Hoarding and Squalor
Hoarding is the term used to explain the continual accumulation of a large number of objects or animals, resulting in excessive clutter. The perception from others can often be that hoarded items lack value, however, to the person collecting these objects or animals, they are of immense value and cannot be thrown away.
Acquiring objects is something many people do as a hobby, which often begs the question: when does it become excessive? This question can be somewhat complex and subjective, but when ‘collecting’ begins to impact a person’s daily life, such as causing risks to personal safety, health and well-being or choosing possessions over relationships, then guidance and support should be offered.
Extreme collecting and squalid living not only affects the person demonstrating these behaviours, but can also affect family members, neighbours and animals.
What is Hoarding?
Hoarding behaviour is the persistent accumulation of, and lack of ability to relinquish, large numbers of objects or animals, resulting in extreme clutter in or around premises. This behaviour compromises the intended use of premises and threatens the health and safety of people concerned, animals and neighbours.
Extract from DHHS, Hoarding and Squalor: A practical resource for service providers, June 2013
People who hoard often do so for the following reasons:
- to avoid wasting things
- to retain important information
- to preserve emotional meanings of objects and memories
- to appreciate the aesthetic of objects, such as shape, colour and texture
Common characteristics are:
- difficulty discarding items (when they are typically no longer useful or needed)
- difficulty organising
- prone to procrastinating or indecisiveness
- strong desire to collect or acquire things
What is Squalor?
Squalor describes an unsanitary living environment that has arisen from extreme and/or prolonged neglect and poses substantial health and safety risks to people or animals residing in the affected premises as well as others in the community.
Extract from DHHS, Hoarding and Squalor: A Practical resource for service providers, June 2013
Living conditions of this nature can lead to feelings of severe isolation and frustration and cause significant health and safety risks for those involved.
It is important to acknowledge that whilst these conditions (hoarding and squalor) can accompany one another, they can also exist in isolation and may require separate assessment and treatment plans.
What are the Misconceptions?
There are many concerns associated with hoarding and squalor behaviours, but it is important to note that contrary to popular belief, people who hoard are often highly intelligent, hard working and resourceful. The misconception that they are disorganised, neglectful, and unsanitary is unjust and unsupportive.
Instead, the community should acknowledge that hoarding is a mental health illness and must be treated with understanding and support.
Hoarding and Squalor in our Community
Hoarding and squalor tendencies can affect anyone at any age. However, due to the progressive and chronic nature of these practices, strong links are often made with our ageing population.
The Maroondah Hoarding and Squalor Network has been established within our community to help people affected by hoarding and squalor and is actively working alongside local service providers to ensure a range of information, assistance and advice is available for those in need.