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Hoarding

Explains what hoarding is, possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping someone who is hoarding, as well as helping yourself.

How do I know if I'm hoarding?

Some of us who hoard do not know we are hoarding or cannot see how it impacts our lives.

It can feel very stressful if other people tell you that you're hoarding. This might come from friends, family, your partner, or official bodies like the council.

While hoarding, you might:

  • Only realise you are hoarding when other people are in your space.
  • Not be able to tell you're hoarding – sometimes called 'clutter blindness'.
  • Realise that it's affecting your life, but find it hard to stop or know how to change. For more information, see our pages on helping yourself and treatments.

Hoarding normally starts in the place you live But you might expand or use other spaces such as a car, garage or storage unit. You may also keep things at other people's homes, if they allow you to.

“Realising that there was a problem was my first step, and doing something about it was the next. By talking about my journey to decluttering I hope to raise awareness for others that there is help and hope out there.”

What kind of things can I hoard?

Everyone will have a different experience of hoarding. It's possible to hoard anything, physical or digital. These are some examples of things that people commonly hoard:

  • Clothes or shoes
  • Drawings or photographs
  • Toys or childhood keepsakes
  • Books, newspapers, magazines or leaflets
  • Post (open or unopened), bills or other paperwork
  • Boxes, bags or other storage containers
  • Food, including rotten or out-of-date food
  • Digital files, such as emails or photos
  • Broken items, which you might have kept and planned to repair
  • Animals, such as cats or dogs

You might save things other people see as worthless or of limited value. You might have important and unimportant things mixed up together – such as important bills mixed with old newspapers. This might cause you distress, or it might be how you prefer to arrange your belongings.

“I kept lots of clean packaging as school kept asking for stuff for junk modelling, and I liked to do crafts with my daughter. Slowly things built up and my dining table was completely covered, so we could not actually do the craft stuff.”

What if I don't know I'm hoarding?

If you're unsure about whether you have a hoarding problem, you could do the following:

You might feel someone close to you has a hoarding problem they aren't recognising. For more information, see our page on helping someone who hoards.

“My mum sleeps on a small patch of her sofa. I don't know the last time she slept in a bed, but it has been several years.”

Can I get a diagnosis of hoarding disorder?

If you experience certain symptoms, doctors or healthcare professionals may give you a diagnosis of hoarding disorder. They might also call it compulsive hoarding.

Your doctor might give you a diagnosis of hoarding disorder if you:

  • Find it difficult to get rid of things you own, even if they aren't worth anything
  • Feel emotionally distressed at the thought of getting rid of things – and that you need to save them
  • Can't use parts of your home because they're so cluttered
  • Keep bringing home things you've bought or got for free, even if you have no space or use for them
  • Experience distress due to hoarding or find it's affecting other areas of your life, such as your relationships with friends and family
  • Experience hoarding on its own, not because of another health problem

It's important to remember that hoarding disorder can be different for everyone. You might recognise some of these signs and symptoms, but you might have other experiences or difficulties.

Research has shown that many people who hoard show these signs in their teenage years. But doctors won't normally diagnose hoarding disorder unless you've got large amounts of clutter in the place you live.

This doesn't usually show until you are a bit older. It might not happen until you have your own space, or you've gathered items over a long period of time. Because of this, it can be hard to recognise the signs of hoarding early.

This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References and bibliography available on request.

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