Hoarding disorder currently affects between 2% and 6% of the population.
In Australia alone, there are around 1.2 million people who meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria for compulsive hoarding disorder.
These criteria include:
- Difficulty discarding items regardless of their actual value
- A perceived need to save the items and associated distress at the idea of discarding them
- Clutter that prevents the home being used for its intended purpose.
If you’re living with compulsive hoarding tendencies and you’d like some help with hoarding disorder, there are several hoarding services available to you.
These hoarding services are suitable for individuals seeking all levels of support, including:
- Online forums and support groups
- Face-to-face support groups and meetings
- Therapists and psychologists who provide specialised professional help for hoarders
- Professional cleaning services that help with hoarding clean-up.
To get some insights into hoarding disorder and the support available, we spoke to these professionals:
- Julie Sweet – Executive Director and Psychotherapist, Seaway Counselling and Psychotherapy
- Rebecca Mezzino – Declutter Coach and Advisory Board Member, Institute of Professional Organisers (IOPO) International
- Susanne Thiebe – Professional Organiser and Declutter Coach, Less Mess
- Veronica Kennedy – Professional Organiser, A Hand To Help
Along with their advice, we’ve compiled some sources that may be able to help you with hoarding disorder – wherever you are in your journey.
How Support Can Help
Seeking help can be beneficial to anyone living with hoarding disorder. But having the courage to ask is easier said than done – especially when the disorder can bring emotional barriers on top of the physical ones.
“Hoarding is a mental disorder and is usually underpinned by anxiety and/or compulsive obsessive patterns of behaviour,” psychotherapist Julie says.
“Isolation can feed hoarding behaviours, so as the age-old saying goes, there’s safety in numbers. The more support the individual has, the more beneficial the recovery and healing can be.”
Declutter coach Rebecca agrees hoarding can lead to isolation, which can cause depression and anxiety.
“This in turn affects motivation, energy and decision-making abilities – all of which make it hard to declutter and organise,” she explains.
“There is no shame in seeking help for managing clutter. Not everyone is born with the skills, and a lot of people benefit from some coaching and assistance.”
If you’re ready to seek support for your hoarding tendencies, there are many resources and services to choose from.
Professional organiser Veronica recommends seeking support from a range of hoarding services.
“From my experience, there is no one-stop support solution,” she says.
“A multi-pronged approach works well, with medical professionals, in-home support, and family support.”
Professional organiser and declutter coach Susanne agrees: “It is always a joint effort between stakeholders, including a GP, a counsellor, a professional organiser, and the family.”
Online Forums and Support Groups
Getting help with hoarding disorder doesn’t have to involve sitting in a circle of strangers and sharing your story. In fact, it doesn’t have to involve exposing your identity at all if you don’t feel ready to do so.
The internet is filled with easily accessible resources that can help you learn more about hoarding disorder, research helpful hoarding services, and connect with people – all without leaving your home.
If you’d feel more comfortable remaining anonymous in your discussions with people undergoing similar situations, online forums and online support groups are a great first step to seeking support.
Many online forums and online support groups provide a supportive and nonjudgmental place where you can feel safe to be open and honest about your experiences. This can be especially helpful if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to friends and family about this.
Rebecca agrees help for hoarding disorder doesn’t have to involve anything public.
“There are great support groups available on Facebook specifically dedicated to hoarding support, where people can discuss their situation with others that are also experiencing it, and support each other through recovery,” she explains.
You can even choose to stay silent and simply read other people’s stories if you’d rather not get involved. This is a good way to learn about others’ experiences and perhaps a nice reminder that you’re not alone.
Online Forums for Hoarding Disorder
- Beyond Blue – Here you can find numerous online forums related to anxiety, depression, PTSD and trauma, and other mental health conditions that may be related to hoarding disorder
- Hoarders.com – Holds two online hoarding support groups per week; one group consists of hoarders and professionals such as cleaners and therapists, and the other consists of hoarders only
- Yahoo H-C (Compulsive Hoarding Community) – For people with OCD and compulsive hoarding behaviours
- Yahoo (Messiness and Hoarding) – Self-help online forum for people with hoarding tendencies, with over 2,000 members
- supportgroups.com – People aged 13+ can use this forum to have discussions with people experiencing similar situations
- Children of Hoarders – Online support groups for people with hoarding disorder, as well as support groups for children of hoarders and their spouses
- The International OCD Foundation Facebook Page – Shares news and information regularly, along with links to related articles and inspirational quotes
- OCDTribe – An online support community for people dealing with OCD
- Way Ahead online forums – Safe, anonymous discussion for people living with mental illness, moderated 24/7 by mental health professionals
- Hoarding/Cluttering Support Group – Australian Facebook group with over 11,000 members
- Hoarding Taskforce Facebook Group – A worldwide Facebook community
You can find more forums and support groups online and through the Facebook search bar.
“There are ways to get support for hoarding behaviours that don’t involve visits to the home or anything public,” Rebecca says.
Face-to-Face Support Groups and Meetings
If you are seeking face-to-face contact and conversations, support groups and meetings can provide a great support network and sense of community and belonging.
Julie explains the significance of the support of others.
“The power of a collective group of kind, nonjudgmental people is everything,” she says.
“There’s to be no agenda by any third party, only positive reinforcement and understanding by a close network of people connected to the person suffering.”
If you don’t feel ready to speak to your friends or family, you may find it easier to confide in people who are going through the same things as you and who can empathise with your situation.
When you feel ready for in-person support, face-to-face support groups and meetings can provide an outlet and a community.
Support Groups for Hoarding Disorder
- Hoarding Sharing Support Group – Anxiety Recovery Centre Victoria
- Hoarding and Squalor Support Program – Mission Australia
- Hoarding Recovery Support Group – Centacare South Australia
- Hoarding Disorder Group Program – Partners in Recovery Gold Coast
- Buried in Treasures is a group-facilitated program offered by service providers throughout Australia
You can use the internet to search for a support group near you, or ask your GP for help.
“We are all interconnected, and it takes a village,” says Julie. “Nurturing, reassuring, trusted, reliable, consistent care and genuine concern is needed in bucket loads.”
Research shows 70% of patients with hoarding disorder respond to cognitive behavioural therapy – talk-therapy-based skills training and motivational interviewing.
“Personal therapy is key as the core underlying issues of the disorder are best examined and treated with counselling,” says Julie.
“Depending on where you live, you can also access local government support.”
The first step to finding a therapist or psychologist is usually visiting your general practitioner. They can assess your situation and refer you to an appropriate medical professional.
You may be entitled to receive psychological treatment subsidised by Medicare if you’re assessed by a doctor as eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan.
Mental Health Professionals for Hoarding Disorder
- International OCD Foundation – Has a search bar to find therapists, clinics and programs, support groups, and organisations in your area
- OCD Clinic Brisbane – Offers traditional therapy, online therapy, and virtual reality therapy to individuals with compulsive hoarding tendencies
- Anxiety Treatment Australia – Provides the names and contact information of clinical psychologists with experience in hoarding disorder
- MindSpot – Online assessment and treatment of anxiety and OCD disorders
Your doctor can help you find a suitable mental health professional for your situation.
“A good psychologist will not insist that you throw out all of your stuff, and they can help you understand your behaviours and treat them so that your home can be safe and enjoyable again,” says Rebecca.
Professional Cleaning Services
If you feel comfortable inviting a professional organiser or cleaner into your home, they can provide the guidance and gentle motivation you may need to start making physical changes in your space.
“Professional organisers can help with coaching through the process, as well as assistance in categorising and organising belongings, arranging donations and rubbish removals, and helping to implement maintenance strategies,” Rebecca explains.
“Professional organisers can also act as advocates on behalf of the person in the cases where they have received clean-up orders or eviction notices, to help them navigate the situation and plan effectively for a solution.”
Cleaning and Organising Services for Hoarding Disorder
- Institute of Professional Organisers – You can search for professional organisers by location and specialisation (e.g. hoarding and mental health)
- Hoarding Home Solutions – Offers a holistic approach, including in-home organising and decluttering as well as online courses and live workshops
- Less Mess – In-home organisation and decluttering, client advocacy, NDIS coordination, and more
- A Hand To Help – In-home organisation and decluttering
- HomeCare Australia – Professional hoarding and squalor cleaning
You can use the internet to look for more cleaning and organising services in your area.
“A good Professional Organiser will be empathetic, nonjudgmental, understanding and gentle,” says Rebecca. “They can teach you how you can change the relationship with your belongings so that it’s a helpful and pleasurable one, and do it in a way that respects your autonomy and your values. They will be your arms and legs, your sorting tools and your shoulder to cry on when it gets hard. It’s never too late and never too early to seek help to change.”
Julie explains the journey to change begins with acknowledging the issue.
“You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, so self-awareness and acceptance is critical,” she says.
“After acknowledging the issue takes place, changes can be implemented. Even if movement is slow, it’s a process and worthwhile.”
Veronica agrees all progress should be celebrated.
“Be kind to yourself,” she says. “A small step is one step forward.”
If you’d like to learn more about the psychology behind hoarding, you might find this article helpful.