Storage or Hoarding?

The difference between “I am storing that” and “I am boarding that” can be very difficult to understand for some people. I am one of those people.

Hoarding is a hot topic on reality television, but relatively ignored in real life, in my experience. I’ve lived with and have known hoarders my entire life. Recently, I’ve been fighting hoarder tendencies and realizing how damaging hoarding can be.

I’ve kept considerably small collections of a lot of random things over my short life & they’d added up into one large mass I can’t store or manage anymore. I’ve been going through things in preparation to move out with my boyfriend & letting go had been rough, but necessary. Let’s talk…

If you believe you or someone you know may be suffering from mental health issues, please seek professional help. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions, just spread awareness & visibility.

In 1993, the National Study Group on Compulsive/Chronic Disorganization, now called the Institute of Challenging Disorganization (ICD), developed the Clutter-Hoarding Scale. The act of hoarding is also a common sign of underlying untreated mental health issues.

Each person who experiences extreme hoarding will have their own justifications, underlying explanations and treatment plans, but there are a few things to remember in general:

If someone is experiencing mental health issues of any kind, no one can force them to seek treatment, or want change. Mental health isn’t talked about enough and many households (like mine) claim mental health issues are a sign of failure & will also actively shame mental health treatment. Many people need to work through deprogramming themselves before they can even get to the other issues that original programming caused. Forcing a someone to address things they’ve been ignoring will usually end badly, but that being said you cannot be silent. You, as a friend, have an obligation to be upfront (not confrontational) with those around you. Offering people information, not advice can be helpful for them & less stressful for you. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink it.

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The DSM-V defines Hoarding Disorder as:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.
  • This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and to distress associated with discarding them.
  • The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas and substantially compromises their intended use. If living areas are uncluttered, it is only because of the interventions of third parties (e.g., family members, cleaners, authorities).
  • The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (including maintaining a safe environment for self and others).
  • The hoarding is not attributable to another medical condition (e.g., brain injury, cerebrovascular disease, Prader-Willi syndrome).
  • The hoarding is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder (e.g., obsessions in obsessive-compulsive disorder, decreased energy in major depressive disorder, delusions in schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, cognitive deficits in major neurocognitive disorder, restricted interests in autism spectrum disorder).