Six Excuses & Six Strategies to Try and Help

Hoarding photo

If the hoarder:

  1. Expresses feelings of powerlessness — Offer choices, let him/her feel in control. Say “You’ve got way too many coffee mugs” rather than “Which mugs are your favorites?" Ask "How many coffee cups do you use? Can we donate some of the others to a shelter so someone can use and enjoy them?”
  2. Lacks decision-making skills — Help the individual sort belongings into reasonable categories. Limit the number of categories and decisions.
  3. Has a sentimental attachment to items — Sometimes taking photos of objects and putting these into an album allows hoarders to let go of the objects. Offering to distribute sentimental items among family members can also help.
  4. Claims “I spent good money on it” or “I invested in these valuable collectibles” — Try to donate or distribute items to family members, or set limits on the number retained.
  5. Lacks energy or physical ability to declutter — Bring in outside help. A team may be more effective; an organizer can help sort through the belongings and a mental health professional can help treat the psychological issues that often accompany hoarding. Most hoarders are also depressed or have OCD behaviors. For example they may worry about forgetting details or events. To help them, try creating scrapbooks, journals, calendars, or lists.

These execellent tips were presented by experts Elspeth Bell, Ph.D. of the Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington and professional organizer Marcie Lovett of Organized by Marcie at a 2011 seminar held at Revitz House. The seminar for area health care providers was organized to provide greater insight into compulsive hoarding, as a behavioral disorder, and understanding of the fine line separating hoarding from normal collecting.


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