A room full of books or a house full of pets does not necessarily constitute a problem with hoarding - in a hoarding disorder, it is only when the collecting of items or animals starts to interfere with everyday life or threatens the well being of the collector or the animals in their care.
Hoarders might become isolated because they're too embarrassed to have friends in their home, in extreme cases, there simply is no room to have visitors over.
The emergency services like the police or fire service may be unable to access the home; hoarders may live in unsanitary conditions, unable to shower because there are "valuables" in the tub; their credit may be destroyed or they have problems with bills because the bills are buried somewhere in 10 years of mail, or a hoarder may have so many animals that they can't care for them properly and they, too, get sick.
When those animals are removed by the RSPCA, or a family member comes over and hauls away hundreds of kilograms of junk mail - hoarders feel lost and start collecting them all over again.
Some fairly reliable signs of a hoarding problem include:
- Collecting and being unable to get rid of things other people throw away every day
- Living in unsanitary conditions
- Being unable to use rooms for their intended purpose i.e kitchen for cooking, bathroom for washing, bedroom for sleeping
- Having too many animals to care for them properly
- Attempts to sort junk from valuables only results in moving things from one pile to another
- Many people have suggested there might be a problem
- Access to the home is blocked
If this describes you or someone you know, it may be time to seek help - and while it's typically not as simple as having a garage sale, selling stuff on ebay or giving away a few cats, there are ways to overcome the compulsion.
Good sources of information and help include:-