How to Help Your Loved One who has Hoarding Disorder? Part 1

What do you do when your loved one is not motivated to make changes to make their place safer and healthier?  What will motivate them to want to make change?  How can you help your loved one who has hoarding disorder?

It can be very challenging to help someone who is less motivated than you are.   It can seem that the more you push for change the harder the person pushes back.   The more you fight with your loved one about their possessions, the more they will fight back and unfortunately this can cause mistrust and sometimes can even lead to family breakdowns.  

You might be surprised to hear that in our work with the Clearing Clutter Support Group, we never tell people what to do or what to let go of.  This can be a big worry for a new group member.  A chipped coffee mug to me might look like it should be thrown in the trash but to someone else this may have some deeper meaning.  We need to respect these feelings and look at other ways to be able to help individuals and loved ones to start looking at how they can make changes.  

I want to share with you some ideas that come from the work of Dr. William Miller and Dr. Stephen Rollnick who are the founding members of Motivational Interviewing and helping people to make change.  The initial work was in the field of alcohol addictions but they have found that this model works with making change in many areas.  

Work with Ambivalence:  When you are thinking about or wanting to make a change it is perfectly normal to have conflicting feelings.  We know we want to make some changes, however, we are quite comfortable with the way things are.  We do an exercise in the Clearing Clutter Support Group called Reasons Not to Change and Reasons to Change.  We always end with the positive and hope to have more reasons to want to change than to not. It all has to do with the balance of change.  You could also look at a Pros and Cons list. I remember doing this when I was working on quitting smoking.  A lot!!  Eventually, I was successful and have been a non smoker for many years.  You have to want to make some changes more than wanting to stay the same. 

Show Empathy:  I know how hard this is and can be for me as well when I am working with my clients.  I think it’s because we can see what needs to be done and what would be helpful.  However, this needs to be decided by the client or your loved one you are helping.  It doesn’t mean that you agree with everything they are saying but it means that you are willing to listen and try to understand. 

It may be helpful to ask some open-ended questions like:

“What do you like about this room?” “Tell me more about this item?” “How does this item make you feel?”  “How could you create more space in here?”

Summarize what you are hearing from your loved one. “What I hear you saying is that you feel you won’t be able to make progress. Is that correct?”

Pay attention to signs that your loved one may be feeling stressed, anxious, sad, etc.  They likely will need to take regular breaks and progress may not be as fast as you would like.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of How to Help Your Loved One Who has Hoarding Disorder?

Any questions or insights please comment here…… and thanks for following along – Happy De-cluttering!!


About Kim

Kim Tremblay is a Master Organizer and a Clutter Coach. She has worked with individuals helping them clear the physical and emotional clutter from their lives since 2008. Kim founded and co-facilitated a Clearing Clutter Support Group which has helped hundreds of individuals to make positive changes in their lives. Kim is currently working virtually with clients helping them to clear the emotional and/or physical clutter from their lives. Kim is available to speak to your group about all things organizing.
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4 Responses to How to Help Your Loved One who has Hoarding Disorder? Part 1

  1. Great advice, Kimberley. It’s frustrating for the person who wants the change and is trying to get someone else to clear their space. I agree the hoarder needs to want to change or the process will not work. Learning to listen to the subtle clues they will give off help. Instead of condemning them, changing how you speak to them will help immensely.

    • Kimberley says:

      It sure is a work in process for me. It takes a lot of patience for sure and as we know this work can take a lot of time. Everyone is different so of course it depends on the individual but we need to be able to go at the clients pace if at all possible.

  2. Your point about working with the ambivalence is crucial. It’s so important to identify the discrepancy between where the client’s life is now and where they want it to be and then do the tough work to help them get there.

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