What Do I Do If I Know (Or Think I Do) Someone is Hoarding?

This final blog post will give you some direction on what to do about a hoarded home. There isn’t one answer for every situation. Let’s start with a personal hoarding situation. What to do when you discover a loved one is hoarding? Hopefully, you already have figured out the answer to this – but let’s put it in writing to be sure! Talk with them. In private. At a place and time in which they will feel the least on display or potentially embarrassed and pushed into a corner. With compassion and understanding. With “I” statements that reflect your concern and worry for their safety and health. With firm boundaries and without ultimatums. Be honest and clear – leave out your feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, frustration. Offer to help or research people who can help, if they’d like that from you. Talk with them in ways that will allow both of you to continue to put a priority on your relationship.

If you think someone is hoarding with whom you don’t have a relationship, or you’ve tried to talk with them and they won’t hear you, then you may need to report the house to the city. You can do this anonymously, a housing inspector will go out to the house and will – hopefully – talk with the homeowner and inspect the property. But try, first, if you feel safe in doing so, to talk with the homeowner yourself to express your concern regarding safety of the houses around their house. It’s not easy – you may feel it best to leave it to the officials. And when the inspector comes, or a cleaning company comes, don’t stand outside watching it all. Give the homeowner some respect and dignity. What would you want your neighbors to do if you were the one experiencing this?

It’s pretty simple – it may not be or feel easy to do – talking with a loved one or a stranger about hoarding brings up a lot of “stuff.” (No pun intended! Well maybe . . . ) But it’s not a complicated response.

Since this is the last blog post on hoarding disorder, I’d like to say one last thing – it’s not about the stuff! I hope these posts have been helpful, have answered some questions, and have made this big issue a little bit more manageable!

And, finally, please please please, stop watching the “reality” shows on hoarding. They’re not helping you. Thank you!

Janet Yeats is a marriage and family therapist and writer who specializes in issues of trauma, grief and loss. Janet consults, speaks and writes on hoarding disorder as well as other trauma and loss-related topics. Visit her youtube channel (Janet Yeats) to see videos and webinars on these topics.

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