Hoarding vs. Clutter



By: Becky Esker, President, Get Organized! LLC

When does clutter become “hoarding”?   Or better yet, does too much clutter lead to hoarding? 

Compulsive hoarding is a potentially serious mental issue.  There are thoughts among the scientific community that it’s a “wiring” issue of the brain.  Some connect it to obsessive- compulsive disorders and others to impulse control disorders.  

Hoarding is defined as the acquisition and failure to dispose of large quantities of items, which are of little use or value (Frost & Gross, 2003).  However, to the hoarder, these items are considered valuable and needed.  This is because the hoarder has a distorted and abnormal view of an item’s value.  Many times, hoarders will determine an item has value simply because someone else finds it to be valuable.   

Take this scenario, two friends are shopping at a yard sale (hoarders love the variety and hunting challenge of yard sales), one buys a weed-eater because he/she really needs one. The other, the hoarder, also buys a weed-eater.   

Ironically, the hoarder lives in a condo and doesn’t have a yard to care for. The weed-eater has no obvious use for the hoarder.  But, because the hoarder’s friend finds it valuable, the hoarder determines it must be valuable.  In fact, the hoarder will create a need.  ie: I’ve thought about moving to a home with a yard, so I could need it; I bet my sister could use a new one; or I’ve been thinking about becoming a seller on ebay, I think I can re-sell it online. Essentially, many hoarders determine value based on what others perceive as valuable.  

Clutter, on the other hand can be a sign of hoarding. Yet, in many cases, clutter is simply the result of the inability to keep up with the household.  Many clutterers do know what has value and can let-go of items, but simply have gotten behind on the household chores for whatever reason. 

Although there are an estimated 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States thought to have compulsive hoarding syndrome, clutter does not always lead to compulsive hoarding.  Nevertheless, clutterers and hoarders both will likely need to consult with a therapist and/or professional organizer for assistance in putting order back into their life.


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Becky Esker is a Certified Professional Organizer, owner of Get Organized! LLC, speaker and the forthcoming author of "2 Minutes to Organization: The Simplest Way to Get Organized."

Ms. Esker is available for local, regional, and national professional speaking engagements, seminars, retreats, and trainings. She is an experienced, energetic, and dynamic nationwide speaker. As a certified professional organizer and entrepreneur, Ms. Esker possesses specialized expertise in Chronic Disorganization, Basic ADD Issues with the CD Client, and Business Productivity Management. As an author and instructor, Ms.Esker is uniquely suited to create custom tailored results-driven presentations that engage and inform the audience while addressing today's hot topics in the business, corporate, personal, and residential organizing arena.  She is a regular contributor to The Edge Business Magazine and City Revealed.




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