Recently, I have found myself more and more working in the
homes of people who may have hoarding disorder. I say people who ‘may have’
because I do not know of a confirmed diagnosis. Based on the volume of stuff
and accumulations of categories of items saved, it sure does seem that way.
Just as often,
though, I am working in a high-end home, apartment or condo and sorting
through, shall we say, ‘excess’ stuff. Although the volume of belongings does
not exactly fit the description or definition of hoarding, it can sometimes
feel the same way.
What do these two scenarios have In common? Lots and lots of stuff, of course. And I have
to ask myself, do the people in either of these scenarios have a similar mind
set? Are they driven by some invisible force that manifests itself into
something so visible that it’s physically difficult to walk through a room?
The site of a
hoarding situation is probably etched in people’s mind as seen on TV. Complete
with piles of things saved over the years, it often includes debris that causes
unsanitary and unsafe conditions. While this may be the more popular view, it is
not the only view. In the case of a high-end home, perhaps the item that is
being hoarded is clothing, shoes or decorative figurines. While the visual of
these items doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of hoarding, the behavior
behind the collection may qualify as such.
If a person has taken the time, for instance, to flatten out
empty boxes of cereal, but does not then put them in the recycle bin or trash,
why not? On the other hand, if a person buys so many pieces of clothing, for
instance, that not only is every closet and drawer filled to capacity, but the
clothing is strewn about furniture throughout the house, what is driving the
person to buy more? In this case I often think, if I had limitless money, would
I spend it this way?
In full disclosure, I am not a therapist of any sort, nor
have I received specialized training to work with people with hoarding disorder.
These are merely observations that raise questions in my mind. What causes
hoarding, and what causes the collection of so many things? It’s serious and
complicated stuff, and I’ll leave that to the experts.