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Hoarding and mental Illness

I am seeking advice on how to handle a 'hoarding obsession'.


My 50-year-old daughter has schizophrenia. She lives independently, which is good.  But she has the unfortunate habit of collecting things and leaving them on the floor. She cannot see that she is living in conditions that resemble a rubbish tip.


She had a NDIS worker who tidied things up, but for some reason or another the service was discontinued. 


I have just invited her to take action immediately, of face the prospect of me arranging a hard 'cleanout'.


Will an ultimatum work, or do I need to be more sensitive in my approach.  She has a low anxiety threshold. At the same time, I am her landlord, and am not prepared to have her live in a 'shit heap' so to speak.


Any ideas?     





Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Hi there @Merv ,


I absolutely hear what you are saying. I can't say I can relate to hoarding as I tend to be a minimalist. 


However, there are others here who may be able to share some strategies with you. @NatureLover @Dimity 


You may also be interested in


We hope others will be able to share their experiences with you.

Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Hi @Merv @tyme thanks for the tag. 

I can hear you care for your daughter and her wellbeing @Merv and you also have concerns and responsibilities as her landlord. 

There are degrees of hoarding. I'm a recovering midrange hoarder. I support someone who's sadly suffered an extreme form, jeopardising their health and safety. 

It's encouraging that your daughter trusted and worked with the NDIS worker and things improved. We have deep-seated issues and anxieties around acquiring, living with,  and letting go of stuff, so empathy and understanding - and time - can help unless a crisis intervenes and you need to take immediate action. Encouraging your daughter to recognise things have gone downhill again and suggesting she talks to her mental health team and NDIS providers might be first steps in a negotiated plan of action...  Working with her and deciding how you can help - maybe identifying charities and waste depots, and providing boxes and other supplies and transport... 

It's a very worrying situation to be in so look after yourself, and nurture your own supports. I very much hope you and your daughter can work through this. 

If you'd like to reply just put @ in front of my name.

All the best






Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Hey @Merv , I have schizoaffective disorder and hoarding tendencies. I think it is reasonable to let her know clearly your expectations. I do think be prepared for it to take a little time. Personally, I used an NDIS funded home organiser (who had experience working with people with mental health challenges) to work with me to sort out my home when I had to move units. That was a great experience but I was very much open to the idea that I needed to downsize. And she recycled a lot of the stuff I didn't need so I wasn't as precious about letting it go. I don't know whether funding a home organiser through the NDIS is an option for your daughter? If not, then seeing if she will work on the unit one square at a time is my suggestion. 

Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Thanks for sharing @Dimity , that's so helpful.

Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Hi @Merv , I have Hoarding Disorder but have done a lot of work over many years with my psychologist and have had a lot of success. Having said that, it is a lifelong condition that I will always have to battle with. Sometimes I win, sometimes I slip backwards. 


@Merv wrote:

Will an ultimatum work, or do I need to be more sensitive in my approach.  She has a low anxiety threshold.

I would say you definitely need to take a gentle approach. You can traumatise someone by just throwing out their stuff, and this only makes the hoarding disorder worse in the long run. The mess will just come back worse. 


Having said that, I think the threat of someone (you) coming in and doing that might help. But you'd need to give a long time frame, say 6 - 12 months, as getting rid of things is a slow process. I need to understand and process the meaning, significance and history of every item before I can throw it out, even one piece of paper. 


And in that 6 - 12 months, your daughter would need support. By support I mean a support worker, e.g. NDIS, or a friend to gently work through each item with her. 

I have tried having friends over to help me throw things out. Some were a disaster - e.g. laughing at me and saying "Why did you keep THAT?!" I never had them back. However, I found a gentle person who was willing to just sit with me - not handle or touch anything, just be there for advice when I asked. Not when I didn't. 


For instance, I would process the items/papers one by one, and when I came across something I didn't know what to do with or didn't want to throw out, I would say something like, "There's this item. I want to keep it as it means something special / is from a special person in my life. But I don't have room. What do you think I should do?" And my friend would say, "Could you maybe fit it on the shelf with other similar items" or "Can you take a photo of it and upload it to your computer under "Special Memories" or something?"


So I would advise first setting your daughter up with some support. The setting a time limit, anything from 6 - 12 months. Say that after that time you yourself will come in and throw things out. 


The long time limit is from experience. I once threw out 53 boxes worth of hoarded items in 2 consecutive days. Some of those boxes were the extra large moving-type boxes. However I was only able to do that with my friend sitting by and having psyched myself up for ONE WHOLE YEAR. Yes, true! 🙂 Oh, and I worked during that year on my Hoarding Disorder with my psychologist. Does your daughter have a psychologist? 


Oh, and @Dimity  and @Ainjoule  had some great ideas. 👍


Good luck, Merv!



Thanks for tagging me, @tyme .

Re: Hoarding and mental Illness

Wow @NatureLover . Your response has given me so much insight! Thank you so much for sharing!

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