Topics

  1. Background & signs of hoarders
  2. Ways to help a child that is a hoarder
  3. Ways to live with an adult hoarder

dragon

(Dragon’s are, by far, some of the most notable hoarders).

How Mitchells picked this topic

Some listeners asked how to keep an organized home when a family member is a hoarder. Dave and Amy didn’t have much experience with this topic, so they asked some of their listeners what they have learned, and they also read up on this topic on the internet. They learned quite a bit.

Signs of a hoarder

What is hoarding? According to the Child Mind Institute, hoarding is “a disorder characterized by a person not only acquiring great amounts of objects but also being unable to part with them causing great personal and family distress.”

A collector loves to display their items and share it for others to see. They may invest money in their items.

A hoarder is possessive of their possessions and doesn’t want others touching it or looking at it. They may even be embarrassed by all that they have that no one can appreciate like they do. Often their collections are made up of items that cost nothing and appear as worthless or garbage to others.

Ways to help a child hoarder

Respect their “treasures” though they appear as junk. Allow them to keep some items even though it doesn’t make sense to you.

Give them a limited space, like a bucket under their bed or a few boxes in their closet or baskets on a shelf. They are welcome to keep whatever they want as long as it doesn’t overflow from their limited space.

Take pictures of some items before letting it go, so it can trigger the memories that came with it, but not take up too much space.

Periodically sort through items and have your child learn to place value on some newer items while realizing older items aren’t as important anymore. Sometimes the sorting may have to be done when the child isn’t around if they are too attached to everything.

Using phrases like “let it go” instead of “throw it away” may help a child part with their treasures easier.

How to live with an adult hoarder

Designated space is helpful for an adult hoarder too, though they may need much more area than one bucket under the bed like a child is given. Give them the office or the garage or a corner of the unfinished basement, and ask them not to overflow into the rest of the main living area of the house.

When in the middle of a disagreement, argue about the space, not the items themselves, because that avoids a personal attack on their treasures.

When you value the items of a hoarder, they feel valued too.

In a Focus on the Family podcast, Kathi Lipp, author of a book titled Clutter Free, shares how she grew up in a home where her father was a hoarder. His hoarding greatly damaged many relationships he had with the family.

Kathi Lipp suggests pinpointing why people hang onto things:

Fear: What if we need it again later?

Guilt: Grandmother crocheted that blanket and has now passed on. I can’t get rid of it.

Shame: I spent so much money on those boots, but they pinch my feet every time I wear them.

Minimalists live with very little. Organized people don’t quite live with that little, but the following three questions could help them keep things simple:

  • Do I use it?
  • Do I love it?
  • Would I buy it again?

Another simple system: One in. One out.

If you purchase a pair of shoes, get rid of a pair of shoes. If you get some new furniture, get rid of some furniture…

Hoarding is a real issue. But if you can understand them, help them work through this, and help them feel they are loved despite their differences, it won’t ruin your relationship.


This week’s image is from MelkiaD and is titled ‘dragon’. You can find the original on flickr.

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