Information for Family, Friends and Neighbors

It can be extremely worrisome and stressful to be aware of a hoarding situation of someone you know, and not know what to do about it. Hoarding conditions are difficult to understand, and impact not just the person who has hoarding disorder, but everyone involved in their life or those who live near them.

If you feel someone you know has hoarding disorder, some of the following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Understand that hoarding disorder is an acquired, progressive and persistent behavioral health disorder. While it is natural to be concerned, frustrated, worried or even angry about the person's welfare and home conditions, it is important to appreciate that this is not something the person can just easily change without intervention. Forced cleanouts are not effective, as tempting as that be for family and friends who only wish to be helpful.

  • Educate yourself about hoarding conditions. If your loved one, friend or neighbor has a messy house or collects many belongings, neither of these situations are actually a hoarding condition. Persons with different living standards than yours are just that - persons with differing levels of acceptance than yours about home cleanliness or clutter. Simple clutter is not hoarding. In contrast, hoarding increasingly and seriously interferes with one's ability to actually and routinely use the functional spaces in the living spaces, creating greater safety, health and hygiene risks. Read whatever you can to help yourself learn and appreciate the nature and challenges of the disorder to help you understand and how to interact with the person. If the person's home conditions are worsening, you can be a key person to help address the condition before the home becomes uninhabitable.

  • Be patient with the person and use encouraging language. Shame and isolation can often result as a byproduct of the person's hoarding condition. It can be challenging to be patient, but offer your unconditional support and understanding, as well as your ability to listen. Express your concerns in a supportive manner and offer to assist in any way that you can offer. Be aware that steps to make changes that might seem very small to you - like clearing off a counter - may feel like a very significant adjustment to the person with the hoarding condition. Avoid persuasion and arguing as this will not serve to motivate someone with hoarding disorder.

  • Highlight the person's strengths and praise change efforts liberally. Persons with hoarding conditions may be used to others emphasizing what they are doing wrong in conversations with others. Encourage confidence in their ability to make changes.

  • Seek assistance and support. While resources may be limited, some steps can still be taken toward intervention and home condition improvements.

  • Seek to reduce risk. Even if the person with hoarding disorder is resistant to change, given a positive relationship with the person, you and/or others may be able to work with them to minimize some risk in the home. Help the person appreciate that if they needed help and no one can get in their home, their life may be at stake. Would they accept help to at least move clutter away from electric and heat sources? Are they willing to clear pathways to exits and through rooms as a start to minimize fall and hazard risk? Are they willing to accept support to make changes to reduce the risk of pests and health hazards? Also offer or seek involvement of the local municipality housing code enforcement staff and/or registration with the Saginaw 9-1- 1 system of the home address, in order to help to promote the person's safety as well as their involvement in improving the conditions of the home.
  • click here to download the Info HD for Families, Friends, & Neighbors Brochure.