Letting Go: Find Freedom from Hoarding


Taking control of clutter can be challenging for many people. It is easy to accumulate more than we need and even more challenging to remove excess. So, how do you know when the inability to purge has gone too far?

Hoarding is a mental health disorder that affects about 5 percent of the population. If you or a loved one struggles with hoarding, local resources can help.

Understanding Hoarding

Hoarding is not about accumulating too many things. Instead, it is the inability to part with possessions. Those who hoard feel the need to save items — regardless of value — even though the clutter makes life difficult and harmful.

Hoarding impacts many aspects of life. Here are some questions to assess if you or someone you know may be hoarding:

  • Can you sit and eat at your kitchen table, or is it too crowded?
  • Is there room in your bed to sleep?
  • Do you argue with loved ones about the possessions around your home?
  • Do people avoid visiting because of the condition of your home?
  • Have you hurt yourself tripping over clutter?

If you answer yes to some of these, you may need to talk with a professional.

The Root Cause

Anyone can suffer from a hoarding disorder, ranging from mild to severe. While it mostly affects older adults, experts find that many people who hoard experienced trauma, such as abuse or the death of a loved one. Hoarding develops as a way to gain control of the world.

Clearing a Path Forward

It is important to seek professional care for hoarding. A mental health professional can:

  • Assess an individual for hoarding
  • Educate the sufferer and their family members about the problem
  • Help identify and address the root cause of the disorder
  • Work with individuals to begin parting with things and establish organization

If you think a loved one may hoard, encourage them to get help. Be careful not to:

  • Judge or punish them. Hoarding is a mental health issue that requires professional care.
  • Try to help by removing their possessions. This can cause extreme anxiety.

These insights were provided by Lynn Faust, program manager of ClearPath, an Emerson Health community partner that supports and educates hoarders.

Hoarding Podcast

Listen to Lynn Faust discuss hoarding and how you can help someone struggling with it in this Health Works Here podcast.

Local Resources

Visit emersonhealth.findhelp.com to discover resources near you for a wide variety of needs — including food, housing, mental health, childcare, senior care, transportation, and more.