Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding by Fugen Neziroglu

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.

Hoarding or Collecting?

Some throw the term "hoarder"around loosely about people who collect a lot of a particular items from a point of interest.  But not all collectors are suffer from hoarding. If you know someone who collects, you probably know that collectors take great care in keeping their possessions and take pride in showing others.  Collections are often on display, or proudly showcased in curio cabinets.  My sons collect Poke mon cards and you will hear all about every one if you ever encounter one of my boys!  Collectors spend time and research their collections and often congregate with other collectors or people with similar interests.  Collectors usually plan and budget for their loved purchases.  Collectors also feel satisfied and proud when they add to their collection.

On the other hand, hoarders often feel embarrassed about the amount of items they may have accumulated.  One might purchase an item with an intended function for it, but will not usually follow through.  That item will likely be duplicated and duplicated with further purchases.  With all of these items, the owner often ends up in a cluttered state.  Often times the clutter builds to the point that the owner's living space is compromised.

Often times hoarding behavior results in debt and financial woes.  Often people feel worse or depressed after making the purchase, much like how one would feel after eating an entire pint of ice cream.

Sometimes the clutter accumulated results in hoarders not inviting people to their homes. Hoarders may avoid repair work desperately needed due to embarrassment. They may forego assistance from friends and family when needed in order to hide their clutter.

As you can see, there is a difference between hoarding and collecting.

Please stay tuned as Christy and Joleen continue to explore addressing hoarding behavior.  As always, thanks for stopping by!

*Source: Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias


Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT  is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapyfamily counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.



Hoarding: Self-Assessment

Now that we've discussed the symptoms of hoarding, let's see how you evaluate your own symptoms. Answer the questions as honestly as you can. The following questions are not meant to be a scientific tool, but to help you understand yourself better.

Answer the following questions by answering "yes" or "no":

  • Do you have difficulty throwing things away or get anxious when thinking about discarding your possessions?
  • Do you have so many possessions that your rooms are cluttered?
  • Do you often feel an urge to buy things or acquire free things, but know you really don't need them?
  • Do you often decide to purchase or acquire items even if you know you have no space for them?
  • Do you have possessions taking up so much floor space that it's difficult to move around the room?
  • Have you ever not been able to use a piece of furniture (sofa, table, chair) for it's intended purpose b/c it was used as storage space for your possessions?
  • Have you ever been so embarrassed by the number of your possessions that  you did not want people to see certain rooms in your house?
  • Has saving or acquiring possessions resulted in financial strain for you or your family?
  • Has the number of your possessions ever been the reason for arguments or disagreements within your family?
  • Do you often feel like you need additional storage space?
  • Have your possessions ever been damaged because of inadequate storage space?
  • Have you ever shoplifted as a way of acquiring possessions?
  • Have you ever been arrested for shoplifting?
  • Do you spend 30 minutes/30 minutes - 2 hours/more than 2 hours a day looking for objects around your house?
  • Do you spend 30 minutes/30 minutes-2 hours/more than 2 hours a day related to your saving behaviors including thinking about your possessions?

If you find yourself answering "yes" to a lot of the questions above, we strongly urge you to get the book (cited below) and seek a professional counselor to help you with your hoarding behavior. You are not alone, and you do have options. We have much more information we'll be sharing with you this week on hoarding. Thank you for reading!

*Source: Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias

Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.

What Is Hoarding?

Many have watched the reality shows about hoarding...it can be hard to watch. Compulsive hoarding is a real issue that many struggle with. Neziroglu, Bubrick, and Yaryura-Tobias have written a book called "Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding" that we will be referencing all week as we help our readers understand this issue.

They define hoarding as "acquiring and saving items that have little or no value and then having tremendous difficulty discarding them."

The following are a list of symptoms identified in the books of those struggling with compulsive hoarding:

  • Avoid throwing things away
  • Have severe anxiety when throwing things away
  • Have trouble making decisions about their stuff
  • May feel overwhelmed or embarrassed by their things
  • May feel suspicious of others touching items
  • Has obsessive thoughts about possessions such as fear of running out of an item, fear of needing it later, needing it just in case, or may search trash to make sure possessions haven't been thrown away
  • May have a loss of space in the home, social isolation, family or marriage problems, financial issues, or health hazards
  • Possessions are disorganized
  • May have trouble categorizing items

If you related to any of these symptoms, this book could help! Keep reading all week for more info on overcoming hoarding!

Source: Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, and Jose A. Yaryura-Tobias

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.