• By Vivien Williams

Mayo Clinic Minute: Hoarding — when clutter is more than a mess

June 3, 2019

Just about everyone has had to take time to deal with clutter in the home. For some people, the situation gets out of control, and their homes become overrun with stuff. Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.

Dr. Craig Sawchuk, a Mayo Clinic psychologist, discusses hoarding, and offers insight into hoarding and when to get help.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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People gather stuff.

"Part of it is we're hunter-gatherers by nature and consumerists in our culture. And it's actually really easy to acquire things," Dr. Sawchuk says.

But when does the excess stuff become too much?

"When it gets into more extreme circumstances, where it's actually making it hard to be able to use a room, say, my bathroom has become a storage closet, and, so, I can't use it for the bathroom anymore, that can actually be a problem," Dr. Sawchuk says.

Dr. Sawchuk explains that clutter is one thing. Hoarding is another, and it may require more than getting organizational tips. He says hoarding may be a sign of anxiety, depression or other concerns. Figuring out why someone hoards, and how the mess affects them and their loved ones, is important.

"A mental health professional with experience dealing with conditions such as hoarding disorder or even folks that have experience in dealing with information processing difficulties like indecisiveness, or just simple organizational skills, that can actually be really helpful," Dr. Sawchuk says.

Cleaning up the mess can be emotionally and physically difficult. But doing so may greatly improve quality of life.

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