Ways to Break the Cycle of Hoarding

Hoarding is an issue that effects people for many different reasons. Many people who hoard realize that they have a problem, but they find themselves stuck in a compulsive cycle. Hoarding can effect a hoarder's relationships, as loved ones may feel helpless or frustrated with the hoarder. It can be quite difficult to break this cycle without proper assistance. Fortunately, there are some simple tips that can be implemented to stop the hoarding cycle.

Addressing the real issues behind hoarding is the best way to begin breaking the cycle. Hoarding is often a symptom that stems from mental illnesses like depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, dementia, or as a response to trauma. Therapy and counseling are often necessary to get to the root issues. This step must be taken in order to help a hoarder understand his or her own behavior.

When a hoarder feels forced to throw away large amounts of things, he or she may feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety or anger. This can lead to more hoarding in the future. Start with the basics and dispose of items that are unusable or trash. This makes the process less intense and more of a simple chore. From there, it becomes less overwhelming to slowly sort through the remaining items.

Hoarders and their families must remember that recovering and breaking the cycle is a slow, deliberate process. It takes time to fully address the issue and to completely stop hoarding altogether. With time and professional assistance, it is very possible to stop hoarding.


N.A. “About CH – Compulsive Hoarding.” Compulsive-hoarding.org (Website). (2014).

Bryant, A. “8 Essential Tips on How to Stop Being a Hoard.” Lifestyle.allwomenstalk.com (Website). (2015).
  • 26 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • My son's girlfriends mother is in this state right now. The family is feeling like it is a depression. She just sits on the couch and does not seem to want to do anything, yet she gets upset if anyone wants to do anything, especially if it has to do with throwing anything away. The boys have been trying to clean out a spare bedroom loaded with stuff.

    The plan they have is that when mom goes to visit someone they want to get a dumpster and do a huge purge. I have warned them this might be a really bad thing, enough to push mom right over the edge. It is a tough call but at the end of the day it is about their decisions as a family. From what I can gather much of the stuff is not really valuable,  much of it destroyed by the family cats. Am I wrong or does this stuff have to be gone through? Do people that hoard also hide valuables believing they are safe that way? Just a thought they might want to be sure what they are pitching out.
  • I've seen a few of those shows about hoarders. It gets to me every time. You can see the agony on their faces... meanwhile, people are treating the hoarder like it was a choice. It's one of those illnesses that people treat like the person is disgusting and nothing more than a dirty pack rat. It's horrible how they are viewed and treated.
  • My wife's grandmother is something like that. Whenever you try to help her to clean her place she does not like it when anyone tells her that she has things that she needs to get rid of most of the time she just gets upset and tells them that they need to leave her things alone. I think that the problem comes from the emotional attachments that they may have to the things that you might want to get rid of. As someone said earlier in the thread this is a slow process.
  • These things are always so difficult to get past. I hate that, too
  • Very true. Beating hoarding addiction is never going to be easy because some people would have a really hard time letting go of those stuffs that have some sort of sentimental value to them. That is why, we, as their loved ones, need to support them through it all.
  • This has to be one of the scariest disorders in existance. I have read too many stories about people dying in the home and no one knowing.
  • I’ve read elsewhere about people choosing to deal with hoarders by just throwing out their stuff. It always seemed like that’s just a good way to damage a relationship. Or look for a major confrontation, at the very least. It may be difficult to address the underlying issues, even if the hoarder is aware they have a problem. It might not even make the subsequent process any quicker. But it’s still vital that the issues are addressed first.
  • I've never been an hoarder myself, in fact I'm the exact opposite and tend to throw things away that I end up do needing afterall.

    Do you think that a lot of hoarders will just start off by not knowing what to keep and what to get rid of, so in the end they just keep hold of everything? I think if you get used to holding on to things, eventually you're not going to know any different.
  • I hate hoarding especially because I live in a small place and my wife loves to do it. She accumulates all sort of useless things and that is something we all suffer with. 
  • @pwarbi Sort of, and to go a little further I think it stems in part from a “just in case” mentality taken to an extreme. Hoarders will keep things just in case they need them, which can make it all the more difficult to distinguish the real necessities. And my saying that is still an oversimplification; the mentality usually stems from a deeper issue.
  • People also keep hold of things for sentimental value, so I think if your going to help somebody who's a hoarder, just going in there all guns blazing and throwing everything out, like somebody else put, might not be the best way to do it.
  • It's often a result of ocd. So if you treat them for OCD, do you suppose it would be easier?
  • My parents are what I would call low level hoarders (but definitely hoarders) and I honestly would love to know the answer to this too. My siblings and I have helped try to minimize, get rid of clutter, clean the house...all to no avail as things keep piling up.

    I remember as a kid feeling like it was our fault that the house was always a mess but years later it's still the same without us under the roof. 
  • My mom was a hoarder (and still is). I am 10 times worse, though. The bad thing is that I have no friends or family to help me with any of the stuff, piles, and boxes that surround me. It is overwhelming to think about dealing with it. I have so many other things going on so it is just another thing to remind me that I cannot manage my life.
  • My mom was a dress maker and spent most of her life buying up fabric to sew. She was addicted to buying fabric. She could not pass a fabric shop without going in to see what they had. Her head was full of ideas of what she could do with the material. But she is now 75 years old and has not sewn in more than 15 years, but still has boxes and bags of fabric everywhere in the house. But she becomes so distressed at the thought of giving it up that we have just decided to let her be for now. I think its also fear of giving up old dreams.
  • I was always a bit messy, creative type...but that was under control. But then I've had really scary periods with no support and on the verge of being on the street, and after that everything I managed to buy was sort of like a symbol. Like one more thing that separates me from being defenseless, one more thing separating me from things ever getting like that again. Like if I was ever in that dire situation, at least I would have certain things that can be used to make survival easier, bearable. I've been trying to get a hang of the hoarding thing for the past year, at least make it organized, and I have improved things a little but it's been slow and frustrating process. I'm not at the state like on the hoarding shows or something, but I do keep too much and have hoarding tendencies...and it's definitely out of control. I didn't even realize why I was really doing it until I wrote all this. May be there is hope yet, may be I have better chance of solving it now that I know why I'm doing it.
  • Hoarding can be beaten like any addiction in my opinion, and while it won't be easy, the first steps are recognising there's a problem in the first place, and then taking steps to beat it.

    You won't be able to make the necessary changes overnight, its something that you have to gradually come to terms with, and taking things slowly and step by step is anneasier way of doing that.
  • I have hoarding tendencies and I think I partially got it from my mom. Over the years I was very aware that I am allowing myself to indulge in it though but I've always tried to stay mindful. Nowadays I can't say I'm completely off the habit but I have always kept in mind that I should be willing to throw away everything at anytime and for the most part I think it has helped.
  • Great advice. Keeping stuff can be very sentimental to people that's why they do it and I think the psychology of throwing something out will mean to them that they've wasted this item-- that's why one suggestion I'd give to hoarders is to donate their items to charity and make them realize that they're not wasting their precious belongings that it can be a source of shelter and security to less fortunate people. I also watch the show Hoarders and I realize through that show that everyone can recover with the help of family.
  • I have watched Hoarders a few times myself and I am always shocked how similar the stories are. I didn't realize this was an addiction but the behaviors sure seem to fit the profile. I used to have hoarding tendencies and I worked hard to put them behind me after moving across the country years ago. It is hard to keep those habits from creeping back though!
  • My sister is into hoarding because my parents are a hoarders too.

    I think to be one myself, but I was able to break the cycle because I was too engaged with alcohol addiction to keep worrying about to hoard, and when I finally hit rock bottom and went into further recovery, hoarding had lost relevance to me.

    However the hoarding story for my family is the same; they don't realize the problem really.
  • I have never really come into contact with a hoarder but I know that it is a really bad habit to break. Usually getting to the bottom of why the hoarding started helps to break the cycle.
  • I use to sell real estate, you would be surprised at the condition of some of the homes I would go into. One house was so full of stuff you could not more around in a 3 bedroom house, the closed in pation was full, the garage was packed with stuff.  I had to have them clean out all of that stuff before we could even think of putting the house on the market.

    I think hoarding is a form of depression and is also a form of fear, fear of what will happen when their stuff is gone that they will lose themselves because they see themselves as their stuff. I think it is sad to see people live like that.
  • I can think of one effective method. You just have to set your priorities straight. Learn how to segregate the necessary from the unnecessary. Many people horde stuff because they don't really know what they ought to buy or not buy, keep or not keep. The participation of family and friends in checking and balancing the actions of the person who hordes is highly important too.
  • Going in with the plan to purge items while that person or persons is NOT the answer. Being supportive and helping, if you are allowed, is the best some can do.

    There are as many reasons for hoarding as there are for any other addiction. Realizing it is a problem and addressing it is very difficult. Family and friends think they are helping when they are actually doing more harm.

    As with any addiction, it is a slow process, one that others can be supportive of in a positive way or a negative way.
  • I used to always have an addiciton of hoarding. I would always hoard money away from my parents in order to save up for a car or for college since they haven't saved any for me. Sometimes I regret it but in the end you can give them shelter back for what they did to you right?
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