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International OCD Foundation - Hoarding CenterFaces of The Hoarding Center

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When Stuff Takes Over

Overview of Hoarding

Hoarding is a complex disorder that is made up of three connected problems: 1) collecting too many items, 2) difficulty getting rid of items, and 3) problems with organization. These problems can lead to significant amounts of clutter which can severely limit the use of living spaces, pose safety and/or health risks, and result in significant distress and/or impairment in day-to-day living.

Collecting Too Many Items:

  • Too much shopping is the most common way that people who hoard collect items—3 out of 4 shop too much.

  • Roughly 1 in 2 people who hoard report excessively collecting free things.

  • The collection can also occur without any effort—for instance, food wrappers or the packing material that comes with new purchases.

Difficulty Getting Rid of Items:

  • The hallmark of hoarding behavior is not being able to let go of things. Throwing away, selling, giving away, or even recycling are very difficult for people who hoard.

  • While, to most people, the objects saved may seem worthless or worn-out, in truth, people who hoard usually can’t let go of anything and often have homes filled with otherwise useful items that are buried under the piles.

  • The reasons for saving are largely the same as the reasons people who don’t hoard have for saving things. The most frequent reason for saving things is to prevent waste, followed by informational content, emotional attachment, and finally, liking the way something looks or feels.

  • Some people who hoard believe they can get rid of items, but the process is so time-consuming they often give up, leaving the clutter to grow.

  • Clothes, newspapers and books are the most commonly hoarded items, but the list can include almost anything.


  • In addition to collecting too many items and the difficulty getting rid of items, most people with hoarding problems can't organize their possessions. These problems may be associated with information processing, problems with attention, categorization, and decision-making.

  • Attempts at organizing usually result in hours of moving possessions from one place to another without any effective result.

  • The disorganization results in piles of possessions throughout the home that consist of mixtures of worthless and valuable items, complicating attempts to de-clutter.

Recognition of the problem:

  • Not realizing the seriousness of hoarding is common among people who hoard.

Further Reading:

  • From Dante to DSM-V

    A short history of the phenomena of hoarding and includes recent plans to include hoarding as a separate disorder in DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition)

International OCD Foundation Hoarding Center