What is Hoarding?

Hoarding can be described as the build-up of items and failure to throw away items to the point that the house can no longer handle the number of possessions.

When is it Hoarding?

You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I (or someone I know) accumulating a large number of objects or items?
  • Am I (or someone I know) having trouble discarding items?
  • Do the rooms in my home (or the home of someone I know) able to function the way they were meant to? For example, in the bathroom does the toilet, sink, and bath all function?
  • Does the home prevent myself (or someone I know) from being able to function day to day?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you (or someone you know) may be struggling with hoarding. Taking a harm reduction approach can help you to get started.

What is a Harm Reduction Approach to Hoarding?

Harm Reduction is a holistic approach that has been used in a number of public health interventions over time such as smoking cessation and addictions (Tompkins & Hartl, 2009). A Harm Reduction Approach to Hoarding is taking this holistic approach and principles and allowing it to guide your support for the person struggling with hoarding. It is respectful, sensitive, and focuses on reducing risks related to the hoarding.

Harm Reduction is….

  • Keeping the person safe, healthy, and comfortable
  • Identifying and addressing high risk areas
  • Setting up a system to maintain safety, organization and minimize accumulation

Harm Reduction is NOT…

  • Stopping the person from hoarding all together
  • Curing the person
  • Cleaning out the person’s home

The Network’s Recommended Reading List

For people struggling with hoarding and their family or friends

  • “Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding” By David Tolin, Randy Frost, and Gail Steketee
  • “Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding & Compulsive Acquiring” By Michael Tompkins and Tamara Hartl
  • “My Mother’s Garden” Documentary by Cynthia Lester

For service providers

  • “The Community Clutter and Hoarding Toolkit” By VHA Home Healthcare
  • “The Hoarding Handbook” By Christiana Bratiotis, Cristina Sorrentino Schmalisch, and Gail Steketee
  • “Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring: Therapist Guide” By Gail Steketee and Randy Frost
  • “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” By Randy Frost and Gail Steketee

The Network’s Recommended Online Resources