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Hoarding: When is it time to ask for help?

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

I want to start this article off by saying that I am not a big fan of labels, especially when it comes to hoarding. I believe that hoarding is a spectrum, and the most important thing is that people feel safe, free from shame and comfortable with their living environment. When the word hoarder or hoarding arises, typically what people are referring to is the hoarding disorder defined as an ongoing difficulty throwing away or parting with possessions because you believe that you need to save them. You may experience distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. You gradually keep or gather a number of items, regardless of their actual value.

If this sounds like you, or someone that you know, trust us when we say that the solution is not as simple as going in, cleaning-up and then simply pushing reset.

There is a magnitude of emotions involved for people who are disorganized excessive collectors, and those with formalized Hoarding Disorder. There can be fear & grief when deciding to let go of things, and feelings of anger & violation when personal items are arranged by others. Sometimes, these emotions arise unexpectedly, and cause you to not feel like yourself.

As professionals we understand it is not the person's compulsive thoughts to keep & collect things that creates their greatest upset. Instead, it is when their dysfunctional thinking is challenged and interventions are initiated that the individual's distress can be at its greatest.

For this reason, my approach is empowering, not disabling. I work together with clients, demonstrating care and compassion always. I create spaces together that are functional, prioritized, and safe. For example, items of importance previously buried or broken can be restored and reclaimed back to the forefront of their life. I aim to create a sense of control & gain around the changes, not embarrassment, loss or resentment.

Maybe someone has called you a hoarder and you are wondering if it is true.

Questions you may ask yourself: Are you holding onto too many personal possessions?

Do you feel like you have less space?

Are you having a hard time organizing, finding things or letting things go?

Do you find that you do not let friends, family, neighbors into your home? Do you not make changes and repairs to your home because you are reluctant to have outsiders in?

Whether you answer yes or no to the questions above, I’m here to say, you don't need to know if you are a “hoarder” or not. You just need to know if your environment and the personal belongings surrounding you are helping you feel safe, and like your best self. If the answer is no, then there is something that can be done to better your situation. I do want to say this first, you should not feel shame.

If you have been struggling with the amount of possessions you have, and you have not been able to solve these problems for longer than a month, it's time to look for judgment-free help.

Here are some examples of real-world situations our clients have found themselves in before asking for our help: a) Articles of clothing have started taking up prominent space in your home. All of your closet space is full and now hallways, tables, shelves or counters now house the overflow. Because you feel like you should be wearing them, returning them, or using them, but you are not, you may or may not feel guilt, shame or grief when looking at this clothing.

b) When you look around your home, do you wish you could reorganize, redecorate or simply move things from where they are, but the thought of doing that is overwhelming? Do you wish you had things like a clear table or desk for a new project, or a clear counter for some cooking space? You get a sinking sad feeling when looking at the items and they do not bring you joy.

c) Do you feel safe in your space? Do you struggle to find things like smoke detectors, stove burners, etc. Do you notice unwanted odours and are unable to locate the source under your items?

d) Have you found yourself making different choices now, like whether or not to invite friends over, because you are ashamed of all of your space?

e) Do you shop for new things because you can't find the one you already have?

Do you find yourself saying that you understand your mess? It’s organized disorganization as a way of justifying the problem to others.

If you or someone you know has found themselves in any of the above, real world situations, then the most important step is making the initial call for help. That’s the only thing you need to do unsupported and by yourself, which can often be the scariest. Trust me when I say that hiring help is a gift to yourself.. You will feel better and move into more clarity and improvements and self-love. I co-own a business called Estate Concierge & Downsizing Services, which offers a Fresh Start Program delivered with care and compassion. Me and my team have the expertise to develop custom plans and execute solutions that prioritize health, safety and human dignity. The Fresh Start approach creates a maintainable living environment for our clients. It fosters success and removes feelings like shame and blame. We know there are situations in life that over time cause clutter to happen to you, nobody just wakes up one morning in their present circumstances.

You do not need to be labeled. Again, I believe hoarding is a spectrum and can occur many times during someone's life. I help people in their homes remove obstacles and help them hit their internal goals. And I am aware that there are many reasons why we hold on to items, and I am herewith judgment-free support.

Rarely can you seek help from a loved one. They have too much love for you. Or maybe they are too emotionally involved, and may hold judgment. Or perhaps, maybe they don't understand the complexity and meaning that physical objects hold.

If you would like to know more about our hoarding alleviation services, CLICK HERE or call us directly, serving Burlington, Oakville, GTA and Beyond. 1- 905-336-7901

Caroline Maurice

Co-Founder Estate Concierge & Downsizing

Burlington, ON


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