How do I know if I am a hoarder?

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

People also ask: •    What causes hoarding? •    What are the 1st signs of hoarding? •    How common is hoarding? •    Is hoarding a mental illness? •    The Benefits of Deluttering?

If you are asking any of these questions about yourself, your possessions have clearly become an issue.

You can do a quick assessment NOW by looking at the 5 levels of hoarding to assess where you are on the spectrum:

What is Hoarding?

Clearly there is a difference between owning things and being owned by them. What we own contributes to our identity, and to a large extent, we are what we possess. The difficulty arises when our possessions take over our lives.

In extreme hoarding cases a person can be so full of shame about their living space, that they become a prisoner in their homes, resulting in isolation, loneliness and often depression. Added to this, excessive hoarding represents a fire and health hazard in terms of rotting food, unstable piles of clutter, many flammable items, and a plethora of trip hazards.

What are the first signs of hoarding?

Someone who hoards may exhibit the following:

•    Inability to throw away possessions •    Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items •    Great difficulty categorising or organising possessions •    Indecision about what to keep or where to put things •    Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed by possessions •    Suspicion of other people touching items •    Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an item or of needing it in the future; checking the trash for accidentally discarded objects •    Functional impairments, including loss of living space, social isolation, family or marital discord, financial difficulties, health hazards.

What Causes Hoarding?

Hoarding is a complex disorder and to understand it we need to look at clutter:

•    It can be a very effective distraction of hiding how we feel. •    Clutter can be seen as a comfort. We cannot control people, places & things such as the weather for example, but clutter represents a form of consistency in that it cannot leave us without our proactive action. •    In other words, it can give a person an erroneous sense of control. This can be particularly important to people who feel that they have no control about other aspects of their lives. 

•    Ironically, as the clutter increases, it results in stress and becomes even more difficult to get rid of things resulting in extreme anxiety and an overwhelming sense unmanageability & hopelessness.

How common is hoarding?

Hoarding disorder occurs in an estimated 2 to 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress and problems functioning. Some research shows that a hoarding disorder is more common in males than females.

Is Hoarding a mental illness?

Hoarding is a disorder that may be present on its own or as a symptom of another disorder. Those most often associated with hoarding are:

•    obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) •    obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),  •    attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression •    anxiety •    bipolar •    psychosis including schizophrenia •    addiction to recreational drugs &/or alcohol

While hoarding can be linked to the above conditions, it is increasingly being recognised that hoarding can also be a condition in itself.

For these reasons a hoarding disorder has been listed as a distinct mental health problem in the DSM-5 and ICD-11 (manuals that doctors use to categorise and diagnose mental health problems).

Preventative Methods?

William Morris an English designer, craftsman & poet who lived from 1834 – 1896 said

‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’

This actually provides a good checking mechanism. In other words, you may have items that were useful but that you now longer use and are taking up valuable space.

However, in the decluttering process, it is important that you keep items that you believe to be beautiful and that may have some nostalgic value. This is very much a personal choice, but one does not want to keep so many that they cannot be seen & enjoyed properly, and thus, become clutter.

Below are two of my favourite ‘objets’ in my home. Neither of them have any function, but both have amusing stories linked to them & I love them!!



Once we have done a major declutter, we need to adopt a process of continuously sifting through our possessions, in other words, we need to do ongoing maintenance just like cleaning & gardening for example.

Having just celebrated Christmas have you received gifts?

If you are a family of say 4, you are likely to have received a minimum of 20 new items into your home. The key question to preventing the build-up of clutter and the chaos it brings, is:

'What Have you removed?​'

It is not rocket science..... If we keep bringing new items into our homes without removing some, we will inevitably build up clutter.

The accumulation of excessive clutter does not occurr overnight but it can result in:

•    not being able to find things •    the unnecessary replacement/spend on items that we already have, but cannot locate •    food items at the back of cupboards out of view, and thus going out of date •    essential paperwork not being attended too •    shame and an overwhelming sense of not being able to cope •    living with a continual residual anxiety

In this way, clutter can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health & wellbeing.


Do you recognise this? It means seeing something that needs to be done but putting it off.

While as humans we can be very resourceful in removing thoughts from our conscious mind, we are merely suppressing them, and they do not leave us. As a result in the sub conscious mind, we are left with a continual residual anxiety.

This anxiety can be triggered by things such as fatigue causing irritability, self-criticism, feeling less than, and ultimately an overwhelming sense of not being able to cope. As already mentioned in extreme cases it can cause depression.

If you can relate to some of the content of this article, it is NOW that you need to take action and ask for some help to prevent any escalation of the emerging problem. As already stated, if you have noticed a tendancy to 'hold on to things' that causes stress & chaos in your home, do not procrastinate, if you do the problem will only get worse.

If you do not know where to start and struggle with organisational skills, invest in getting a Professional Organiser to help. They will be able to systemise the process for you and work with you to make the changes that you desiure.

For Benefits of Decluttering & useful tips  you can read my article here

Also check out the following pages on my website from the links below:

About Me – (my vision/mission & ethos)

Services that I offer


If you have any questions email me on the details below to arrange an initial free 'Discovery Call'

Pauline Purves Pleasant Homes - Create a beautiful home that you love.

Tel: 07775 728447

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