How to Help a Hoarder (What to Do & What to Avoid)

how to help a hoarder

Table of Contents

Although it’s very difficult to help a hoarder without being a mental health professional, there are steps that friends and family can take to help. While causing mental distress and social isolation, hoarding also causes people to live in unsafe environments.

Depending on the nature of the hoarded items, a hoarder’s home is often at risk of mold buildup as well as pest and vermin infestations. In serious cases, whole rooms may be unusable. The floor may be so cluttered that there is no clear path in the case of an emergency. This latter consequence is a major problem given that hoarded items are often flammable. The combination of a serious fire hazard along with an impassable exit route can prove fatal.

For all of these reasons, it’s critical to speak up if you suspect that your friend or loved one is showing symptoms of a hoarding disorder. If you manage to help them get rid of their excess possessions, you may be saving both their property and their life. This article will guide you through the do’s and don’ts when it comes to helping a hoarder.

question mark icon

What is a Hoarder?

A hoarder is someone who feels a strong compulsion to store many belongings and will feel extreme anxiety with just a thought of discarding those things. They may overly prioritize particular categories, especially those that have sentimental value. However, most people with a hoarding challenge are often indiscriminate, refusing to throw away decades-old magazines or even used paper plates.

Hoarders have a condition known as a hoarding disorder, which causes compulsive hoarding and intense distress. Some hoarders recognize that they have an issue and would like to stop. Others do not, but they all share a strong revulsion to throwing away even trivial possessions.

What Hoarding is Not

It’s important to realize that not every person with a cluttered home is a hoarder, even if that clutter seems extreme to you. Some things that don’t rise to the level of hoarding include:
Collections are usually deliberately curated and organized, and they do not cause distress to the individual collecting them. Even if the collection is large and seems odd to you, if it isn’t causing mental distress or unsafe conditions, then it’s not a sign of a disorder.
Some people are just messy, but they would have no problem getting rid of their extra stuff. The main difference is that hoarders show great distress at the thought of getting rid of their items.
If you can’t tell, ask yourself this: how would the person react if you came in and cleaned their things for them? If they’d be relieved or happy, then they are probably just messy. If they balk at the idea of throwing anything away, you might want to question their behavior a bit more.

Signs a Person May Be Struggling with Hoarding

Unless you are a mental health professional, there’s no single way to be sure that your friend or family member is actually suffering from a clinical challenge. However, there are many signs that might suggest when things are getting out of hand:
It may be a difficult conversation, but it may be time to help your loved one seek the assistance and treatment they need.
thumbs up icon

3 Best Ways to Help a Hoarder

It can be stressful to see or even live with someone that is struggling with a hoarding problem. There are right ways to help your loved one with this issue and wrong approaches as well. These three critical methods might help hoarders overcome their condition.

1. Encourage Professional Help

The single most impactful thing you can do for someone in the throes of hoarding disorder is to encourage them to get help. For many people, speaking with a therapist or psychiatrist is the only way to resolve their underlying compulsions.

You may need to be persistent, especially if the person does not recognize that their behavior is problematic. Be gentle but firm, and always approach as a friend rather than a critic. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped, unfortunately, but you can still do your best to show the value of mental healthcare.

2. Hire a Hoarding Clean-Up Restoration Service

People who hoard are at a high risk of hazardous property conditions, including pests, mold, and fires. Friends and family members should help them recognize these threats to the wellbeing of the house.

If you’re unsure where to start on the tidying process, bring in a professional hoarding clean-up team to minimize these challenges. While ceasing the behavior necessary to eliminate the risks more fully, cleaning and restoration professionals can keep people safe in the meantime.

3. Be There as a Supportive Friend

Friends and family members may take too harsh a tone, even with the best of intentions. Try to be supportive and empathetic first, understanding that they can’t “just stop” until they address their clinical mental health challenges.

By keeping up a supportive relationship, you’re likely doing more to help keep them safe than if you alienated them by coming on too strong. Remember that it isn’t your responsibility to solve someone else’s mental health challenges and that being a positive influence may be all you can do as a friend.

avoid risk

What to Avoid When You Help a Hoarder

Hoarding is a sensitive, emotion-fraught topic for someone dealing with mental health challenges. Three things to avoid include:

Whether it’s a friend or family member struggling with compulsive behavior, it’s always challenging to support someone on your own.

Dry house Restoration official logo

Get Help With Hoarding Cleaning

At Dry House Restoration, we offer professional remediation services for both mold and structural damage that may stem from overwhelming clutter. We can also help with the clean-up process to reclaim properties that have become buried or damaged.

Whatever service you choose, we treat the entire process with a high level of sensitivity and professionalism. You can count on our discretion. If you have questions about how our services can help you, your friend, or your family member, contact us to start the restoration procedure. 

IT Support by SADOSSecure, Fast Hosting for WordPress