How To Deal With Parents Who Hoard

By Subodh / November 24, 2013

Hoarding is a disorder where the person does not throw things out of some deep fear or insecurity and hence has a pile of junk, which he or she is not ready to let go off. Hoarding does not only affect the person suffering from it, it also affects the people living in the house with a hoarder. Psychologists say that hoarding is an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and it can have a deep impact on the personality of people who live around a hoarder. Therefore, if you have parents who hoard, you are most likely to be affected either because you are not able to think constructively at home, cannot call friends over or spend time with your parents. Moreover, it could also result in strained relationship with your parents and them suffering from depression if the situation is not taken care of in the initial stages.

However, there is a small difference between a hoarder and a pack rat. There is no medical term called pack rat but in common linguistics, pack rat is a person who cannot throw stuff away in anticipation of using it in the feature. Hoarder on the other hand, holds on to everything by attaching an emotional value to it. This emotional value mostly stems from some deep fear or insecurity and many times is a sign of depression. The biggest difference between a hoarder and a pack rat is that while it is easy to give logic and reason with a pack rat, a hoarder defies all logics and reasoning. Therefore, if your parents hoard here is what you should do.

How to Deal With Parents Who Hoard

Why are your parents hoarding?

First step is to understand why your parents hoard. This could be a daunting task. Mostly your parents are hoarding to hold onto something because it gives them a sense of satisfaction, which is otherwise amiss in some other aspect of their life. The idea is to find out what is missing. There could be any reason for this related to their past. Ask your parents about past life and try to connect the dots. You would be surprised if you get to the roots. There are many reasons for hoarding. Some typical reasons are

  • Your parents have gone through tough financial situation in the past and fear giving away things and then not having money to buy
  • They could have lost someone in the past and wish to hold on to all those things that reminds them of that person.
  • They think that all these items could be useful for you someday and want to make sure that they are able to provide it to you when you may need it
  • They miss those early parenting years with you and hence hold on to anything that reminds them off those beautiful years.

Patience, persistence and love is the key

Once you know the reason for their hoarding, you would realize that the best way to deal with this problem is by showing your love so that they feel no insecurity. However, results may take time to show. Therefore, be patient and persistent when dealing with the problem. Lastly, remember that love has the answer to all the problems. The farther you go from them, deeper you might be pushing them into this problem.

Empathize not sympathize

If your parents also know that they have a problem of hoarding, they want to be understood not sympathized with. Do not show that they are weak to hold on to things. There is a big difference between showing empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is knowing and understanding and empathy is feeling it. This will give them more strength to act properly and come out of it.

Confront before conflict

Sometimes you would need to confront them on the issue. However, be very patient while expressing your concerns. If you do not express to them now, it might lead to a situation where you may not be able to take it any longer and thus hamper the relationship. Therefore, confront to them before it becomes a conflict.

Warn them off the dangers

Another trick could be to warn them off the possible dangers like fire, or check from the authorities. You can also talk to them about the possibility of injury to them and you from the cluttering. Additionally, health problems may be caused due to unhygienic living conditions for the entire family.

Be constructive in your approach

Do not blame your parents for cluttering. You can rather be constructive in your approach by offering a helping and in sorting and de-cluttering process. It is easier said than done, so be careful while offering the help. Offer them to set up a garage sale in your house and involve them in the activity. However, do not expect overnight results. Alternatively, ask them to take a digital copy of all the possible photos and papers.

Seek help of a psychologist

If nothing works then seek a help of a psychologist. Sometimes your parents may not be willing to seek a help of a psychologist. In such a situation, you can go to the psychologist who can offer you suggestions from a distance without being directly involved.

Inspire your parents to see a psychologist

Have regular talks to your parents and show that you love them and trust them. The more you go away from them, the more likely they will hoard. During these talks try to convince them to see a psychologist and trust you.

Create your own space in the house free of hoarding

It is also very important that in this whole process you create your own space in the house, which is clean and free from de-cluttering and hoarding. Explain this boundary to your parents to make sure that do not keep the hoarded items in that area. This is because, hoarding can cause you also to think negatively and not act in the most prudent manner. You cannot help anyone else, if you yourself are disturbed.