13 Signs of Being a Hoarder

If you are struggling to clean, sort, and organize you may be wondering if you are a hoarder. Things are piling up, the overwhelm is growing, and you have a lot of trouble letting go of items. The question has crossed your mind more than once, “Am I actually a hoarder?”

In this post, we’ll break down 13 signs of being a hoarder and give you some tips of how to tackle the mess whether you think you might be a hoarder or not.

13 signs of being a hoarder to pay attention to

What is a Hoarder?

Hoarding, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a disorder in which a person has trouble parting with items even though they know they should. This goes beyond feeling an emotional attachment to old items that are connected to memories.

Imagine your deceased grandma’s favorite apron she wore when you baked together and your child’s onesie they wore home from the hospital. Wanting to hang onto these items even if they are stained and worn out would be a completely normal feeling.

Not everyone who lives in a messy house is a hoarder, and we shouldn’t assume we are a hoarder just because we struggle to clean up.

But when desires to hold onto physical items goes beyond a box or two of memories for each special person in your life, you may have a problem.

Most people feel an emotional attachment to physical items that hold memories for them. Learning to part with items like this is a learned practice, but it IS important because it can be easy to slip into hoarding tendencies.

Imagine taking your child into their bedroom that is overflowing with toys (half of which they don’t ever touch anymore) and asking them to help you sort through what you can donate to other children who may like them and what to hang on to. There’s a great chance that they will respond with opposition, whining, and maybe even a tantrum. Even though they don’t even like playing with over half of the toys, parting with their things they once loved forever is hard.

Us adults oftentimes aren’t really all that different. We have trouble parting with things too, especially if we hold some sort of emotional connection to the physical item.

When Does Keeping Memories Become Hoarding?

Though now we understand what hoarding is, you may be confused about where the line between hoarding and saving memories lies. Being classified as a hoarder is actually a mental health condition. Hoarding is often caused by an underlying mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, OCD, or schizophrenia.

Even if you are not prone to depression and anxiety, the challenges and exhaustion of motherhood can bring these out in all of us from time to time. Anyone can struggle with hoarding, even if you aren’t normally a hoarder.

Whether you are clinically diagnosed with hoarding disorder, or if you have been simply struggling with overwhelm, clutter, and hoarding tendencies, you can benefit from this post.

Let’s go over 13 signs of being a hoarder that you need to be aware of.

signs that you might be a hoarder, hoarder garage

Hoarders may suffer from a mental disorder.

People with hoarding disorder sometimes have underlying and untreated mental disorders. They may or may not seem related to the hoarding at first glance. Let’s use depression as an example for a minute. While depression might not seem like it can be related to hoarding, when you look at how they are interlinked it makes perfect sense.

  • When you are depressed you can lack motivation to get things done. Cleaning and sorting get placed on the back burner.
  • When you are depressed you often feel extreme exhaustion, furthering the build-up of mess and clutter.
  • When you suffer from depression, physical items may remind you of happier times in life when you weren’t depressed. You may hold onto many things or everything because it reminds you of a time when you didn’t feel so sad.
  • Retail therapy floods many people with “feel good” hormones. You may shop simply to lift yourself out of your depression (even if only momentarily) even though you don’t need anything.

Other mental health conditions that can lead to becoming a hoarder are anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. If you think you may have one of these conditions see a psychiatrist and psychologist to manage it.

This can help your hoarding.

You shop for things you don’t need.

As I previously mentioned, many people shop simply because it makes them happy or they want to. But if you are purchasing items that you don’t need to satisfy your happiness, it can be a slippery slope.

Soon you will have more things than you can store.

You may also experience financial hardship due to overspending. This in turn can worsen depression or anxiety, causing you to want to shop even more to feel that positive hormonal release that you got the last time you shopped.

Your body and mind will become addicted to these “feel good” hormones, requiring more of them as time goes on to replicate the same positive feelings. You will then feel the need to spend more money than last time and shop more often to feel good once again.

As you can imagine this can become a toxic cycle. You may also experience guilt because of all the shopping you’ve been doing, which makes it more difficult to let go of the unneeded items. As time goes on, the clutter will grow.

When you get the desire to go shopping analyze whether or not it is for something you need or not. If you really just want some fresh new items, like a new outfit or new bathroom décor, be sure you are going to remove something old and replace it with something new.

You will buy something just because it’s a good deal.

No one can pass up a great deal. That’s why companies run sales all the time. We all fear missing out on the great price, that’s the entire point behind running a sale. Having this feeling doesn’t make you a hoarder.

But if you give into the feeling more often than not, and for items you don’t need, you may be on track to becoming a hoarder. If you have an entire office bursting with crafting supplies but Amazon is running fantastic Black Friday deals on the same items you already have, you probably don’t need any more.

Another sale will come around I promise. And at that time you might really need some new supplies. Do not make purchases you don’t need or can’t store without cluttering.

You easily place sentimental value on physical items.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, placing sentimental value on physical items like your deceased grandma’s favorite apron and your child’s first onesie is a normal human emotion. Physical items can bring back a flood of memories of all the emotions and senses that we experienced at a certain time in our lives.

But that doesn’t mean you need to keep everything. In fact, you can’t. You can’t keep every single baby outfit and toy that your child loved. You can’t keep every tool, jacket, and blanket that your loved one used… even if they’ve passed.

It’s normal to save sentimental items but within reason. Remember Hope Chests? Those cedar chests women would keep at the foot of their beds and fill with mementos of their lives? If you find you have far more than a hope chest’s worth of physical items that you consider sentimental (that AREN’T serving a purpose in your life… furniture, clothing, and items that you regularly use in your home wouldn’t count here even if they are also mementos) you might be a hoarder.

You cannot let go of any personal possessions with memories.

Let’s take this a step further. We all place sentimental value on physical items. But if you find yourself unable to part with things because they hold memories (beyond the hope chest worth of mementos or items being used in your home as we mentioned on the last point) you might be a hoarder.

You need to be able to sit down and sort through when you go to spring clean your home and set some items aside to donate, some to throw away, and some to keep. If you struggle with this and cannot bring yourself to part with items without feeling anxiety, panic, or extreme sadness, you may be a hoarder.

You can’t throw things away, even if they’re broken.

messy house signs your a hoarder

When things are broken and worn out we need to throw them away, upcycle them, or repurpose them. If you are passionate about recycling or have a homestead you may be careful about what you throw away. Many items can take on a second or third purpose before we throw them out.

If you save old cans and turn them into pencil holders, cut up old t-shirts to make rags, and use old coffee canisters as flower pots that’s ok. In fact, that’s pretty cool.

But if you find yourself unable to part with actual trash, you’re holding onto items that you might one day maybe find a purpose for, or even if you keep an exorbitant amount of items to reuse one day just because you can’t bear to throw them away, you might be a hoarder.

You feel anxiety when you get rid of items.

Being able to sort, clean, and throw away can be a skill. I’m not referring to being too tired or busy to clean or sort. If you mentally and physically struggle to get rid of things because it causes you fear, anxiety, or panic you may be a hoarder.

You can always buy more things. You can replace things. You can earn more money. You can keep memories in your mind and photographs. If you can’t reason with yourself with these facts when attempting to get rid of items, you may struggle with hoarding tendencies.

You hold onto items because you feel they may be useful one day.

cluttered house signs that you're a hoarder

It’s ok to hang onto things that you plan to use for another purpose one day. If you want to save large cans and bottles to turn into pots the following spring, that is “hoarding” with a purpose. Really, it doesn’t even qualify as hoarding, but you get the idea.

But if you cannot throw away any cans ever because you know there are about 50 cute upcycling projects you’ve seen on Pinterest and one day, not now because now you have no time, but ONE DAY you will try those projects… Then you fill an entire cupboard with cans, then fill a couple boxes, and you still can’t stop saving them because you see their future value… Then months go by, maybe years, and you still have the unused cans… that’s hoarding.

If you do this, you can set yourself timelines for keeping things with a future purpose. If in that time you don’t use them, donate them. List for free on your local page, I’m sure someone will want them for the same reasons you did. The items won’t go to waste this way, which can help with the anxiety of getting rid of things that you still see value in.

You can’t use some items in your home due to clutter.

We all struggle with being too busy to clean everything all the time, but following these 6 tips to decluttering can help you keep a more tidy home. Things pile up and closets get filled; especially if you have small children or if both parents are working.

But when a section of your house, like your desk or your dining room table, have become unusable due to clutter, you’re now hoarding. This is when you NEED to prioritize taking the time to sort through, declutter, and clean that space so that it becomes usable again.

It is far too easy to simply move the mess to a less used space, don’t do that. It is also easy to let clutter once at that point continue growing, but that is hoarding.

Take time to fix it now.

You can’t use some rooms in your home due to clutter.

If your clutter has moved beyond blocking out a single space like the dining room table and has caused an entire room to be unusable, there is a hoarding issue. This holds true even if it is a garage or a spare room.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you downsized your house and are using the garage as storage that is understandable. Even if your space is too small for your family, you might have a lot of excess stored in the garage. If a family member has recently passed on and you are storing their things while you sort through them, that’s also understandable.

If you have been acquiring things and shoving them away to the point that an entire room is unusable that’s another story, even if it’s the garage. To stop hoarding, it may be time to sort through the items that you actually need and use and get rid of those that are no longer useful to your daily life.

If you live in a small space like an apartment, tiny home, or even a starter home with a larger family, downsizing your physical items regularly is even more important to avoid clutter.

Walking through parts of your house is hindered due to clutter.

signs that you're a hoarder cluttered hallways

If the hallway, the staircase, or a doorway is being narrowed by clutter you might be in a hoarding situation. Having clean walking spaces is important in a home. Sometimes kids’ rooms, playrooms, or even living rooms get covered in toys and crafts. This mess might even linger for a few days.

That’s ok, it’s life as a parent.

But when there are too many things (whether they be toys, furniture, trash, etc.) to move around and through the house there is too much. Even if your anxiety tells you that you can’t bear to part with the excess, know that having a clean uncluttered space is great for your mindset.

Getting rid of things may be emotionally tough, but the mental load you release AFTER doing so can be so freeing.

You hesitate to have guests due to the mess.

I’m talking about beyond feeling like you have to tell your fellow mom friend or mother-in-law, “Hey sorry about the mess, I haven’t cleaned yet this week.”

I’m talking about a mess or clutter that is so bad that it literally stops you from having people over. We all have newborns, get sick, or work long hours sometimes and the mess can build up, that’s understandable. If you are really struggling to declutter and clean due to reasons like this ask a friend or a family member to come help you or hire some help if you can.

However, if you are unwilling to declutter and clean because it causes you stress and anxiety to get rid of or move things, you are hoarding.

You feel embarrassed by the mess.

If you will not let go of items due to the anxiety or sadness it causes you, but you still are so embarrassed by the mess that you push friends and family away, you may have a hoarding problem.

Hoarding is a mental health condition, and if you feel stuck and see any of the signs above in yourself, try the tips in that section to conquer the clutter. If you feel your hoarding runs deeper, please see a therapist so that they can help you move past this stuck feeling. Hoarders can be helped, and you can curb or eliminate hoarding tendencies before they become like those featured in TV shows.

Don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help from friends, family, or a therapist.

Getting help is likely the only way you can recover and reframe your thoughts that caused the hoarding to begin in the first place.


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