What should you not say to a hoarder?

What Should You Not Say to a Hoarder? Key Insights & Tips


Hoarding disorder is a mental illness characterized by the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions. Hoarders fill their homes with clutter and may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of items. It is crucial to understand that hoarding is not a reflection of laziness or dirtiness. Treatment for hoarding disorder may include therapy, medication, and support from professionals.

Key Takeaways:

  • Be empathetic and understanding when communicating with hoarders.
  • Avoid making insensitive remarks or inappropriate comments about the clutter.
  • Focus on listening and trying to understand why certain items are important to the hoarder.
  • Offer respectful assistance in decluttering, asking for permission before touching their belongings.
  • Encourage hoarders to seek professional help and support their journey towards recovery.

Understanding Hoarding Disorder and its Effects

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition characterized by excessive accumulation of possessions and difficulties discarding them. Hoarders often fill their homes with clutter, making it challenging to navigate and limiting access to essential spaces. The hoarder’s home becomes overwhelmed with items, leading to distress and an impaired ability to maintain a clean and organized living environment.

Hoarding not only affects the physical space but also has emotional and social impacts. For hoarders, possessions hold significant emotional value, and parting with them can cause extreme distress. This attachment to items can result in isolation, strained relationships, and difficulties in social interactions. Hoarding also leads to disorganization and perfectionism, as the hoarder tries to control their environment through their possessions.

Effects of Hoarding Disorder:

  • Excessive accumulation of possessions
  • Distress and difficulty discarding items
  • Impaired access to essential spaces
  • Emotional attachment to possessions
  • Isolation and strained relationships
  • Disorganization and perfectionism

It is important to distinguish hoarding disorder from collecting. While collectors may display their treasures in an organized and curated manner, hoarders have difficulty maintaining a clear and functional living environment due to the excessive accumulation of possessions. Understanding the emotional attachment and distress associated with hoarding can guide effective communication and support for individuals struggling with this challenging disorder.

Communicating Effectively with Hoarders

When supporting a hoarder, effective communication is key to fostering understanding and promoting positive change. By approaching the situation with empathy and sensitivity, you can establish a supportive and non-judgmental environment for the hoarder to feel comfortable in.

Understanding Hoarders

To communicate effectively with hoarders, it is important to first gain an understanding of their unique struggles and challenges. Hoarding disorder is a recognized mental illness characterized by a strong attachment to possessions and difficulty parting with them. Recognize that their clutter is not a reflection of laziness or dirtiness, but rather a manifestation of their emotional needs and coping mechanisms.

Avoiding Inappropriate Comments

When engaging in conversation with hoarders, it is crucial to avoid making insensitive remarks about their clutter. Instead, focus on active listening and showing genuine interest in their perspective. Validate their feelings and acknowledge their struggles without judgment. This will help build trust and create a safe space for them to open up and explore the possibility of change.

Providing Support and Assistance

Offer your support in a respectful and non-intrusive manner. Ask for permission before handling or discarding any of their belongings, as the hoarder may have a deep emotional connection to each item. Be patient and understanding, as decluttering can be a challenging process. Encourage them to seek professional help from therapists or support groups specialized in hoarding disorder, as they can provide valuable guidance and resources for their recovery journey.

Helping a Hoarder Seek Treatment

If you know someone who is a hoarder, it is crucial to encourage them to seek professional help. Hoarding disorder is a complex mental health issue that often requires therapy and support. Offering your support and assistance in researching therapists, support groups, or treatment programs in their area can make a significant difference in their journey towards recovery.

Be patient and understanding as the road to recovery may be gradual. It’s essential to remember that overcoming hoarding disorder is a process that takes time and effort. Encourage the hoarder to take small steps towards decluttering and seeking therapy to address the underlying causes of their hoarding behavior.

Seeking Mental Health Professionals

When helping a hoarder seek treatment, it is crucial to involve mental health professionals who specialize in hoarding disorder. Look for therapists who have experience in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or other evidence-based treatments for hoarding. Additionally, consider reaching out to local mental health organizations or support groups that can provide guidance and resources for treatment options in your area.

Remember to take care of your own mental health while supporting a hoarder. Supporting someone through their journey towards recovery can be emotionally challenging. Seek support from therapists, support groups, or friends and family who can provide guidance and understanding. By prioritizing your well-being, you can better support the hoarder throughout their treatment process.

Coping with Clutter in Your Own Life

If you find yourself struggling with clutter in your own life, don’t worry, there are steps you can take to cope with it and create a clean and organized space. Here are some tips to help you declutter and reduce stress:

  1. Enlist help from a trusted individual: Making decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard can be overwhelming. Ask a family member or friend to support you in this process. Their fresh perspective can provide guidance and help you make more objective choices.
  2. Set realistic goals: Breaking the decluttering process into manageable tasks will make it feel less daunting. Start with one specific area, such as a closet or a room, and focus on decluttering that space before moving on to the next.
  3. Stay organized: Sort items into categories, such as keep, donate, or discard. Put away the items you choose to keep immediately so that they don’t contribute to the clutter. Utilize storage solutions, such as bins or shelves, to help maintain an organized space.
  4. Seek support: If you feel overwhelmed by clutter and find it difficult to cope on your own, consider seeking support from a therapist or joining a support group. These resources can provide guidance, accountability, and encouragement throughout your decluttering journey.

Remember, addressing clutter is a gradual process, so be patient with yourself. Celebrate small victories along the way and focus on the positive impact of creating a clean and organized space. By implementing these strategies, you can reduce stress and improve your overall mental health.


Understanding and effectively communicating with hoarders is essential to supporting them on their path to recovery. Remember to approach the situation with empathy and kindness, and avoid making inappropriate comments about their clutter. By listening to the hoarder and trying to understand their attachment to certain items, you can build a supportive relationship.

Encouraging hoarders to seek professional help is crucial. Treatment options such as therapy and medication can greatly benefit their mental health and well-being. Take the initiative to help them research therapists, support groups, or treatment programs in Oregon or Washington.

Coping with clutter in your own life is also important for your well-being. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member when making decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard. Set realistic goals and stay organized to maintain a clean and stress-free environment. If necessary, seek support from therapy or support groups to help you overcome the challenges of clutter.

Remember, effective communication, seeking treatment, and coping with clutter are all part of a journey towards a healthier and more organized life. By being patient, kind, and compassionate towards hoarders and yourself, you can make a positive difference in your own life and in the lives of others.

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