How to help a "Hoarder" Home

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This week, this issue of "Hoarding" is front and center in our real estate business. In this, minimalism's importance becomes painfully clear. The irony is not lost on me that I am a professional financial coach who integrates minimalism and here I have had to work through these deep, heart issues in our other business of real estate. 

In this rental home, we have worked with this particular hoarder situation for over six months, advocating, finding professional help for this person, and working to find a community-worth of answers. We still had no idea the depth of situation until now. The person who struggled with hoarding and created this mountain of random stuff (there's more in the rest of the 1100 sq ft house) shook our hands and thanked us as while leaving this mess behind. We now have to deal with the clean-up and renovations.

Front and center are the issues of the heart in this photo. I share this with the hope of inspiring others to seek professional help and make hard choices about forgiveness and building healthy relationships.

This photo shows broken relationships in the real, physical mess. The heartache is tangible and scrawled over stacks and stacks of old cards and letters.

Broken finances form a long story of unopened items in this home, money lost through over-spending. A broken life is found in this mountain of stuff made by wrong choices and a lack of personal responsibility.

A broken world is scarred even further with the environmental impact of hoarding.

As I worked in this home with my crew, we saw clearly a broken heart in relation to God and life-purpose and daily living. As we tackled this disastrous mess, we felt the weight of that brokenness. We took in the scene with a holy sadness. 

My husband and I made the cautious decision to even allow our children to see it. We allowed them to see the excess and waste. We talked through the needs as we donated items to charity, per the wishes of the owner involved. We talked about the issues of the soul and how to love and set strong standards of personal responsibility.

It's hard.

It's worthy.

Unfortunately, this is becoming more common in our culture of intoxicated materialism. Broken relationships beyond imagination grow into disastrous results.

How can we help?

1) See the problem for what it is - it's not about the "stuff" but instead an issue of the heart of the person involved in hoarding. Deep loneliness, pain, and ultimately a hard-heart created the mess you see in the photo.

2) Refuse to accept this as normal. It's not o.k. It's not healthy. There's no excuse. We can have deep compassion and advocate without making excuses for wrong choices. 

3) Enter gently with professional support and prayerfully advocate. Thankfully, we had several different organizations to support the person we worked with. It did not go smoothly. It took over six months. I prayed a lot and cried. It was frustrating at the lack of cooperation from the very person we were trying to help.

Yet, we would do it all again. 

Please understand - I have so much compassion and grief in this situation, remembering my own huge tubs of very useful random pieces of fabric (I can't even sew a straight line!).  I know the fear that drives a person to save irrational items "just in case." I am the one who allowed other people to dump bag after bag of useful junk on my front porch because I had "a lot of kids and you need a lot of stuff" was the justifying answer.  550+ of my own bags to charity several years ago shows that I know the heart ache and physical exhaustion of allowing physical items to get out of control. 

So if some one you love is struggling with hoarding physical items out of fear or loneliness (or if it's you), please seek professional help and prayerfully take action. Life is too short to live in a prison mountain of very useful junk. Today can be a brand new day.

Prayers & Blessings,

Elizabeth