How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Hoarding

Bringing up the subject of hoarding with a loved one that is a hoarder can be a sensitive and challenging topic. Here’s a few ideas on how to navigate the conversation:

The best way to start a conversation is by acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic and the importance of approaching it with compassion and understanding. Be sure to mention that your goal is to provide some guidance on how to have a productive and supportive conversation about hoarding.

Educate Yourself

Before you sit down with you loved one to have the conversation, be sure to take the time to educate yourself about hoarding disorder. Understand that it is a complex mental health issue and not simply a matter of being messy or disorganized. You can learn more about hoarding disorder here.

Choose the Right Time and Place to Have Your Conversation:

The timing and setting that you chose to have your conversation with you loved one will play a crucial role in the success of the conversation. Try selecting a quiet and comfortable environment where you can talk without distractions. Be sure that you both have enough time to discuss the matter without feeling rushed. Be prepared for lots of emotions…. anger, resentment, tears, and denial are more than likely to be experienced during your sit down.

Try Using “I” Statements Instead of “You” Statements:

When expressing your concerns, use “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, say, “I’ve noticed that things sometimes seem overwhelming for you, and I’m concerned about your well-being.” Phrasing your concern in this manner instead of “You have too much stuff, and it’s a problem,” should be better received by the hoarder.

Express Your Concerns and Observations:

Try sharing specific observations rather than making general statements. Mentioning instances or behaviors that have raised concerns for you, should help show your empathy and keep the hoarder from feeling like you are piling on them. Be honest about your feelings without passing judgment, and try to remember that this situation is a psychological disease, not just someone being lazy.

Try to Be Compassionate and Empathetic:

Be sure that you acknowledge that hoarding is a very challenging issue and express your support for them sitting down to talk about it. Let your loved one know that you care about their well-being and are there to help. If at all possible, avoid criticism and instead focus on understanding their situation and perspective.

Be Sure to Offer Help, Not Judgment:

Suggest working together to find a solution rather than imposing your ideas. Offer your assistance in sorting through items or finding professional help if needed. Be prepared with resources such as local support groups, therapists, or professional organizers.

Be an Active and Empathic Listener:

Give your loved one an opportunity to express themselves. Listen actively and without judgment. They may have reasons for hoarding that you may not be aware of. Even if you don’t agree with or understand why they feel that they need to hoard, try to to come across as being understanding of their perspective and that you want to find a collaborative solution.

Set Realistic Goals and Start with Baby Steps:

Work together to establish achievable goals. Breaking down the decluttering process into small, manageable tasks can make it less overwhelming. Be sure to recognize and celebrate small victories along the way.

Encourage Getting Professional Help:

If the hoarding behavior is severe, suggest seeking professional help. Therapists, psychologists, professional organizers, and professional hoarding cleanup companies with experience in hoarding disorder can provide valuable support and make the entire process less stressful.

Try your best to be empathic, understanding, and loving while having your conversation with your loved one. It won’t be an easy conversation, but it is an essential first step to helping your loved one.