On Hoarding

Photo by ponsulak

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, a participant asked for help with a family member who has extreme hoarding tendencies. The individual doesn’t allow anyone into her home and her family is rightly concerned about her welfare.

One of the respondents suggested going into the woman’s home and clearing everything out.

Unfortunately, that won’t work.

Here is my response:

The best thing you can do is let the person know that you love and accept her for who she is. You cannot change her behavior or her physical environment. You can, occasionally, let her know that you are concerned about her safety (trip hazards, things falling, fire hazards, etc) and that you hope she is able to manage. You might also suggest counseling, if she is open to it.

Going in and clearing out an extreme hoarder’s home, however, is a very bad idea. Not only will you create mistrust and resentment, you might sever a relationship that is important to that individual’s mental health. 

Even if you did completely change her living arrangements, she would simply begin hoarding again.

How can that be? After all, on the TV programs, they show people having their homes shoveled out. First, remember that it’s TV; second, remember that these are people who agreed to go on TV and ask for help.  Chances are very good that they are not able to sustain changes without continued support.


People who exhibit extreme hoarding behaviors are not slobs or lazy. Some of them might not be aware of the extent of the problem, while others suffer with embarrassment and shame. What they have in common, though, is the need for professional guidance to help them understand what is keep them from living safely and comfortably.

What questions do you have about hoarding? Click on Post a Comment, below, and tell us. You might be surprised by the answers.

Organized by Marcie TM: Save time and money by letting go of what you don’t need and finding room for what you value
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