Hoarding is more common than you might imagine, but it is also a problem which when taken to excess can be called a psychological disorder, so it’s really important you take notice of signs you are a hoarder. We’re not talking about having too many clothes, too many CDs, or a cupboard full of books. We’re talking about serious piles of stuff; so much you don’t remember what you have, sometimes so much you can’t see your furniture or get into a room. Here are the key signs you are a hoarder. If you recognize them, maybe now is the time to get some help.
Keeping things because you may need them one day is not one of the signs you are a hoarder. People think it is because it is often the first excuse a hoarder uses for their behavior. The broken toothbrush is excused because “what if I lose the one I have now?” The second most common excuse is, “What if my current one breaks?” Keeping things because you may lose something or break something else is not a sign you are a hoarder, but be aware that they are common excuses that hoarders use.
Keeping items you may need at a later date is the sign of a pragmatic mind. You may not need these screws for a year, or this fuse for a year, or your iron pot for a year, but at some point you may and that is okay. It is not okay when you have collected so much that you have trouble using rooms, finding space, or if it restricts your day-to-day activities in any way. If this is happening then it is not born of a pragmatic mind because a pragmatist wouldn’t sacrifice one function for the possibility of another in such a haphazard way.
A knee-jerk response of anger is actually a sign of addiction, and hoarding shares this symptom. It is one of the signs you are a hoarder because it is a reaction to a feeling of helplessness that stems back to your base instincts. The fact you feel you have lost control when you lose, give away, or throw away an item is a problem.
If you lose a photo of an ex lover, or a teddy that you named when you bought it, then it is okay to be upset when you lose it. If you are giving something away or throwing something away and having an emotional response, then this may also be normal. It becomes a problem when the emotional response stops you from throwing or giving something away and is one of the signs you have a hoarding problem.
Hoarders do differ slightly depending on the personality of the person. Some will feel ill at the idea that they may have lost something in their house and will look for it to check they have it. Others will not mind losing something in their house so long as they feel confident it is on the premises. Both will feel uncomfortable throwing something out, but only the former type of hoarder will feel uncomfortable losing something in the house.
A very common and damaging misconception is that hoarders are untidy, unclean and/or unorganized. It is damaging because a hoarder can use tidiness, cleanliness and organization as an excuse for their excessive behavior. Some will even hide things in the attic or basement so that they can tell themselves, “Well, my house is tidy so I am not a hoarder.”
Keeping things that are broken is not one of the signs you have a hoarding problem. You are allowed to have affection for objects, even if they are broken, and collecting is part of our base instincts and thousands of years ago would have saved your life. Excessive retaining of broken items however is a sign you may be becoming a hoarder. This is especially true if you have replaced the item already.
People from single parent homes will do things such as keep jam jars because one day they may be useful for putting push pins in or planting an apple seed that has started to grow. This sort of thing may look like hoarding, but is only part of your childhood conditioning and you shouldn’t worry about it unless you feel you are doing it excessively (if you feel you are losing control over it).
If you have asked yourself this or are ready to, it’s a good sign because it means you’ve recognized you have a problem. A therapist can work on the signs you are a hoarder and can help you figure out if you actually have a problem because many times, what is considered hoarding is normal human behavior. We see TV shows of houses without clutter or a junk room and are sold the idea that this is normal when it isn’t. Still, if you suspect you have a problem, then try to trace back to a time when it may have started. Therein are often the reasons why it all started in the first place.
I’m not going to advise you what to do if you recognize the signs you are a hoarder because I am not a therapist. I will say however, recognition is the first step. Acceptance is the next and then the decision to do something about it. That’s when you might want to consider professional help. Are you a hoarder or do you just have too much stuff that a good weekend sort out and yard sale or trip to the thrift shop will cure?