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What do we know about hoarding?

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension


Hoarding is a serious issue. Media coverage and reality television shows on this topic have been raising awareness of how hoarding impacts people’s health, daily living and safety. More and more communities have started taking action to deal with the problem.


What do we know about hoarding? How can we tell the difference between being a collector and a hoarder? Here are some of the warning signs that may lead to hoarding:


  • Keeps too much stuff and continues to acquire items even when the space is already cluttered.
  • Saves far more items than are needed.
  • Does not have adequate space for daily living and moving around easily.
  • Does not have good organizational skills. Has disorganized clutter and difficulties organizing and categorizing items.
  • Attempts at organizing usually result in only moving items from one place to another without any productive result.
  • Rarely recognizes hoarding problems even when the clutter affects daily living and health.
  • Has difficulties making decisions and processing information.
  • Inability to stop taking freebies. About 50 percent of hoarders acquire free items to excess.
  • Avoids inviting people over due to being embarrassed by the clutter.
  • Reluctant to have workers into the home to do repairs.
  • Has difficulty getting rid of clutter such as broken items, old magazines, old newspapers, etc. Hoarders treat these items as valuable and useful.
  • Has piles of worthless and worn out clutter because hoarders often think that they will need them someday.
  • Has high levels of perfectionism.
  • Has strong emotional attachments to clutter. Feels safe and comforted when surrounded by clutter. Feels anxious and grieves the loss when they lose or get rid of some of the items.


Hoarding is more than just being messy. It is a complex disorder that tends to be chronic and can be very hard to control. Hoarding can become worse over time if left untreated. Severe clutter can cause health and safety hazards which may increase chances of falling, structural damage, fire, social isolation, illnesses and relationship problems.


If you would like to learn more, go to the International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation website at If you suspect a problem with hoarding, seek a qualified mental health professional for help.



Borchard, T. (2011). 10 Things You Should Know About Compulsive Hoarding. Psych Central. (accessed on July 11, 2014)

Frost, R. Causes of Hoarding. (accessed on July 8, 2014)

Overview of Hoarding. (accessed on July 6, 2014)

Stich, S. 7 Signs That You are a Hoarder. (accessed on June 29, 2014)

What is Compulsive Hoarding? (accessed on July3, 2014)

What is Hoarding and How does It Differ from Collecting? (accessed on June 27, 2014)


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Last Updated 07/10/2015