So what is hoarding? It’s defined as disorder that makes it hard, even impossible, for an individual to part with belongings that might have no practical use but are still seen as valuable in their eyes and impossible to replace. Many people still don’t understand this disorder and tend to call such folks pack rats, meaning that they will gather as many items as they can, regardless as to whether they’re useful or not, to put on shelves, on top of other items, and to basically create a den of clutter that makes them feel comfortable. That isn’t quite right unfortunately as there is a fine line between being a pack rat and a hoarder.
Both suffer from the compulsive need to acquire more and more belongings in order to either make themselves feel good or fulfill another need that others simply can’t understand. Pack rats however, while still suffering under their compulsive behavior, tend to be more akin to collectors and thereby do manage to acquire things that make some kind of sense. Collections are still a kind of hoarding but they are often seen as an organized and slightly more orderly practice, whereas hoarding means that a person is actively filling a space with anything and everything that strikes their fancy and will eventually begin to let it take over their home.
Want to know the real difference?
A pack rat will more often than not be able to find room for their belongings and keep them from disrupting their everyday lives. They might create a bit of clutter now and again and even take up more space with their items than is necessary but they will at least seek to make their hobby conform to their life so that it can go on as is usual for them. It is even possible for a pack rat to clean out their space from time to time by selling or giving away things that they don’t use as often and no longer have a practical purpose.
Hoarders on the other hand cannot seem to get rid of anything as it is a strong compulsion, indeed a disorder, that keeps them from being able to part with their things. Hoarders tend to ascribe a deep connection to everything they have even if they tend to forget what’s buried beneath what. Walking into the average hoarder’s home will seem as though you’ve entered a maze of garbage that you can’t easily decipher. Calling it junk however would be the worst insult you could give a hoarder, and trying to cart it out of their home for them would no doubt cause a fight that most people simply aren’t ready for. Unfortunately this is a very serious mental disorder that can’t be fixed by a few trips to the dump.
There are some serious concerns with hoarding.
Hoarding can lead to a great risk to the individuals and to their families if they happen to be living in the same home. Due to the inherent danger there have even been cases in which children have been removed and people have lost their homes as a result.
Significant hoarding can put individuals who hoard and their family members at serious risk of heath problems, injury, removal of at-risk children or older adults from the home, homelessness or in the worst case, even death. It might seem a bit extreme to make such statements, but when you can’t walk, sit, or do anything other than move around the piles of junk and items that are stacked everywhere it becomes a massive health concern as well as a possible hazard that people somehow force themselves to live with.
From serious health problems that can arise to the loss of one’s home, hoarding is a real problem that has no easy solution. There are ways that it can be helped, but the road towards taking control of this compulsion is a long one and not easy to tread.