141 W Elm
Wichita, KS 67203
This article is designed to define hoarding and to discuss
some of the psychological aspects of the phenomenon. It will also give readers
some suggestions on what can be done if they are seeking help for themselves or
a hoarder that they know in their community.
Hoarding is a phenomenon that has recently become much more
publicized due to the reality-based TV show, “Hoarders” which airs on A&E. While
there are many different types of hoarding, “Compulsive hoarding is a disorder
characterized by difficulty discarding items that appear to most people to have
little or no value.” 1 In other words, hoarding is the excessive collection and
retention of items or animals which interfere with day-to-day functions such as
home, health, family, work, and social life. Hoarders differs from those who are
simply “pack rats” or “clutterers” because when individuals hoard items they
significantly change how they and their families can use intended living spaces.
Homes can become so packed with hoarded items that they are virtually
uninhabitable and can often impose serious health issues on those living in that
Hoarders most often live in homes that could be deemed unsafe
for a variety of reasons. Some hoarding homes are overrun with pests and insects
due to the unsanitary living conditions. Many of these homes do not have running
water, heat, or electricity which could lead to multiple safety concerns for
elderly individuals or children. In addition, mold exposure and fire hazards are
also important to note. Hoarding is most common among the elderly 2 who are more
susceptible to tripping and falling. If this occurs in a hoarding home, it may
be even more difficult for the person to obtain help if they are unable to get
up. Nationwide there have been cases where hoarders have actually been crushed
by piles of items falling over in their own homes.
"Pictures of squalor - Kimmy - Kitchen." Squalor Survivors. Web. 09 Feb.
There are a number of different items that are commonly
hoarded. Some examples include: food, trash, animals, printed materials, etc.
Each of these items can be stockpiled for different reasons. Oftentimes physical
items are kept because the hoarder feels an emotional connection to those items.
For example, a hoarder may keep all of his or her deceased mother’s belongings
because he or she may feel that if they part with those items they will also
lose the corresponding memories. Animals may be kept because the hoarder
believes that they are helping the animal and that if they didn’t care for them
that they would be put to sleep. Hoarders are unable to see that in most animal
hoarding situations the animals are extremely neglected and often completely
unsocialized or feral. This can make animal hoarding unique because in the event
that the animals have to be seized by law enforcement or animal control for
neglect issues, many must be euthanized because of health or behavioral issues.
This then completes the vicious circle of a self-fulfilled prophecy.
1 "Specialty Programs." UCSD Department of Psychiatry.
Web. 09 Feb. 2010.
“A person may have a problem with having too many belongings
if they can identify with two or more of the following statements:
Saving or collecting continues beyond what is
needed or usable- even though the house is full.
Value, uniqueness and sentiment are found in
belongings that others do not find valuable, such as old papers,
containers and food items.
There are strong emotional attachments formed
with many items for comfort or safety.
Multiple efforts to stop collecting,
organizing or discarding belongings are unsuccessful and lead to
a sense of anxiety, emptiness, [and] vulnerability.
Belongings interfere with safe and functional
use of the home for sleeping, cooking, bathing, and/or
Others see the belongings as bothersome and
The fear of losing things prevents the
organization or discarding of belongings.” 3
Hoarding is a very complex issue and cannot be solved by
simply removing a hoarder’s belongings and cleaning up the property. Hoarding is
commonly associated with several different mental health disorders, but there
are treatments available for those who want them. This problem has been
researched very little and is believed to be underreported in most communities.
If you believe that you have hoarding tendencies and need help
or more information, please contact COMCARE at (316) 660-7500 for
assistance. They will be able to direct you to the appropriate agency.
If you believe that you know of a hoarder and you want them checked on,
please refer to
www.sedgwickcounty.org/hoarding.asp for specific directions on who to
again, if this is an emergent situation (i.e. a hoarder without heat or air
conditioning in extreme weather conditions or an elderly person who is no longer
able to care for themselves) please call 9-1-1 immediately so that a welfare check
can be done by law enforcement and/or social workers.
Hoarding: A Dangerous Secret
Hoarding - ASPCA
Wichita/Sedgwick County Hoarding
Wichita/Sedgwick County Hoarding Coalition
We, at the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, are dedicated to
helping citizens combat crime in their neighborhoods. But we need your
help! By utilizing crime prevention techniques around your home, work
place, and vehicles, you can decrease your chances of becoming a victim!
If you have any questions about what you could do to help protect yourself and
your property, please call either your Community Liaison Unit at (316) 660-3920
or your Community Policing Unit at (316) 522-2610.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this
document is not intended to be legal advice, but is merely intended to convey
general information commonly encountered when dealing with the subjects
discussed herein. Because laws can change very rapidly, we cannot guarantee that
any information on this document (or references contained therein) are current
or accurate. Additionally, laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and
are subject to interpretation of courts located in each county. Legal advice
must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case and the information
provided herein may not be an appropriate fit for your particular situation. The
Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, its employees, agents, or others will not be
liable or responsible for any claim, loss, injury, liability, or damages related
to use of this document or any reference provided herein.
Programs." UCSD Department of Psychiatry. Web. 09 Feb. 2010.
2 Children of Hoarders. Can't Let Anyone in Your
House? Children of Hoarders. Print.
3 County of Orange Health Care Agency Behavioral
Health Services. This Full House. County of Orange Health Care Agency Behavioral
Health Services. Print.
Date Reviewed: 12/03/2013
Deputy C. Fischer D1639
Reviewed by: J. Page D1642
Mission: To assure quality public services that provide for the present and future well-being of the citizens of Sedgwick County.
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