I do feel sorry for them. It has to be a very terrible place in life. Well written article. Hope to read more of your work.

    Be blessed...

  • profile image

    PWalker281 5 years ago

    This, along with the hub about what not to say to a hoarder, provides excellent advice for families and friends who have hoarders in their lives.

    A good friend of mine appears to be a hoarder. We've talked about it, and I can see how she is emotionally attached to and identified with things she has kept for a long time. I basically listen to her and try to refrain from giving her any advice. Just recently, she asked me if she should let go of some stuff, and I said yes. I think waiting to be asked for advice is better than just giving it. Posing the question seemed to be a sign that she was ready to move forward.

    Voted up and shared.

  • rfmoran profile image

    Russ Moran 5 years ago from Long Island, New York

    Good hub on a topic a lot of people would just as soon avoid. How about asking: "Can you tell me where I can find a screwdriver?"

  • Edgar Alan Cole profile image

    Edgar Alan Cole 5 years ago

    I am a hoarder in denial. I know there are some things I should let go but still have. This article made me realize that it is time to do some house cleaning. Thank you for sharing.

  • graceomalley profile image

    graceomalley 5 years ago

    I have wondered if my husband is a hoarder. Letting go of items really is hard for him, and he likes to have thngs where he can see them - piled on top of the dresser for instance. His personal space tends to disintegrate into flotsam and jetsam. He is an only child whose mom picked up after hm, and we married young and I started picking up after him, so there is history to it. There seems to be a worry that he will 'need' items, or that a need will arise, and that specific item will be a lifesaver. Actually, it is a strong worry really - he worries about losing something important like a receipt needed for a large reimbursement. My arguement that the top of the dresser with all the other stuff is a bad place for a valuable receipt doesn't help - he just looks pained. Maybe I should read about hoarding.