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Blaming Hoarders

Updated on July 27, 2012
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Randy can't throw anything away. His hoard nearly touches the celling in every room of his home. To get around he must crawl atop the overwhelming and unsteady piles.

What is a Hoarder?

A hoarder is anyone who struggles with throwing away or cleaning up their home due to numerous reasons that are usually very personal and painful. Hoarders can collect anything from trash, to dolls, to old books, to cats- typically hoarding impacts ones entire life and well-being.


There are many variations of hoarders

Organized Hoarders usually collect specific items in great abundance. These items are then displayed throughout the house, often making the house unlivable & cramped.
Organized Hoarders usually collect specific items in great abundance. These items are then displayed throughout the house, often making the house unlivable & cramped.
Trash hoarders litterally collect trash. Their entire home can become full of smelly, rotten, junk.
Trash hoarders litterally collect trash. Their entire home can become full of smelly, rotten, junk. | Source
Animal hoarders start with small collections that quickly grow out of hand thanks to the quick reproductive habits of animals, such is the case with these pet rats pictured above.
Animal hoarders start with small collections that quickly grow out of hand thanks to the quick reproductive habits of animals, such is the case with these pet rats pictured above. | Source

Skip the Secret Clean-Up Party

How would you feel if after returning home from a long vacation, you found all of your things had been cleared out and given away? “But look how clean it is!” Your friends who did this to you say in their own defense.

Just because a hoarder keeps a lot more things in their home than you do doesn't mean the experience is any different for them.

Many attest to spending entire months clearing out the hoarded homes of loved ones, only to return a short time later and find the original damage tripled. This is upsetting to the cleaners, who feel their hard work is unappreciated but no one is more upset than the one who has found all their things gone. A large reason people hoard is because they are afraid of lose and separation; the very feelings a quick, surprise clean up solidifies and perpetuates.

Why People Hoard

Randy (pictured above) seems easy to blame. Who else could have messed up his home this badly? In fact, he does nothing to deny it: he is sole perpetrator of the mess. He had a bathroom, a bedroom, a living area, and kitchen. He had floor spaces and wall spaces and a safe haven that many can only dream about. But Randy ruined his space, he filled it with so much clutter it’s hardly a home but rather a junkyard.

Randy is easy to blame, sleeping in a corner of the mess, driving to use public restrooms whenever the urge arrives, and bathing in a dirty sink each day. While Randy puts his neighbors and landlord at risk, no one seems to suffer more than him- the same man who accumulated the piles upon piles of junk. When we blame Randy, we assume that he deserves his fate.This will never fix anything, instead we must seek to understand Randy- and the millions of others who are faced with this same disease.

Why Blaming Never Works

Most hoarders are aware they have messed up big. Constantly referenced as a slow process, the mess jumps up and surprises the hoarder one day; how did I let it get this bad? Those with hoarding tendencies usually beat up on themselves enough and by joining in on the name-calling, nothing will ever get cleaned up. In order for progress to happen, the hoarder must find a positive state of mind.

Hoarding is a sad man’s sport, collecting items to fill the voids in life. People assume hoarders are just messy people- people who let their house get out of hand on purpose. While this might be true to a certain degree, start to clean up a hoarder's house and watch them pull their own hair out. The hoard- no matter how stinky or junk-ridden it appears- is full of meaning to the owner, hence how this happens in the first place. What appears to be junk to outsiders is sheer gold to the one that clings.

Why People Hoard

Life changing events or traumatic stress can boot the cleanest of people into hoarders, those with sloppier tendencies are at an even bigger risk. What happens throughout life alters our states of mind, and when in dire straights humans tend to self-medicate. Hoarding is a dangerous medicine, one that only increases the potency of initial issues.

Feeling safe: When Randy (pictured above) was growing up, his siblings and schoolmates picked on him constantly. He never felt safe or well liked; as Randy entered adulthood he was faced with the ever-present task of finding his safe place in the world. With few close confidents, Randy was never taught the proper ways to feel safe. He hoards to compensate for this. Surrounded in clutter, no one can get to him- no one can hurt him. When he sleeps, so much junk shields him, he’d be left unfound say anyone entered his apartment at night.

More Problems: Ironically, hoarders live an extremely unsafe life. With so much clutter- the risk of fire dramatically increases as does the risk of a fall or health issue due to unsanitary and unsteady living conditions. Even if able to call for help, rescuers might be unable to reach the hoarder when faced with all of the clutter. Feelings of safety also come from having friends and family around us, by accumulating years of junk people only get pushed away, keeping hoarders isolated and unsafe.

Looking for that Happy High: Real happiness comes from loving others and being loved, living a life full of passion. But what happens when all of the happiness you ever knew disappears? Shopping triggers the feel good emotions in our brains, when we purchases something we are rewarded by these chemicals in our brain. An easy and artificial high, hoarders are addicted to shopping, finding, and collecting items. This spike in mood is short-lived for everyone, especially a hoarder. Soon as the item comes home, with nowhere to go except atop the piles of other purchased items, the good feeling is gone and depression quickly returns. When days go by and happiness is still nowhere to be found, who wouldn’t feel the pull towards a store, in search of the happiness humans naturally crave?

More Problems: The last thing a hoarder needs to be doing is buying more stuff, yet if that’s one of their only ways to find happiness then the very act of feeling better makes the problem even worse. This is how any addiction can spiral out of control.

Stuck in the Past: The loss of a spouse, a child, a near and dear friend. These are all things that can throw us down in the dumps, knock us off our feet so we forget how to stand. For some, the support systems are in place to push them through the dark clouds. Others are left to fall apart all alone.

Depression can strap on blinders, make us ignore or simply not care about a growing mess. It can also keep us keep us attached to the most benign objects- to the point we simply become unable to toss anything away. For example, say a woman’s daughter dies and prior to the tragic incident a cup was sitting out on the counter. After the incident, it’s possible she will not move the cup; not wanting to disrupt the space as it was when her baby’s heart still beat. This mindset can keep an entire home encased in the past, as the present builds atop it.

More Problems: Keeping items just the way they’ve always been- unable to toss away anything- prevents the grieving process from properly taking place. Because of this, people remain trapped in terrible events ten, twenty, or even fifty years past. Naturally, we must grieve, miss, and let go in order to live the life we are blessed enough to lead.

Finding understanding for others, no matter how strange their condition or circumstance may seem, goes a long way. No one ever thinks it will happen to them and then it does. Show some kindness to people suffering, you never know when you might need that same compassion yourself.

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    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      This was a nice, sensitive, approach to the subject. I don't know anyone that I think is a "genuine" hoarder, but I've known a person or two who seems a little more attached to some clutter than most people usually are. A couple of them have been very elderly, and - really - cleaning up can be very upsetting to some who have their own (sometimes fairly valid) reasons for wanting to hang on to some clutter. In any case, even though your Hub is about hoarders, it sheds a little light on people who aren't full-blown hoarders but who do seem oddly attached to some clutter (and even trash). My personal approach to feeling loss (or feeling kind of out-of-control) is to clean and feel good with at least that much that feels positive and under control. I guess people deal differently with things... It never would have occurred to me that people might find a sense of safety in junk/clutter. I've always kind of assumed it's a matter of people whose thinking is more organized (and who therefore thrive best in organized surroundings) versus people who may be more creative and thrive best in less structured/less ordered surroundings (and who feel confined/restricted by order, which doesn't come very naturally to them).

      In any case, it's nice to see a subject like this dealt with with sensitivity and good sense.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 4 years ago

      A very well thought out hub and the many facets of hoarding dealt with in a sensible and empathetic way. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Becky Bruce profile image
      Author

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Lisa HW and cybershelley, Thanks so much for the kind comments! The world is so full of judgements these days, it's important we step back and realize that the worst case scenario can happen to any of us. Look forward to connecting with you both in the future! Thanks again :)

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Another Great Hub!

      I am a collector, and will probably always be one. I have a music collection of over 1500 albums, 6500 cd's, and over 125,000 songs legally downloaded. I will never listen to everything I have, I accept that. Yet, perhaps it is not the quantity it affords me, but the ability to pull whatever song is being talked about and listen to it when I wish. My collection sits in a special room devoted especially to music, upon rack after rack, divided into genres and alphabetized.

      Why? Who knows? Perhaps it was because I grew up with the belief "music is my life" and never quit thinking that way. I've slowed my purchasing as of late to almost nothing, since very few new releases are worth having, but will still buy a cd or purchase a download from I-Tunes or Amazon when something I want is at a special low price.

      My wife used to complain, but I would simply ask her, "Would you rather I spend my money on a twelve pack of beer, or buy something we can keep and enjoy for years?" (I have never enjoyed drinking booze of any type.) I would have to say the collection is also an ego boost when visitors view it in awe. Whatever, I am a guilty party here. There are only two problems: 1) you never want to move because packing would be a nightmare, and 2) as expressed by my oldest daughter... "What are we ever gonna do with it all when you die?" I told her, "Yard Sale!"

      Great Job! Voted Up and Interesting!

    • Becky Bruce profile image
      Author

      Becky Bruce 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

      haha oh rcrumple, you always make me laugh! You should post a photo of your collection on here; I bet it is pretty awesome. I guess now with music being downloaded the problem of "music" hoarding might start to slow down- or at least not ruin any homes!

    • LadyLola profile image

      Lanie Robinson 4 years ago from Canada

      I always force my husband to give/throw away stuff that he's not using, and he always seems to be dragging home something new. I let him use the spare room for his stuff in lieu of an office for myself; the sacrifice is worth it so that the rest of our home can stay clutter free. Not that he's a hoarder by any means, but I easily relate to how people can end up in these sad situations, especially if they are suffering mentally and emotionally.

    • profile image

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