Hoarding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Hoarding is a compulsive behavior characterized by a person’s collecting and saving items, leading to an accumulation of physical objects which impacts that person’s life, and oftentimes, the lives of the people around him or her. There is a big difference between hoarding and collecting. Hoarders put themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors in danger by creating fire hazards and unsanitary conditions. Hoarding is a hazard for the elderly because it promotes social isolation and impairs one’s ability to complete activities of daily living. It’s particularly dangerous for people with limited mobility and the frail elderly, who have an increased risk of injury due to compromised, cramped living conditions and narrow pathways.

Although hoarding is associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, it encompasses much more than that. Understanding the psychology behind the behavior is the first step in helping a hoarder.

  • What drives a hoarder to collect items?
  • What’s the difference between being a packrat and being a hoarder?
  • What’s the harm in simply collecting and saving items?
  • What should you do if your loved one is a hoarder?

This four-part course will teach you to recognize the signs of hoarding and how to deal with it, offering step-by-step guidelines for working with hoarders, advising on how and when to intervene, and presenting resources for professional help.

The four hoarding modules that appear below have been reproduced courtesy of eSMMART, an online training site which provides affordable, Web-based training for individuals working with older adults.

Read Introduction to Hoarding.
Read Hoarding 101.
Read Hoarding from the Inside Out.
Read How & When to Intervene.



The following files are in a pdf format. You will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader® if you do not have it installed on your computer. (Don’t worry; it’s free, safe and simple to use.)