What is Hoarding – Various Definitions:

  • Mayo Clinic Definition: Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them.
  • Therapist’s Definition – Many of you know my friend and colleague on the show Hoarders, Dr. Michael A. Tompkins. He defines Hoarding by placing an emphasis on four central factors: excessive acquiring, difficulty discarding, living in cluttered spaces, and having significant distress or impairment. He also advises using the “HARM Reduction Technique” in his interventions – which basically means to do no harm and meet the hoarder at his or her level.
  • Public Health Definition: This definition mostly represents the health of the community, the neighborhood or public health at large. Prosecutors might define hoarding as it impacts the community as a whole – rodents, fire and safety, building and code issues, viruses, animal control, or child endangerment.
  • Landlord’s Definition. He or she might say, “I know I need to be politically correct here – but I don’t want all my tenants freaking out and I don’t want a law suit on my hands and I don’t want my property value to drop. How can we “get rid of these people?” What do I have to do? Can’t we do some sort of intervention here?”
  • Desperate Family Member’s Definition: I can hear them now…. “I don’t get it – my sister seems fine with her hoard and I can’t take it anymore. I’m in agony, I’m suffering, I can’t help, I am completely powerless around this. Please if I could only get this cleaned up for her. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what this ‘hoarding’ is!”
  • Individual with the Hoarding Problem might say: “I don’t think I’m a Hoarder – if I need to clean this up then I will but I don’t think I need to right now.”

MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION? After reviewing these various definitions, you will come to understand that you probably relate to one group more than another. What feels feel right for you?

Advice for the person
who hoards:

Take one small step. Just one. Keep it simple. Here are some ideas. Carry one item to the trash or drive three items to a donation center. Look up a support group or therapist. Look in the mirror and acknowledge you are collecting way too much. Apologize to your child or spouse and let them know you need help. Just start somewhere, make it a small step and smile.

Advice for supporting
someone who hoards:

Let go. Stop. Breathe. Create some distance from the situation if you can. Begin to focus on your own life. Organize your own space, room, home or life. Release the guilt. Avoid fixing the other person. Avoid threatening the person who hoards. Never clear their the space while they are away without their permission.

Contact Us If You Need Help for Hoarding

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Before and After Photos

Watch Episodes of the Hoarders TV Show

Hoarders Show – Please Don’t Evict Me

Hoarders Show – I’m Proud to be the Town’s Junk Woman

Hoarders Show – Hoarding and Kids

Does Clutter Make You Gain Weight?

Hoarding Can Lead to Jail Time


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Quick Tips to Organize Your Life

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Hoarding Resources

Books To Read

  • The ICD Guide to Collaborating with Professional Organizers, Phyllis Flood Knerr
  • Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, David Tolin, Randy Frost, G Steketee
  • Children of Hoarders: How to Minimize Conflict, Reduce the Clutter and Improve your Relationship, F. Neziroglu, K. Donnelly
  • Clinician’s Guide to Severe Hoarding: A Harm Reduction Approach, Michael Tompkins
  • Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Workbook, G. Steketee, Randy Frost
  • Digging Out: helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding and Compulsive Acquiring, Michael Tompkins, T Hartl
  • Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, F. Luskin
  • Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, G. Jampolsky
  • Group Treatment for Hoarding Disorder: A Therapist Guide, J. Muroff, P. Underwood, G. Steketee
  • Harm Reduction: Pragmatic Strategies for Managing High-Risk Behaviors, G. Marlatt
  • Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding, F. Neziroglu, J. Bubrick, J. Yaryura-Tobias
  • Saving Our Parents, Dorothy Breininger
  • Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff, Dorothy Breininger
  • Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, Randy Frost
  • The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life, Robin Zasio
  • What Every Professional Organizer Needs to Know About Hoarding, Judith Kolberg

Hoarding Support Groups

  • Hoarders Support Group with DorothyTheOrganizer: This is a virtual therapy support for people who hoard and folks who are impacted by people who hoard. The group facilitated by Hoarders TV Show Hoarding Expert, DorothyTheOrganizer. It is free to – sign up at the website listed above.
  • Children of Hoarders The site is a forum for family members for people who hoard. The site includes a comprehensive list of resources.
  • Clutterers Anonymous The site is a self-help 12-step organization with chapters throughout the world. Members can request a newsletter and several brochures on the topic of clutter.

Organizations That Can Provide Help And Info

American Psychiatric Association – Provides latest psychiatric research.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Provides info and referrals for these disorders


Anxiety Disorders Center at Hartford Hospital – Info about hoarding disorder and referral info


Department of Housing and Urban Development – Provides info about reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities


Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies – Provides info about mental illness and referrals with mental illnesses including hoarding.

Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium
– Provides resources about animal hoarding, animal welfare and referrals for people who hoard animals.

Institute for Challenging Disorganization
– Provides education and strategies for people with chronic disorganization and provides access to professional organizers and therapists who can help with hoarding.

International OCD Foundation
– Provides advocacy, research and treatment of OCD – also has a hoarding section with resources.

Mental Health Association of San Francisco
Annual conference on hoarding open to professional and people who hoard and their families.

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
– Provides resources nationwide for those suffering with a mental illness.

National Association of Professional Organizers
– Provides info about how professional organizers can assist with hoarding disorder. Has a directory of organizers who can help.

National Institute of Mental Health
– Provides mental health info and current mental health research.

National Attention Deficit Disorder Association
– Provides info about ADD and referrals for ADD coaches through the American Coaching Association.


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