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Hoarding And Cluttering Defined

Most clutterers call themselves hoarders, but fortunately, only a very small percentage of clutterers are truly hoarders. Media stories often focus on hoarding, since hoarding makes better copy than cluttering. According to psychiatrists and psychologists I have interviewed, less than 1% of the population hoards. While hoarding is a serious psychological condition that can only be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, here is a brief discussion of the differences between hoarders and clutterers. The psychology of cluttering and hoarding are very different.

A hoarder cannot make rational decisions about what is useful and what is not. Thus, the hoarder often saves garbage or soiled items. If you don't you probably aren't. You are probably "just" a clutterer, like the rest of us. I have worked with hoarders in my consulting capacity and it is a very sad and difficult task to help hoarders.

A hoarder obsesses about her stuff and is compelled to collect it. A clutterer just lets it pile up. We don't give it much thought. It seems to flow into our lives without any effort on our part.

A hoarder is usually unaware of anything being wrong. If you are concerned about your clutter, you are in good shape.

A clutterer becomes overwhelmed by her stuff and has emotional attachments to her possessions but does not save garbage.  A clutterer often has some of the following symptoms:  low self-esteem, difficulty in making decisions, fear of loss and failure, mild depression, belief that she doesn’t deserve any better. A clutterer holds onto items and relationships that do not server her because of these beliefs.

If it is a family member's clutter that is overwhelming you, then you should consider the differences before labeling her. As always, professional help can be a big boost in recovery, but unless a person is willing to make changes, odds are she won't.

Hoarding needs to be treated by a psychiatrist and medications are often prescribed.

For more information about hoarding and OCD in general, there is not better source than the OC Foundation. Email: info@ocfoundation.org. Web site: www.ocfoundation.org. Their address is: POB 70, Milford CT 06460. PH: is 203-878-5669.