If you have a family member or friend who is a hoarder, your first instinct might be to clean the house, throwing items out and organizing what’s left.
The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) informs that cleaning out the house of a hoarder not only fails to address the underlying issue, but can also lead to bigger problems. “Hoarders whose homes are cleared without their consent often experience extreme distress and may become further attached to their possessions. This may lead to their refusal of future help. “
Medicine may help with some of the symptoms, but it will not cure the problem. Hoarding can be cure, but it takes diligence and the knowledge of a professional.
The IOCDF suggests the help of a professional who will develop an on-going strategy to curb the behaviors of a hoarder. If you have a family member or a friend who is a hoarder, follow these steps to begin a discussion:
- Respect. Acknowledge that the person has a right to make their own decisions at their own pace.
- Have sympathy. Understand that everyone has some attachment to the things they own. Try to understand the importance of their items to them.
- Encourage. Come up with ideas to make their home safer, such as moving clutter from doorways and halls.
- Team up with them. Don’t argue about whether to keep or discard an item; instead, find out what will help motivate the person to discard or organize.
- Reflect. Help the person to recognize that hoarding interferes with the goals or values the person may hold. For example, by de-cluttering the home, a person may host social gatherings and have a richer social life.
- Ask. To develop trust, never throw anything away without asking permission.
Getting a hoarder to seek treatment is not easy, but can make a big positive difference in his or her life. Ask a mental health specialist or a doctor for advice.