Hoarding is a complex mental health issue that affects not only the individual struggling with the disorder but also the family members and friends who deeply care for their loved one. Understanding and confronting a loved one about their hoarding can be challenging.
This article aims to guide how to approach a loved one, offer support for cleanup, and promote a healthier lifestyle while maintaining a positive and empathetic attitude.

Understanding Hoarding Disorder

Before addressing the issue with your loved one, it is essential to understand what hoarding disorder entails and why it is different from regular clutter and disorganization.

Difference Between Hoarding and Clutter

While many people deal with clutter or have difficulty parting with sentimental items, hoarding disorder goes beyond this level of attachment and disorganization. Individuals struggling with hoarding have an emotional attachment to possessions, making it difficult to discard or organize items, leading to an excessive accumulation that negatively impacts their living conditions and relationships.

Reasons Behind Hoarding Behavior

Several factors contribute to hoarding behavior, such as irrational beliefs about the value and importance of possessions, fear of running out of items or associating items with sentimental value. Hoarding may also develop after a traumatic life event or as a symptom of other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Mental Health Conditions Associated With Hoarding

Hoarding disorder is often linked to other mental health problems, including anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Addressing any underlying mental health issues may be critical in helping your loved one overcome their hoarding behavior.

How to Confront a Loved One About Their Hoarding

Approaching a loved one about their hoarding disorder can be a delicate and challenging process. Here are some strategies to help you effectively communicate your concerns while maintaining empathy and understanding:

Preparing for the conversation

Before discussing the issue, educate yourself on hoarding disorder to empathize better and support your loved one. Familiarize yourself with the best ways to approach the topic and consider the possible emotional reactions your loved one may have.

Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Someone With Hoarding Disorder

  • Listen and use the same language when talking about their possessions
  • Focus on the safety aspects of their living conditions
  • Offer to help with decluttering and organizing
  • Encourage them to seek professional help and support
  • Be patient and supportive
  • Be judgmental or argumentative
  • Minimize the challenge of overcoming hoarding behavior
  • Discourage or criticize their efforts
  • Make decisions for them or touch their possessions without consent

Importance of Empathy and Patience

Empathy and patience are crucial when addressing your loved one’s hoarding disorder. Avoid harsh judgments and focus on the emotional aspects of hoarding to help foster trust, understanding, and support.

Focusing on Harm Reduction and Safety

A practical approach to helping your loved one is to emphasize the importance of reducing the risks associated with hoardings, such as accidents, injuries, or fire hazards. Maintaining a safe living environment should be the primary goal.

Offering Cleanup Support

Providing cleanup support for your loved one may involve various tasks, from setting achievable goals to helping them discard items and maintain organization.

Helping a Loved One Set Achievable Goals

Start with small tasks that your loved one feels comfortable tackling when decluttering. Gradually progress to more significant challenges as they become more comfortable with the process of discarding items.

Assisting in Decluttering and Organizing Possessions

Work with your loved one to sort through possessions, placing them in “keep” or “discard” piles. Offer guidance and emotional support while respecting their decisions and boundaries.

Avoiding Enabling Behaviors

Although taking control and cleaning up for your loved one may be tempting, avoid enabling behaviors that may exacerbate the problem. This includes paying for storage space, shopping with them, or bailing them out of debt caused by excessive shopping.

Identifying and Addressing Shopping Habits

Identify the triggers that lead to excessive shopping or acquiring possessions and discuss healthier ways of coping with these urges. This could involve finding alternative hobbies, seeking therapy, or attending support groups.

Celebrating Small Victories

Remember to acknowledge and celebrate even minor accomplishments in the decluttering journey. Reinforcing positive progress can help maintain your loved one’s motivation and confidence in their ability to create change.

Encouraging Treatment and Support for Hoarders

Professional treatment and support are vital in helping hoarders overcome their disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the primary treatment option for hoarding disorder, used to challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs while developing new behavioral patterns.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Cbt) As the Primary Treatment Option

CBT interventions for hoarding disorder focus on challenging irrational beliefs about possessions, improving decision-making and organizational skills, and building motivation to declutter. Finding the right therapist is crucial in ensuring progress and long-term success.

Finding the Right Therapist

Assist your loved one in researching therapy options, making appointments, and remaining on track with their treatment plan. Encouraging them to engage in therapy and maintain a consistent schedule can result in significant positive outcomes.

Involvement in Support Groups for Hoarders

Support groups can provide a valuable resource for individuals struggling with hoarding disorder, offering a safe space to share experiences and receive guidance from others facing similar challenges. Encourage your loved one to attend support group meetings and engage with the community.

Supporting Yourself While Helping a Loved One with Hoarding Disorder

While supporting a loved one with a hoarding disorder, it’s essential not to neglect your own well-being and maintain healthy boundaries.

Importance of Self-Care and Managing Personal Stress

Take time for yourself and engage in self-care activities to manage stress, stay healthy, and maintain emotional resilience. Prioritize regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy meals to ensure you can provide the best support possible.

Seeking Support From Family, Friends, or Support Groups

Connect with other individuals in similar situations by joining support groups for family members of hoarders. Sharing experiences, receiving support, and learning new coping strategies can help improve your ability to support your loved one.

Maintaining Realistic Expectations and Boundaries

Understand that the journey to overcome hoarding disorder may be slow and challenging. Setting realistic expectations for progress and maintaining clear boundaries can prevent burnout and protect your emotional well-being.


Confronting and supporting a loved one with hoarding disorder may be daunting, but progress can be made with empathy, understanding, and patience. By offering cleanup support, encouraging professional treatment, and supporting oneself throughout the process, a positive impact can be made on the lives of both the hoarder and their loved ones.

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