Question: As the daughter of a “professional hoarder,” I have had the task of helping him “hide” his illness to neighbors, friends and family. I have been able to bring up the subject a few times without him getting mad, however, I know that speaking to him about therapy would ruin everything I’ve accomplished up to now. I need suggestions on how I can help him help himself without direct interference. No therapy or medications. Are there any techniques out there that are used by therapists that I could or he could use to help the problem?
Answer 1: Part of the problems associated with hoarding is a) it creates an environmental mess and b) it eventually makes it difficult or impossible for the hoarder to find — and use — the things he/she has hoarded. Therefore, use organizational techniques for getting the hoarded items off the floor and organized into easy-to-find categorized plastic containers. (Buy these at home improvement stores.) The sorting activity will help the hoarder separate the junk from collectable items (that should be saved). This sorting should be done perhaps a half hour every day. (Don’t tackle the project at one time. It’ll overwhelm you.) While not initially treating the OCD, it will get the hoarder’s living quarters back into a usable area. Additionally, if the hoarder learns to “sort and save,” rather than just “collect and dump,” he/she can then take the next step and actually throw out the rubbish items, which are now in their own unique containers. Continued near the bottom of this page.
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Answer 2: I think you are asking for an awful lot. You want to know how to help your father with hoarding but you don’t want to mention that it is a problem or that therapy might help. Hoarding is a very difficult problem to work with. I am not convinced that by helping him hide it you are really helping him as this seems to reduce the natural consequences which may make hoarding more aversive.