- What Is Clutter?
- What Is Hoarding?
- Hoarding Affects Health
- Hoarding and Quality of Life
- Address Hoarding
What is clutter?
Clutter and hoarding are often used interchangeably, but they are very different. Clutter is a less severe form of hoarding, but both should be taken seriously. Clutter and hoarding can affect your health and quality of life if left untreated.
Clutter can refer to disorganized piles of objects that collect over time in places meant for other uses, like tables, the floor, in the hallway, etc. Clutter is a common sign of hoarding, but it doesn’t mean that someone has hoarding disorder. You might go through busy periods of life where cleaning isn’t a high priority and clutter builds up, but this isn’t hoarding.
Some of the differences between clutter and hoarding include excessive disorganized piles of objects and extreme difficulty getting rid of items. Location is also important in separating clutter and hoarding. You probably have clutter somewhere in your house right now. The basement, attic, or closet are common areas for clutter to accumulate.
If clutter starts to take over common areas in your home, this is a signal of hoarding disorder. When your kitchen, living room, bedroom, and other living spaces become so overcome with clutter that your everyday activities are hard to carry out, this is a hallmark of hoarding disorder.
What is hoarding?
If your clutter makes it hard for you or others in your life to carry out normal life or creates living conditions that pose health problems, you’ve transitioned from clutter to hoarding. If you have a hoarding disorder, it might be difficult to recognize you have a problem or ask for help. You probably have really strong reasons why you collect belongings and let them sit around.
Hoarding becomes a serious problem when your living conditions become cramped. It’s gradual, but eventually you’ll notice that you keep on bringing things home that you don’t need or have the space for. Your hallways are full of stacks of clutter. Every possible surface is covered in piles, and your garage, vehicles, or storage facilities might be filled to the brim, too. Symptoms of hoarding include:
- Inability to get rid of things, even if they have no value
- Emotional distress when thinking about discarding things
- Belief that there’s no other option but to keep your things
- Unable to use parts of your home because of the buildup of items
- Signs of indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination
- Trouble planning and organizing
Hoarding can happen for several reasons, but the most common include:
- Belief your belongings are unique, valuable, or will be needed in the future
- A sense that your items are emotionally important, remind you of better times, or represent people or pets that you love
- A sense of security because you’re surrounded by belongings
- Belief that by keeping everything you’re wasting nothing
How hoarding affects health
You might think that excessive clutter couldn’t put your health in jeopardy, but it can. Your physical and mental health are at stake as your collecting habits continue to grow:
- Higher chances of falling
- Risk of injury or being trapped because of shifting or falling items
- Isolation and loneliness
- Unsanitary conditions that affect physical health
- Fire hazard
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
If you or someone you know has a hoarding disorder, your long-term health could be at risk. Treatment can be difficult to face, but your life could be safer and more enjoyable after overcoming hoarding.
Causes of hoarding
Health professionals aren’t sure what causes hoarding disorder. Possible causes are genetics, brain function, and stressful events. Hoarders typically show signs of hoarding as young adults but hoarding is more common in older adults. Common factors of people with hoarding disorder include:
- Indecisive personality
- Family members that have hoarding disorder
- Stressful life event that was hard to cope with
How hoarding affects quality of life
Hoarding affects the quality of life in a number of ways. Hoarders are often distressed by the struggle to get rid of their belongings and to avoid collecting more. It’s common to experience financial difficulties because of excessive spending to acquire more things, adding another emotional stress.
It can be hard to make and maintain relationships with hoarding disorder. It’s common to have conflicts with family and friends because you’re unable to prioritize relationships over your belongings. This adds to a withdrawal from society in general.
If you or a loved one is struggling with excessive clutter or hoarding disorder and you believe someone’s health is at risk, seek help immediately.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cleveland Clinic: "Clutter Making You Crazy? How to Deal With Hoarding."
International OCD Foundation: "Is it Hoarding, Clutter, Collecting, or Squalor?"
Mayo Clinic: "Hoarding disorder."
Top What Is Difference Between Clutter and Hoarding Related Articles
Abuse, Trauma, and Mental HealthSuffering abuse and trauma can put one at higher risk of developing PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Signs and symptoms of abuse or trauma include appetite or mood changes, alcohol and/or drug abuse, difficulty sleeping, and anger. Treatment may incorporate a combination of medication and talk therapy.
AnxietyAnxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by symptoms such as trouble concentrating, headaches, sleep problems, and irritability. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. Treatment for anxiety may incorporate medications and psychotherapy.
Anxiety and Panic Disorders: Conditions That Look Like AnxietyIs it anxiety or something else? Click through to learn which conditions share symptoms.
Anxiety, Stress, and WorryWant to find ways to reduce anxiety, stress, and worry? Find treatments to ease stress, eliminate worry, and combat anxiety as you discover how stress affects your body. Learn whether stress fights colds or encourages them, why some stress is bad and some is good, and why exercise and diet can be relaxing.
Anxiety SlideshowLearn about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). See if your worries are normal or something more by learning about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of anxiety disorders.
How Does a Person With Anxiety Feel?What are symptoms of anxiety? A person with anxiety may experience feelings of nervousness, restlessness, inability to concentrate, stomach problems, and more.
How Does Anxiety Affect You Physically?Physical signs of anxiety include rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, headache, and more. Find out how to recognize and ease your symptoms.
Is Journaling Good for Mental Health?Journaling is the process of writing down your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. While writing your way out of depression might not be possible, journaling may help lower symptoms of depression.
Mental HealthMental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
What Are the Six Types of Anxiety Disorders?Anxiety disorders cause worry, fear and panic as an irrational response to mundane situations. The six main types are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, trauma-related disorders and phobias.
What Symptoms Are Caused by Anxiety?It's normal to feel stressed or worried about things that happen in our everyday lives. However, people who experience anxiety disorders often feel heightened fear or worry about common situations.
Mental Health: Where to Get Mental Health HelpWhen you think of mental health, lying on a couch in a therapist’s office may come to mind. But there are other options, and some are low-cost or even free. Here’s what you need to know.