Before the airing of the TV show Hoarders in 2009, many people might not have known how common this disorder is. And yet, the statistics are still probably higher than you might think. A Washington Post article reports that “compulsive hoarding affects up to 6 percent of the population, or 19 million Americans.” 

The same article reveals that this problem is still on the rise, and the city of Topanga, California is no exception. But why do people hoard? It seems there are a number of factors. Genetics, and learned behavior from family members, likely impact the onset of hoarding. However, the disorder may also be kickstarted through a personal tragedy in adult life, such as grieving the loss of a loved one or going through a divorce. 

Whatever the reasons, hoarding is a serious mental disorder that can have a major impact on a person’s entire life. 

What Is Hoarding Disorder?

While many people may think of hoarding as merely owning a large collection or two, or, perhaps, as the tendency to stash large quantities of goods or merchandise for later use, these behaviors, when not extreme, are distinctly different to a clinical hoarding disorder. 

A hoarding disorder is associated with the accumulation of things, whether or not they are still useful, useable or in good condition, and with a strong emotional attachment to accumulated objects. According to an Insider article, hoarding is one of the most common types of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder, and is associated with “the inability to discard useless and worn out possessions.” 

According to the International OCD Foundation, there are three specific conditions that must be present for a diagnosis of hoarding disorder. 

These conditions are: 

  1. A person collects and keeps a lot of items, even things that appear useless or of little value to most people.
  2. These items clutter the living spaces and keep the person from using their rooms as they were intended.
  3. These items cause distress or problems in day-to-day activities.

What Do People Hoard?

The specific things people hoard when they have a hoarding disorder can vary. Many hoarders accumulate a wide variety of objects that fill up their entire homes, from newspapers, magazines and books to dolls, figurines and toys. Other people with this disorder may hoard only one category of things, such as purses, shoes, vehicles or canned goods, and their stash could even only be stored in one area.

Another variation in what people hoard is the condition or usefulness of the items. Many people with the compulsion to hoard are known to accumulate empty containers, like milk jugs, tin cans, glass bottles and coffee canisters. They may also retain broken appliances, like old refrigerators or washing machines, without any intention of having the machines repaired. Other common, but useless, items that people tend to hoard include: store receipts, newspapers, grocery bags, worn clothing, old shoes, junk mail, broken holiday decorations, obsolete electronics and old electrical cables.

While most people hoard physical objects, some people also hoard animals. Sometimes this tendency begins out of compassion, as a soft hearted person may have an inability to turn away a stray cat or dog. But if someone is keeping an excessive amount of cats, dogs or other animals in their home, this results in health and safety hazards for the person, and an unhealthy environment for the animals themselves. Generally, if a person keeps several more pets than is accepted by their landlord, or by a city or county’s regulations for a private home, this may be a case of hoarding. 

Dangers Associated With Hoarding

There are a great number of dangers associated with a hoarding disorder. The International OCD Foundations explains that “severe clutter threatens the health and safety of those living in or near the home, causing health problems, structural damage, fire, and even death.” 

Innumerable health problems can come about through hoarding. A person who lives in a these conditions may contract illnesses associated with rotting food, insect infestations or biohazardous waste. Further, according to the UCSF’s Science of Caring website, “people with hoarding problems are often undertreated for the medical problems that can accompany aging.” This means that hoarders are statistically more likely to have general health problems and illnesses that would probably not become severe if they were treated properly and in a timely manner. 

As far as physical dangers in the home, the risk of fire is one of the greatest. The sheer amount of physical belongings that fill up their homes can also add a significant risk of bodily injury through tripping or falling. 

Legal problems can also arise from hoarding. For those with hoarding disorder, the condition of their home, and the way it affects them and their family members or pets, can also be a cause for eviction, and eviction can lead to homelessness. 

Compulsive hoarders are also generally a high risk for relational problems with family members, whether they live with those family members or not. 

Finally, compulsive hoarding can lead to or aggravate other mental health issues, such as depression. 

Cleanup for Hoarding Properties

When it comes time to clean a hoarder’s property, the first thing you will need to do is get that person to agree to having the job done, or have them otherwise removed from the property while the cleaning takes place. 

You should never attempt to clean the property yourself. Professional biohazard cleaners are necessary for a hoarding job because there are as many, or possibly more, dangers associated with cleaning up after a hoarder as there are in living in such conditions. According to Infection Control Technologies, “the very act of removing the waste creates additional danger as contaminants go airborne.” 

Cleaners that specialize in these hazardous condition are at the ready to assist you with the job. Get in touch with Eco Bear today for hoarder property cleanup services in Topanga, California.