Collecting too much stuff can happen to anyone.
When the problem turns to compulsive hoarding and affects a person's daily life, intervention and help is needed.
Compulsive hoarding is defined as the failure to discard and the acquisition of items that appear to be useless or of little value, and is evidenced by excessive possessions in the home that interfere with normal daily living activities.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Brenda Boehler, service coordinator for Minot Housing Authority, standing, and Connie Philipenko, director of Vocational Services for Minot Housing Authority, review information regarding compulsive hoarding in a presentation they have shared with community members.
Brenda Boehler, service coordinator for Minot Housing Authority and Connie Philipenko, director of Vocational Services for Minot Housing Authority, have presented on the topic of compulsive hoarding to provide more community education on the topic.
"We're not experts in the field of compulsive hoarding, but we discovered that there was nothing in our community addressing it, and people didn't know who to contact to fix it," Philipenko said.
Hoarding vs. collecting
Philipenko and Boehler attended a training session, and used the information they gathered at the session to present to the public. Their goal was to inform on the differences between hoarding and collecting; and who to contact for help.
"(People) who collect things are usually people who are able to collect and not let it interfere with their daily living in the home. People who hoard tend to pile things so high they are unable to use beds, stoves and sometimes even the bathroom," Boehler said.
Boehler added that most hoarders have a mental illness such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder or social phobia. Helping hoarders reorganize their lives isn't as simple as just cleaning up the home. They must also be treated with ongoing
psychotherapy and medications for the clean-up to remain successful.
"If you walk into the home, as a family member, and see that it needs to be taken care of, and you take that person out of the home and clean it, you could cause a problem," Philipenko said. "Some people will spiral into a major depression if they see that their things are thrown out."
"Even if they are OK with the current clean state, they still need years of intense therapy to avoid slipping back into the same patterns," she added. "Otherwise they will continue to go back out and bring stuff in again if they aren't treated."
Philipenko and Boehler said that people should never be confronted or accused of hoarding, but those who have close relationships with suspected hoarders should approach the situation with diplomacy and should contact the proper authorities for help.
"People shouldn't start pointing fingers at people," Philipenko said. "Most of the time hoarders are very kind people, they just have a problem with hoarding. There are two ways to confront a hoarder. You could be accusing, or you could ask them if they might need a little help."
"You shouldn't try to work with a hoarder unless they trust you or you have a relationship with them," she added.
Types of hoarding
Also, understanding the difference between hoarders and collectors can help.
Boehler explained that there are three main reasons for hoarding: sentimental, instrumental or intrinsic. Hoarders might hold on to objects that hold sentimental value to them, keep things that they think they may need or could use some day, or keep things that they think are beautiful.
"We all do this to a certain degree," Boehler said. "We hold on to sentimental things, things we just like to look at, or things we think we could use that we don't necessarily need to live, function in the home, or keep clean."
Hoarding becomes a problem when the piles of stuff cause health and safety risks in the home. Examples of safety risks could be blocked entrances, fire and trip hazards, rodent or insect infestations, sanitation concerns such as rotting food, or isolation of the hoarder.
When health and safety issues arise and the hoarder is unreceptive to people's efforts to help, people should contact their local police department, animal shelter in cases of animal hoarding, adult protective services or child protective services.
In working with hoarders, Boehler and Philipenko explained that there are some strategies that work. Early identification of hoarding tendencies in a person and early intervention is a good prevention measure.
When a hoarder is faced with cleaning out their home, setting specific and realistic time frames to get the job done can help. During the clean-up, helpers should work to understand why the stuff is so important to the hoarder and help them seek services. After a problem is identified and a residence is cleaned up, a hoarder needs help learning to set limits and how to self monitor their hoarding habits.
Boehler and Philipenko also advocated for community education efforts and building partnerships within a hoarder's community, family and case managers.