Hoarding is a condition where individuals obsessively collect personal items or trash due to a perceived need to keep them. There are 5 stages of hoarding, with progressive stages being more severe than the previous. The least severe stage involves light clutter and few indicators, while the most severe stage involves fire hazards, no electricity or running water, and accumulated human and animal feces. Hoarding can have emotional, physical, financial, and legal consequences for the hoarder and those around them. Proper understanding and intervention can help individuals suffering from hoarding.
Hoarding is a serious condition that involves the obsessive collection of personal items or trash because there is a perceived need to keep them. Emotional, physical, financial and legal consequences can result from this irrational compulsion to save and store things of no real value. These consequences not only affect the hoarder but have rippling consequences for all the people in the hoarder’s life.
The National Study on Compulsive Disorganization developed a scale to define the levels of hoarding to help professionals and family members understand the hoarding situations with which they are confronted.
There are 5 stages of hoarding with progressive stages being more severe than the previous. The 5 stages of hoarding are:
This is the least severe level of hoarding, but it goes beyond simple collecting because objects and belongings are not organized and displayed. There are few indicators that this level of hoarding is occurring because the condition may be hidden due to a lack of visible clutter, although most appropriate storage areas in the house are jam packed with items. Cabinets, closets, storage sheds and bookshelves are filled to the max. The individual that is a level 1 hoarder finds throwing items away difficult and does an unreasonable amount of shopping for items that are not needed. A level 1 situation may appear as follows:
When a hoarder has reached level 2, they begin avoiding visitors due to embarrassment, stress or anxiety regarding their hoarded items. This level is when typical hoarding characteristics start to become noticeable. Signs that a hoarder has reached level 2 include:
At this level, hoarders typically have very poor personal hygiene and are suffering from emotional distress. These two situations often contribute to weight control issues. A level 3 hoarder will become extremely defensive of their living situation when confronted and often rationalizes their living situation because they cannot see the dangers present within their home. Level 3 hoarding can include the following:
Individuals that have reached this level of hoarding often go weeks without bathing. They usually are suffering from a mental health crisis and cannot see that their situation is dangerous or unsanitary. Signs that level 4 hoarding is occurring are:
This is the most severe type of hoarding, and individuals at this level may not be able to live in their own home, nor can their home be salvaged for future habitation. Human and animal waste is often collected in containers that cannot be disposed of down the toilet yet remain in and around the home. Level 5 hoarding situations often meet the following criteria:
The effects of hoarding go beyond the mess that has arisen. As a hoarder progresses through the levels of hoarding, there are serious safety concerns regarding sanitation and safety. Not only are the hoarders themselves a victim in these situations, the loved ones and neighbors of the hoarder are as well. While hoarding can impact all ages and demographics, it is often seen in older individuals.
In severe cases, individuals become reclusive and isolate themselves from friends and family. Unintended death can result from the unsafe conditions created by a hoarding situation. While the hoarding levels presented help to identify different levels of severity inherent in the condition, each person’s specific situation will be different. Hoarding is serious, and it must be handled in the right way.
At Spaulding Decon, our trained biohazard remediation professionals know how to clean up a hoarder’s home and we understand the emotional attachment that exists to the belongings.
Our teams can create custom cleanup plans while working with mental health professionals to ensure that your loved ones get the help and support they need during the difficult cleanup process.
For landlords, maneuvering around the complex issues concerning hoarding and tenant rights can be tricky. Because of the connection between hoarding and mental illness, your tenant, by law, is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One wrong move, and you could face a lawsuit.
As a landlord, everything and anything that happens on your property becomes your problem. Hoarding affects over one million people in the US in some capacity, which means that as a landlord there is a high likelihood that one of your tenants may hoard. Due to hoarding being recognized as a mental disability, hoarders are protected under the Fair Housing Act and cannot be evicted for the act of hoarding. Though they do have rights as a tenant, if the hoarding causes a breach in the lease, that may be grounds for eviction. Many times, hoarding may cause emergency exits to be blocked, old food to attract rodents, and cause damage to the apartment or home – this would be a breach of the lease.
Hoarding is a severe problem for a large amount of people around the world. It tends to be first-world nations like the United States that have greater incidences of hoarding. This is likely because people here have acquired disposable income. The more you learn about hoarding, the more you realize that you do not have to have disposable income to become a hoarder. People often collect free and found items as part of their hoard. Over the past 50 years, the number of people who are hoarding has increased exponentially.