Clutter, Hoarding, and ADHD

by Brenda on October 6, 2009

Have you ever watched that program Hoarders on A&E? I find it to be fascinating, frustrating, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

If you don’t know, the show profiles 2 people each week who have issues with hoarding. Here’s what says about hoarding:

Definition: Pathological or compulsive hoarding is a specific type of behavior characterized by:

* acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others (e.g., papers, notes, flyers, newspapers, clothes)
* severe cluttering of the person’s home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space
* significant distress or impairment of work or social life

About 15% of people with OCD report compulsive hoarding as their primary problem. While it usually begins in childhood, it often goes unnoticed until adulthood. People who hoard often have relatives who have also engaged in compulsive hoarding.

I bring the subject up for a couple of reasons.

First, you know that as ADDers, we have issues with organization. We tend to leave things out in the open so that we don’t forget that they are there. Of course, the things keep piling up and pretty soon we can’t find anything. Most of us aren’t to the point of hoarding because hoarding itself is a separate condition.

The other reason I bring it up is that in last week’s episode they featured a 7 year old boy with hoarding problems. It was obvious to me that he also had ADHD, and in fact at some point the mother mentioned that he did. She had problems with clutter too.

This particular episode was different than most because the mom, Missy, didn’t seem to have the emotional attachment to her belongings that most hoarders do. If you watch the episode here, you can contrast her behavior with that of the other person featured, Paul.

It’s clear that Missy’s biggest issue is not knowing what to do with all of her stuff. She isn’t keeping it for emotional reasons, she just leaves it all out so she won’t forget about it. Sound familiar? Wonder who her son got his ADD from?

Missy’s case is an extreme one, but also a hopeful one, I think. Once she learns the basics of organization and experiences the freedom that it brings, maybe she’ll have less trouble keeping things maintained. The relief her son feels when he sees his clean room will bring tears to your eyes.

If you’ve got a mess or two, or a kid with a really messy room, maybe you can pick up a few tips to help you out by watching this show. And I’ll see what I can do to come up with some ideas of my own.

Clearing out the clutter is an emotional gift to yourself and your family.

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