5 Stages of Hoarding, as Explained by Experts

Having a messy room in your house is part of being a human. You might have a few unfolded laundry or some unorganized paperwork at your desk that you haven’t touched in days, and that’s normal. No matter how organized a person is, at some point, they might feel too tired to clean and leave the house messy for a day or two. However, things start to get out of hand when the mess is all over the place and gets in your way while you’re moving, that is when we have a serious problem.

At this point, you, or the person who has clutter in their house, should start cleaning and decluttering the place as soon as possible to prevent severe stages of hoarding. If you believe that you or any person you know is struggling with hoarding disorder, then you should help them. However, to help and get over this phase, you should first understand everything about hoarding.

What Is Hoarding?

Hoarding is a disorder where the person has difficulty parting with some of their possessions. In other words, an individual will keep items in their room regardless of their value, even if it’s trash. These items could be clothes they no longer need, newspapers, plastic bags, boxes, or useless electronics; and the thought of getting rid of these items can sometimes be uncomfortable or even stressful. If not treated properly, hoarding can affect a person’s mental and physical health.

The 5 Stages Of Hoarding

Stage 1

The first stage of hoarding has the least severity and it’s mostly neglected because it’s hard to be noticed. The resident will still invite friends and family to their house, all appliances are working properly, surfaces are clean, doors, stairways, entrances, and exits are accessible, but there is some clutter in a certain room. At this stage, it’s recommended that you advise that person to start cleaning or help them clean.

Stage 2

Although hoarding is still in its early stages, it starts to be more noticeable. The hoarder may start withdrawing from family and friends and avoid letting anyone into their home. If that person invites someone to their house, they will feel embarrassed as they are very well aware of the mess. As a visitor, you will see that there’s little to no attention paid to the house. Dishes are piling up, the ventilation, cooler, or heating system isn’t working properly, and they’re not taking care of their pets. You may also notice an odor coming from the garbage can or the dishes, pet waste on the floor, leftovers on the kitchen’s countertop, and at least one walkway is blocked because of the clutter.

Stage 3

At this level, hoarding begins to escalate. The hoarder may start having poor personal hygiene, visible weight loss or weight gain, and emotional distress. The third stage is similar to the second one but it’s more intense. Odor is more noticeable and piles of clothes, garbage, and dishes are all over the place. The resident may even start placing some of the important items, such as appliances and furniture, outdoors. If the resident decided to sell the house at any point at stage 3, it’s going to be difficult to get rid of all the clutter and odor in the house. real estate specialists at  claim that selling a cluttered house is far more time-consuming. It will also cost a lot of money to declutter the house before selling as people like to see a clean and organized home before buying it. Other visible characteristics include one or more broken appliances for more than six months,  structural damage,  blocked hallways, and noticeable  dust is all over the house

Stage 4

At this stage, the mental and physical health of the hoarder starts deteriorating. Symptoms become severe and harder to treat. The hoarder can go weeks without bathing, mold and mildew are visible, no clean dishes are available, and sewage problems are untreated for more than 3 months. An individual at this stage of hoarding will most probably cut all connections with friends and family members. They will avoid seeing anyone or even answering their calls. Depression and other mental and emotional problems will be evident and need professional help.

Stage 5

Stage 5 is the last and most severe state of hoarding. In addition to all the symptoms of the previous 4 stages, the resident may start hoarding animals to the extent that it exceeds the legal limit without caring for any of them. Pet waste is neglected and will most probably be left for weeks if not months. Broken walls and structural damage are left without fixing, probably no electricity or filtered water, clutter is on every surface, many rooms are unusable, and walking freely is not an option. The hoarder’s physical and mental health is at risk and requires immediate medical attention.

Reasons For Hoarding

The main cause of hoarding is still unknown; however, there are several theories on what could cause it. An individual who struggles with PTSD can form some kind of attachment to small items which they can’t seem to let go because it has some emotional value to them After a couple of years, this behavior could evolve into hoarding. Depression and OCD can also trigger hoarding disorder. Some studies found that many hoarders have uncontrollable buying habits and aren’t able to pass by offers, coupons, and discounts.

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This disorder starts with collecting random items and gradually creating a mess in a room that you can’t get rid of. You will feel that you need those items or will need them in the future, even if they are useless. It becomes behavior and as time goes by, it gets harder to declutter the house. You must treat hoarding as soon as you see any symptoms. As we mentioned before, the early stages are easier to treat. So once you notice any of these signs, you should start decluttering and cleaning your living space or seek medical attention if needed.

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.

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