Research estimates that between five to fourteen million people in America struggle with compulsive hoarding.
Do you struggle with out-of-control clutter? Do you find yourself making excuses as to why people can’t come into your home? Or do you suspect that a loved one may be struggling with this debilitating disorder?
Let’s get into the five stages of hoarding you need to know.
This is considered the mildest stage of hoarding. All the doors and stairways of the home are accessible.
If animals are in the home, the activity is normal. There may be a few incidents of pet accidents, but it’s otherwise sanitary.
While there may be the presence of clutter (trash, old lottery tickets, dishes), it’s not excessive. In general, the home has good housekeeping. While there might be a sense of messiness, it is safe and sanitary to live in the house.
To classify for the level two stage, at least one exit is blocked. Or, at least one major appliance (such as a dishwasher or stove) has been out of service for at least six months.
Concerning animals, there is typically the presence of some pet odor, waste, and dander around the home.
The clutter inhabits at least two rooms. However, other places in the home are still accessible. Pathways may be cluttered, but people can walk through them.
Housekeeping becomes strained at this level. The house may have an unpleasant odor. There may be the presence of mildew in the bathrooms and kitchens.
Level three has visible clutter outdoors. Strewn items, such as couches, televisions, or other furniture, may be on the lawn or sidewalk.
At this stage, there are at least two broken appliances in the home. There is also evidence of structural damage.
If pets are present, they exceed the local limits (i.e., an entire litter of kittens or puppies). Pet wastings are evident throughout the home. Additionally, there are obvious pest issues (spiderwebs, fleas, cockroaches).
At least one bedroom and bathroom are not fully functioning due to clutter. The indoor clutter creates very narrow halls and hindered staircases.
The house has limited to no housekeeping. There is a presence of dust, dirt, and grime throughout the home. Dirty laundry is usually left on the floor in multiple rooms.
At level four, the structural damage starts impacting the majority of the house. At this point, the damage has existed for over six months.
This stage also presents with higher levels of mold and mildew. Homeowners start using appliances for various, unrelated purposes (i.e., storing books in the oven).
Pets exceed limits by four or more animals, and there is animal waste pervasive throughout the home. Unwanted critters like raccoons, snakes, and bats may be present in the basement or attic.
At this stage, the bedroom and bathroom are nearly unusable. Due to the clutter, the home starts becoming a severe liability for fire and other damage.
The owner usually has multiple cans and boxes of expired or rotten food. There are no clean dishes or utensils available for eating in the home.
This is considered the most severe form of hoarding. At this point, most basic home maintenance needs have been completely neglected for several months.
This includes disconnected electrical service, broken walls and windows, lack of a working sewer system, and increasing structural damage.
Intentional (and unintentional) pets live in the home, and they are considered dangerous to the homeowners. The home usually has the presence of both animal and human feces in several locations.
The home does not have any edible or healthy food. All rooms are rendered unusable, and the tenant must sleep outside of the home.
When To Get Help For Hoarding
Hoarding can be a shameful and difficult disorder to live with. That said, treatment is available. Seeking help can profoundly improve your emotional well-being.
When the individual is willing, psychotherapy can help with compulsive hoarding. Therapy helps address hoarding by:
- teaching alternative coping skills
- managing stress management
- identifying distortions about what objects and their sentimentality mean
- addressing past traumas connected to hoarding
- developing a realistic self-care plan to replace hoarding tendencies
Therapy sessions can occur both inside the home and in the therapist’s office. Contact your insurance or speak to your primary care physician for an appropriate referral.
As society increases awareness about hoarding, more and more people are disclosing their struggles. A support group can help you share your story- and receive help and feedback from others.
Look online to see if there is a support group near you.
Helping A Loved One
If someone you love struggles with hoarding, it can be devastating and frustrating to witness them suffer. Maybe you’ve tried confronting in the past, but you haven’t seen any signs of progress.
Keep in mind that you need to patient and safe during this situation. Hoarding is a mental illness; it is not a choice or matter of willpower. Hire a professional service if you need a neutral, third-party who can help you both out.
Most of all, avoid probing questions. It’s not your job to determine why he or she hoards. It’s also not your job to tell them that they need to change.
Your job is to provide support and let him or her know that you are there for them- unconditionally.
Learning how to help a hoarder without judgment can be one of the greatest gifts you can provide.
Final Thoughts On The Five Stages of Hoarding
Learning about the five stages of hoarding can help you assess and understand hoarding in a more objective framework. Remember that help is available, and recovery is always possible!