our everyday life

How to Cure Hoarding

by Lori Soard

If you've saved every comics page from the newspaper for the last thirty years, you keep used wrapping paper because it has special meaning or your house is so cluttered that you have only a path to navigate through, you may be a hoarder. Hoarding can create a lot of stress for the family members who live with the hoarder. Most hoarders want to stop collecting things, but they don't know how. According to psychiatrist Fred Penzel and experts at the Mayo Clinic, there is no "cure" for hoarding. However, there are some steps that can help reduce the effects of the disorder and get your clutter under control.

Start sessions with a therapist trained to deal with obsessive compulsive disorders. The Mayo Clinic points to psychotherapy as one of the most important steps in dealing with the disorder of hoarding. Because hoarders feel such a deep connection to the items they collect, the therapist will have to take several steps to help the hoarder. First, the therapist may visit the home to see how severe the hoarding has become. Some people will obsess over one item, such as a baseball card collection, while others will collect multiple items or even refuse to throw out anything. Next, the therapist will come up with a plan of action that involves specific steps.

Start decluttering. Organizations like the Anxiety Disorders Association of America recommend starting small with this process. The hoarder should be given a very specific task to complete after each session. For example, the person might start in one corner of one room or with one specific item. If the person has collected newspapers for 30 years, perhaps he should throw out half of them to start. If the entire house is a hoarding zone, then the patient may be asked to clean out only a single corner by the next therapy session.

Get help with decluttering. In cases where the hoarding is so challenging that the person cannot seem to get started with the decluttering process, the therapist may need to call in help to start going through items and making a dent in the mess. It is wise to have the hoarder's therapist on hand during this process. Some hoarders have panic attacks and other feelings of extreme stress while getting rid of collected items.

Start medication. According to the Mayo Clinic, medication can help hoarders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common type of medicine prescribed. SSRIs are antidepressant drugs and are often used with patients who have obsessive compulsive disorders. Antidepressants are not always effective in helping hoarders, but can be worth trying in extreme cases.

Get organized. Learning organization skills can help the hoarder decide if something has a place in the home and is worth keeping or should be given away or thrown out.

Stay on top of clutter. Once the home is decluttered and livable again, the hoarder should take extra steps to make sure new items are not brought into the home. The hoarder should always ask if the item is necessary for everyday activities or if it can be easily replaced if needed again.

Tips

  • Enlist the help of a family member or friend to let the hoarder know if his hoarding is getting out of hand again.
  • If the hoarding is very mild, the person may be able to overcome these tendencies alone. However, most cases require at least some therapist intervention to be successful in the long term.

About the Author

Lori Soard has been a writer since 1995, covering a variety of topics for local newspapers and magazines such as "Woman's World." For five years, she served as a site editor for a large online information portal. Soard is also the author of several published books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images