Are you a hoarder? Obsessive compulsive keepers are much more common than you may believe. The International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation believes that between 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States are considered to be compulsive keepers. Described by the Mayo Clinic, hoarding is having an excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. If you are unsure if you or someone you know is a hoarder, read on. 

Hoarding can be a very serious condition, not only because of cramped living conditions, but also because the resident’s health and safety could be at risk. Built-up clutter causes fire hazards and leaves individuals only narrow paths throughout the house to navigate from room to room. Aside from piles of possessions stacked to the ceiling, it also inhibits sufficient cleaning. Mold, dust and animal feces are often hidden by the clutter, which leaves the residents at a high risk for disease or allergies. These chronically disorganized people are usually easily distracted and have a difficult time with time-management. Their excessive clutter provides a sense of safety since the hoard can create a barrier from having meaningful relationships. 

Hoarding affects everyone. Family, friends and loved ones of a compulsive keeper may be pushed away if they attempt to “help” the hoarder. Letting go of possessions is a much more complicated process versus someone who does not emotionally attach themselves to many material items. 

If you relate with many of these descriptors or know someone who does, keep these following solutions in mind. 

Be patient. This situation did not happen overnight so you must have grace with yourself or with whomever you wish to help with their addiction. Learning new skills and strategies to cope take time and often need help from a professional, like a doctor, therapist or psychologist. Keeping communication open and direct is important for a healthy relationship with your loved one or friend. If you are to get angry with a hoarder, make it clear that they (the individual) are more important than the clutter building up around them. 

Another form of hoarding is with animals rather than possessions. In these cases, individuals usually keep all their animals indoors to hide from the public eye. These cases are usually unsafe and unsanitary for both the owner and the animals. Please be urgent in handling these cases, but always with care. 

If you would like more information on hoarding, please come by the local K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County office at 613 Holiday Plaza in Lansing and ask for “Hoarding: The Impact of Compulsive Keepers” by K-State Extension Agent Denise Dias. If you are questioning whether you are a compulsive keeper or just disorganized, you can also request a questionnaire to help determine the severity of your disorganization. 

The little steps are what lead to progress, so be proactive today for yourself or someone you love. For other questions on this topic or others, call our office at 913-364-5700 or email Chelsi Myer at chelsim@ksu.edu

Chelsi Myer is a family and consumer sciences agent with K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County.