Lockdown ‘clearout’ can cause genuine anxiety for hoarders

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Lockdown ‘clearout’ can cause genuine anxiety for hoarders


Due to the fear of the pandemic, many have been disposing of properties that are neither needed nor important; however, it can be a daunting challenge on a person with hoarding conditions. In order to help out, the Chief Fire Officers Association started an awareness to inform the entire populace on hoarding, which can be of help to them in getting through the stress and particularly, the need to embrace it. Thanks to wide publications, the awareness did gain popular recognition.


The awareness kicked-off on the 18th of May and ended on the 22nd of May. During the awareness week, the National Hoarding Awareness gave advice stating that when people living with hoarding are not ready for a change, they shouldn’t be forced. However, they stated how help can be rendered to them:


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Ask how you can be of help: People with hoarding find it hard to accept help due to their lifestyle. Therefore, ask them how you can be of help, it doesn’t have to be something tangible, it could be of mental support. Also, be very careful not to overdo things.


Step by Step: People with hoarding are always anxious when it comes to adjusting to solutions. Therefore, let the process of assisting them happen naturally, such that you do not attempt to force things at any time, lest you want them to feel overwhelmed. Let the changes happen slowly and steadily.


Be persistent with your assistance: Always check on them constantly in order to give them the assurance that they are not alone in the quest to overcome the hoarding. This would make them feel comfortable and see themselves as neither weird nor strange. This can be done through chatting and constant encouragement, taking them out for a drink won’t be a bad idea.


Don’t blame them: For every property they are hoarding, there is a story behind it and they are always on the defense, should you try to blame them. It is very important that you mind your statement, use encouragement words and tell them you understand why they have properties that are being hoarded. By encouraging instead of blaming them, you’re instilling confidence in them which helps them overcome the hoarding.


Mind your Language: When discussing with them, do not use abusive language on them, and majorly, do not make fun of them by referring to them as a “hoarder.” Regardless of the property being harbored in their home, you’re not allowed to make fun or use derogatory remarks. Use friendly language such as “house cleaning”, “renovating”, as the word “hoarder” can be traumatizing, so please be careful with your words.


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Focus on the individual rather than their property: Keep it in mind that you’re concerned about the hoarding patient; do not talk too much about their property, so you don’t come across as someone who is disgusted about their properties. All you can do is to ask them the story behind their properties in order to know more about them.


Make tools available for disposal: When shuffling their goods, help them with where to begin because most of them do not know where to start from. Be mindful not to make decisions for them on which goods to dispose, but help them in bringing waste bin and also give a response to their conversation whenever they are narrating what led them to hoard a property they are about to dispose of. Once they have an idea of what to dispose of, after disposal, they feel like they are ushered into a new life. So, this aspect is very important for everyone hoarding one property or the other.


In order to help them out, make use of the strategy L.E.A.P which means Listen, Empathy, Acceptance and Partnering.


When you make use of the acronyms, it will help you put yourself in their situation; once you can relate to their story, you will have a clearer understanding. In the course of helping them, celebrate with them when the clear out some hoarded property or on their new space and continue to motivate them to do more clearing. Finally, learn to be accommodating by tolerating them. This is because they are learning to live afresh by letting go there hoarding habit. Hence, be an understanding person.


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