What's the Difference Between Hoarding and Being Messy?
Maybe you have watched the "Hoarders" show on TV and thought "I might be messy, but at least I have never let it get that bad!" Alternatively, maybe you have taken a look at your garage, a closet, or attic and thought "I... might have a problem." In today's blog post, I answer a popular question about the difference between identified hoarders and people who are just disorganized.
Isn't there a pretty big difference between hoarding and being messy? Isn't one a mental illness?
Yes! there is a big difference between being messy and hoarding. In the professional organizing world, we classify three different types of disorganization:
"Situational disorganization" is the most common type, and is brought about by an event that temporarily impacts one's living or work situation. Events such as a birth or death, severe illness, marriage or divorce, a move or a change in employment can all act as a catalyst for someone experiencing situational disorganization. Even though these events may trigger situational disorganization that lasts for up to many years, you can restore a sense of organization. Based on the situation, a person may choose to seek the help of a professional organizer to help with strategizing or motivation, but they also may be able to handle the situation themselves.
Chronic disorganization has been present in a person’s life for a long time, and undermines one’s quality of life on a daily basis, and is constantly present. Traditional methods of organizing do not always help someone in this situation. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (a non-profit dedicated to providing education, research and strategies to benefit people challenged by chronic disorganization) describes someone with chronic disorganization if s/he:
accumulates large quantities of objects, papers, and possessions beyond apparent necessity or pleasure;
has difficulty parting with things;
has a broad range of interests and many incomplete projects;
needs visual ‘clues’ as reminders to take action;
tends to be easily distracted;
often has weak time management skills.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This person is NOT necessarily classified as a "hoarder" even if they have a "hoard" of things.
Hoarding is a medical disorder diagnosed by a licensed medical professional, who often prescribes a level of care that usually includes working with a both a trained professional organizer and a licensed medical professional - (psychiatrist.) Hoarding behaviors are seen in various illnesses and therefore has been difficult to place in a particular diagnostic category. The onset varies from person to person. Mental health professionals recognize hoarding as both a mental illness and a public health problem, but it is not typically an immediate crisis. Older adults hoard for the following reasons:
items are perceived as valuable or provide a source of security;
fear of forgetting or losing things;
fear others will obtain personal information;
stressful life events;
receiving love not found from people.
Many resources can be found on the ICD website here, if you are interested.