As anyone with firsthand experience will tell you, sharing a home with a person suffering from hoarding disorder (popularly known simply as hoarding) can be quite challenging, and introduces new responsibilities you must accept in order to create a cohesive living environment. Maintaining an understanding outlook and providing emotional support are good examples of “passive” responsibilities, while helping the individual with online research — all the while highlighting matches between his or her behavior and the diagnostic criteria — is an example of “active” responsibility.
The Purpose & Importance of Active Responsibility
Hoarders typically need intervention to overcome their condition, but are unlikely to make any progress unless they are ready to make a change. Gentle, consistent encouragement and persuasion toward intervention is key in this case.
But how about life outside of passive and active responsibilities? How does one balance the needs of a hoarder with his or her own preferences for the layout of the house, for example? In this post, we discuss four quick strategies for both maintaining considerations around hoarding disorders as well as keeping some semblance of order around the house.
Designate Rules for Shared Spaces
The first and most important thing in a typical scenario is the establishment of shared spaces, i.e. spaces that are likely to be frequented by both you and the hoarder. The living room, bathroom, kitchen and hallways are very good examples of what should be designated as shared spaces. In most cases, it should be easy to make the hoarder understand why such spaces must be kept clear of clutter and obstruction, particularly if there are children or pets in the house.
Designate “Okay Spaces” & Limitations on Item Types
In almost any living scenario involving an individual with hoarding disorder, the hoarder is likely to consciously (or subconsciously) stake a room for him- or herself. Within this room, they are prone to being most uninhibited with their collection, maintenance and/or inspection of items. Consider designating a few more small spaces around the house as well — such as specific bureaus, drawers or kitchen cabinets — so the hoarder doesn’t wind up spending the majority of his or her days in the same room of the house just to be close to items they’re interested in.
It also pays to discourage the accrual of dangerous items, such as flammables, combustibles and sharp objects especially if there are children or pets in the house.
Establish Necessary Responsibilities & Enforcement
It’s important for both parties to agree on the hoarder’s responsibility for keeping his or her items within the designated spaces throughout the house. After all, living with a hoarder shouldn’t have to become a second job. If it becomes necessary for you to pick up an object or two in a space meant to be free of clutter, do not by any means put them into the hoarder’s designated spaces for them! Instead, put them away and out of sight until the hoarder asks you if you’ve seen them. When this happens, direct him or her to the items in question, point out how and where you encountered them and let them return the items to their designated spaces themselves. This helps build organizational skills and an added sense of responsibility over time.
If the hoarder hasn’t asked about the stored items in weeks, it’s likely he or she has forgotten about them, and it’s safe to dispose of said items yourself.
Don’t Overreact to Encroachment!
It’s crucial that you don’t lose patience with a person afflicted with a hoarding disorder. The disorder is a behavioral pattern rooted in stressful life experiences and possibly even traumatic events; it’s important that as the individual is encouraged toward the intervention he or she needs, they are also supported — both emotionally and through behavioral therapy exercises (CBT) — at home with the person they live with.
About The Author: Eric Van Buskirk is the founder of DopaSolution.com, a website about psychological disorders. He’s also the founder of ClickStream, a content marketing agency. His MS is from Boston University in Mass Communication, and his undergraduate degree is from Skidmore College.
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