If you are a hoarder or living with one, READ THIS!

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IO – We like to keep stuff that has a memorable value towards our life; even the most organized people have a junk closet filled with old clothes, shoes, and other items long past their prime. However, hoarders take collecting to an unhealthy level. Most of us wonder how anyone could live in such a state while others are curious about how they become hoarders in the first place? Frankly, I was a hoarder myself since I was a little girl until my late teenage years; then I was completely stressed out for not having any more space to add my new stuff. Fortunately, it came to my realization that I needed to change my lifestyle as a hoarder.

For some, they fail to realize that hoarding behavior is anything but a conscious lifestyle choice. As a matter of fact, it is a major disease that can seriously interfere with the life of the hoarder, as well as the lives of surrounding family and friends. There was a point in my life that my mom would not want to come into my room because she could not stand how “full” it was and when my friends came over to hang out in my room, they could not stand it either. At the time, I would have ignored them and continued hoarding as much as I could because it was my room, and I was the one who spent most of my time here. That lasted until I became physically ill because of the dust; I was troubled looking for some stuff that I needed to find at that moment; there was absolutely no space left to put my new stuff, and I was frustrated with how full and messy my room was: I could not walk and sleep in my own room. Yes, hoarding is very unhealthy and bad behavior, and being a hoarder is clearly not a healthy lifestyle choice.

For hoarders, symptoms are deep-seated. They do not hang onto things just for the sake of it. Most of the time, they see significant value in items that normal people toss out without a second thought. They like to save items that bring back happy memories when they see them—even if that item is just a Starbucks cup with their names on it. Hoarders find significance in virtually anything they encounter, resulting in a home or a room full of more odds and ends than anyone could possibly need; some are unable to discard obvious trash. Hoarders find difficulty in deciding or organizing their belongings; that is why their stuff just stock up in piles. Mayo Clinic stated that hoarding behavior often begins during adolescence or puberty, although it is possible for even young children to exhibit tendencies by holding onto old broken toys or keeping daily colored papers. For some people, hoarding behavior is triggered following a traumatic life event. Such an experience can range anywhere from the death of a loved one, a breakup or divorce, or eviction. Often people who have such an experience become depressed and they can develop hoarding behavior if their depression is not addressed.

International OCD Foundation states that compulsive hoarders do not typically start off depressed, but more than half of them usually wind up that way since hoarding often promotes feelings of happiness. The acquisition of beloved items helps hoarders feel safe and secure. Too often, however, the hoarder becomes so overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame over the appearance of his or her home, which can trigger clinical depression. Although hoarding has yet to be designated as a specific disorder, psychologists do have guidelines in place for making a diagnosis. A comprehensive psychological evaluation is necessary, during which the clinician will glean as much information as possible about the patient’s hoarding tendencies and emotional attachment to the objects. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three primary characteristics that designate a hoarder. First, a true hoarder acquires excessive amounts of items that non-hoarders (normal people) would perceive as useless and is emotionally unable to get rid of them. Second, the hoarder’s home must be classified as practically unusable as a result of the behavior. Third, a hoarder will experience substantial distress due to the disease, both in terms of emotional stress and the impact of hoarding on his or her everyday life.

There are ways to help a hoarder to change their lifestyle into becoming a non-hoarder. This is from my own experience, and that really worked from me. First and most important, establish trust. The people at my house and the ones who are close to me approach my situation with caution and compassion. They were not attacking my hoarding behavior and they tried to understand it. By them letting me to “enjoy” my hoarding lifestyle, it allowed me realize the problem on my own. By them simply respecting my decision to be a hoarder, it made me realize that something was about to change. When they found out that I wanted to change, they offered me choices: having a clean, organized, breathable room by letting unused and unnecessary-to-keep stuff go, or seeing a psychologist to seek therapy? I chose to do it on my own by donating stuff I did not use, an open garage sale for items that were still good to use but not in my possession anymore and letting go of the things filled with memories that I had kept for so many years that I would not even bothered to look in the future.

There is nothing good that comes from hoarding. If you are a hoarder yourself or live with one, please help yourself or your loved ones to get rid of this unhealthy lifestyle. Hoarding can lead to health risks, especially if the hoarded item is what others might call literal trash. If the slow or gentle approach fails, the best thing to do is call for professional help. (Annissa Munaf)