The Dangers Of Hoarding
The accumulation of a large number of possessions in the homes of people with compulsive hoarding can lead to a number of very serious problems over time. These include danger of injury due to falls in the home or items falling on household members, health problems, danger of fire, and legal problems.
Danger of falling: Items like books and paper are often piled on one another and on the floor or furniture in an effort to create more space. These piles are often unstable and fall over. This can result in littered pathways in the home, which can lead household members to fall and potentially injure themselves. Piles of possessions, such as boxes of books or overstuffed shelves, can directly fall on household members, potentially severely injuring them. This is particularly dangerous for children, elders, and pets.
Health problems: When there is a lot of clutter in the home, infestation by insects and rodents can become a problem. It is both easier for these pests to make a home among the clutter relative to an uncluttered home and more difficult to treat the problem once the pests take up residence. In addition, because it is often difficult to clean a home that is very cluttered, dust and mold accumulate over time and can cause respiratory or other problems that may be difficult to diagnose. Continued near the bottom of this page.
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Danger of fire: Clutter, particularly in the form of paper, can be a fire hazard. Often times, paper, such as mail or newspapers, may be directly placed on the stove; other times, paper simply encroaches on the stove because adjacent areas are cluttered. Complications from a heating system in disrepair can also lead to fire hazards. For example, individuals with hoarding may not be able to actually access the heating system due to clutter or may feel shame about the condition of the home, preventing them from calling a repair person. As an alternative, they may use space heaters to provide heat, overloading power outlets or running power cords over or under flammable objects. If there is a fire or a medical emergency, the clutter in the home can prevent fire fighters or emergency personnel from entering the home or from accessing the person in need. Situations like this have resulted in death of the individual with compulsive hoarding or other family members.
Legal problems: It is not unusual for compulsive hoarding to result in legal problems. Concerned neighbors or family members may seek help from the department of public health or the fire department. Because of laws outlining conditions that constitute a fire, personal, or public health hazard, an individual with compulsive hoarding may be evicted or may have his or her home condemned. Where children, elders, disabled people, or pets are in the home, protective services may need to step in to remove humans and animals endangered by the problem.