Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding

Hoarding: Common Traits of Hoarders

What are some common traits of hoarders? There are many traits that contribute to hoarding behaviors, though just because you only share of few of these characteristics doesn't necessarily indicate you are more or less severe of a hoarder.

Fear of Losing Information:  This trait is common when an individual feels the fear of throwing information away "just in case" they might need it later.  For example, unread newspapers, magazines, junk mail, etc.

Indecisiveness:  Many hoarders are indecisive about things such as what to wear, what food to eat or order at a restaurant, or about certain possessions. Many hoarders will hang onto possessions that currently have no place in the home, feeling indecisive about where to put them or keeping them (again) "just in case" they need them for later.  This results in a lot of clutter with unneeded items that never quite find their way into a permanent place in the home.  Do you find yourself indecisive with decisions or items?

Fear of Making a Mistake

Hoarders commonly fear making mistakes about the following things:  Accidentally throwing something away they might later want or need, not being able to find possessions because they have misplaced them, not having something they want or need in the future ("I can't throw that away... what if I NEED it later?"), not finding the right or "perfect" place for an item in the home.  These may lead to symptoms such as buying duplicate items without enough room for them all, leaving items out in the home because of the fear you might not be able to find something when you need it, or not throwing something away because you may later feel regret about it.

As these authors suggest:  Indecisiveness + Fear of Making a Mistake = Clutter

Inability to Prioritize:  When you have too much stuff in your home, it often results in feeling overwhelmed.  When you feel overwhelmed, it makes it difficult to prioritize what to do first and where to start tasks.  Many people report feeling paralyzed by the quantity of things and end up procrastinating.

Fear of Loss:  As stated earlier, this may be an overwhelming fear of discarding an item that is viewed as "important", in case the item might be needed later on.  This doesn't refer to things that have family value, such as a family heirloom or your wedding dress.  This would be more like hanging onto junk mail, for fear that it might include a large check in it and the fear you might accidentally throw this away.  Many times, hoarders end up with piles, then when you try to clean out one pile, you just end up mixing it with another pile.

Fear of Memory Loss:  Hoarding behaviors are connected to the fear of losing a memory.  Hoarders are afraid to trust their own memory.  Objects don't hold memories... WE hold memories.  Some hoarders might have empty closets, instead, keeping objects in plain sight, cluttering up their home for fear of losing the memory that an object might hold for them.

Lack of Organization:  Many hoarders have problems with categorization and end up developing piles and piles of similar objects.  They often feel overwhelmed with organizing, not knowing where to begin.

Do you recognize any of these traits of hoarding?  If so, we recommend talking with a professional counselor to find out what your hoarding behavior is really all about and how it is effecting your life, or taking the initial steps to working on simplifying and de-cluttering your life!

Adapted from:  Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding:  Why You Save and How You Can Stop, by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.