Hoarding: Extremely Good Saving or Problem?

"The Hermits of Harlem" were elderly brothers who took hoarding to the extreme. In 1947 the police were called in. They dug through 4 stories of trash and rotting junk and finally found one of the brothers corpse under a pile of newspapers, the other in his bed. Everything from a dissambled car, to concrete, to crushed umbrellas and broken baby carriages had been collected by the brothers for many, many years.

Today "Hoarders" is on TV and the problem and treatment are described. This is good news and I'm sure helps a lot of people. The roots of hoarding according to Dr.'s Klontz & Klontz (Mind Over Money) are that "... accumulated objects become stand-ins for love, affection, or whatever is missing in that person's life."  On the rational level it doesn't make any sense that someone would live in a house where they can barely move from one room to another, but on the emotional level inside the hoarder this behavior stands for something and makes perfect, though unconscious sense.  (Klontz & Klontz)

Root causes of hoarding could be genetic or a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you have this challenge, seek out a good therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist for an evaluation. My preference would be to start with a psychiatrist because there are good medications for obsessive-compulsive disorder and then find a therapist who can teach you new cognitive-behavorial (thinking and doing) changes to work with the medication. Medication alone isn't enough in my opinion.

What I know from working for over twenty years with all types of addictions is that, crazy as it may seem, the behavior that is causing problems, whether it's alcohol, drugs, overeating, hoarding, overspending, etc. makes good sense on some level. The question I like to ask a client is:  I know this is a strange question, but how is this behavior helping you?  What are you really going for here? Answers vary from: for smoking - calms the anxiety, alcohol - relieves stress, overeating - nurturing, calming, stress relieving. You see the theme here? At the root of most if not all addictive behaviors is trying to FEEL BETTER and or going for the right feeling in the "wrong" (no judgment) way. Somehow, because of genetics, the family modeling you grew up with, you found something that helped you COPE with the feelings and troubles you were experiencing, however the coping behavior then became the problem.  (FREE first chapter of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom at www.lynntelfordsahl.com)