Hoarding danger in Massachusetts

A study from researchers at Boston University and Smith College asked potential subjects to pick the photo that most accurately portrays their living space:

The researchers have found that subjects are quite accurate in their self assessments and that anyone who chooses picture #4 or above may be eligible for hoarding studies and/or treatment.

Which brings me to the story of a 90 year old man who was rescued from his mountain of clutter in Norton, MA. Local residents were very aware of all the junk in his yard, but had no idea how bad it was inside the elderly man’s home.

After someone called authorities Friday concerned that Halko had not been seen for a couple of days, an ambulance responded.

It took paramedics more than 10 minutes to locate him amid the piles of furniture, boxes, magazines, appliances, and trash that he’d accumulated over several decades.

Be aware that hoarding usually takes a hold of an individual when they reach middle age and progressively gets worse. By the time a person reaches their golden years hoarding may consume their whole life and my become a danger to themselves and others. The researchers from the Boston University/Smith College study estimate that 1 to 2 percent of adults suffer from a hoarding disorder.

29 Comments for “Hoarding danger in Massachusetts”

  1. posted by lesliet on

    I have a friend who is on the verge of becomming a hoarder. His rooms are piled high with stuff – we haven’t seen the top of his dining room table for years. I and another friend have frequently offered to help him clean up, but he is just not interested. He doesn’t see that there’s anything wrong. So I don’t know what to do. But I do fear he will become one of those elderly people with houses you can’t walk through.

  2. posted by christie on

    I can say with 100% certainty… I am in no way shape or form a hoarder. Is is bad that I found image one too cluttered? LOL

  3. posted by Mrs. Micah on

    Image 2 for me. Now I don’t feel bad at all. :-)

  4. posted by three day blog on

    My pendulum swings back and forth between image one and image two. I am not eligible for any hoarding studies…yet.

  5. posted by Spike on

    This looks quite clever. Lol at #9 though, I’m trying to imagine someone sleeping on top of that. I’d probably be between 1 and 2, there needs to be a 1.5 option :)

    SpiKe
    Organize IT

  6. posted by Anne on

    I like that beginning at picture 2 they tilted the picture on the wall, as if an uneven picture makes a room more cluttered (v. makes it *seem* more cluttered).

  7. posted by Liz on

    GAHHHHH I’m a 1, when I am lounging around it can become a 1.2 or so. I’ll admit that those photos gave me the shudders. I’ve been in an elderly hoarding home or two. My parents manage to have an absurd refusal to ever get rid of anything AND be generally tidy. They’re an exception.

  8. posted by verily on

    I fit somewhere between Image 1 and 2.

    I knew someone who comes from a family that maintains their home at around Image 4/5. It’s dreadful, and they definitely have a hoarder mentality.

  9. posted by STL Mom on

    Thank goodness they showed a bedroom. I never leave anything on the bed, so I can confidently point to number one.
    Now, if they showed a desk piled up I’d be looking at some higher numbers…

  10. posted by Jenny on

    This title in my bookmarks bar looked like a call to arms. I thought we were going to assemble and drop into Massachusetts to declutter the state.

  11. posted by susan on

    My ex boss’s office falls somewhere between 5 and 7. His keyboard is perched on a least 6 inches of clutter. He told me one day that there might be some thing useful on one of these pieces of paper. All I could think is that he would never be able to find it.

    Funny story. He asked me about a cat I had adopted from the local animal shelter. I told him the cat I adopted came out of an animal hoarder’s house. He asked me what that was and I answered that it was one of those people that had house over run with animals. He looked at me funny and said that his wife had 7 indoor cats when they were dating. I back pedeled quickly and replied that 7 cats were not THAT many. I can imagine what their house looks like!

  12. posted by Melissa A. on

    Wow. Those pictures were intense. I’m happy to say my home usually looks like the first picture.

  13. posted by Schizohedron on

    Check out this series of photos for what might be a 10 (many pix, so dialup users may experience a delay): This Guy Has a Crazy Mom.

  14. posted by pril on

    okay i’m not as bad as i thought but my poor dad!!! but it’s true he doest want things to go to waste.. so he keeps them someone will need it one day!! I just figure i can go buy one and that has helped me.. my dad is a number 5-8 allthought one room is a 9 he has a pole barn that looks like 8-9 and when i meet him at 18 i seen this and didn’t want to grow up that way!
    In my life I have went from 4-7.. now i’m 2-4 with ibn 5 years so improvment can happen! YIPPY!!!

  15. posted by KT on

    I’ve helped people like the guy with the crazy mom (Schizohedron, above) to unclutter, and let me tell you, it is hard as heck. You have to get them to stay out of the house completely for a few days, and haul every bit of trash/junk with you daily or it is put back into the house. Once you’re about 75% finished, they get with the plan and start helping, and start figuring out what they need to do…they have to first see that it’s possible and that the world didn’t end when their junk went away.

    OTOH, I’m fighting a clutter battle in my own home at the moment, since I bought a fixer with no storage, then got married and inherited all his stuff, then had a friend who needed a place to live move in…OY VAY! All I can say is I’d be dead meat without Freecycle.

    Oh, and my declutter tip: Paper clutter is my biggest enemy. I now scan everything that I need to save records of, and make PDFs that go on CDs. For receipts and tax records, I use NeatReceipts. I’m down from six full paper boxes to a notebook full of CDs. Yippee!

  16. posted by Jen on

    I’m a 1, but both my parents are hoarders, so it is probably in reaction to that. Their home looks like the pictures in the Crazy Mom article.

  17. posted by Swistle on

    Hi–I’m new to this blog and really enjoying it.

    I’m so relieved to see, in these photos, that there are worse cluttery messes than I have. It makes me feel as if there is HOPE!

  18. posted by Joel on

    My friend works for his dad’s cleaning company and #4 and #5 represent my friend’s apartment.
    I’m crashing here for a week and I’ve been slowly throwing stuff into trashbags to expand the path from the door to the couch into more of a double-path and soon we might find the kitchen table.

  19. posted by Arielle on

    I recently wrote this blog due to your influencing post, maybe it can be useful to you in an upcoming post:
    http://joemamaknows.wordpress.com/2007/09/26/rule-8-if-this-is-your-first-night-at-fight-club-you-have-to-fight/

    P.S. The rooms in my house were #2s/ 3s at their worst… but after a long two weekends they are all proudly #1s

  20. posted by quench on

    Isn’t the range between #1 and #2 a lot more varied than they suggest. To me, they don’t look close at all. #1 is much too neat to describe my place, but #2 is waaay too messy.

  21. posted by DJ on

    I once stayed overnight with a relative whose guest bedroom was even more cluttered than photo number 9.

    I slept draped over boxes of clutter, waiting for the rest to fall down on me.

    I’m a #1 from the photo above, the polar opposite of my poor relative. A Clash of the Titans, as it were.

  22. posted by sharon on

    A woman I met complained once about “all the CLUTTER” in her condo, especially a “huge stack” of magazines. I asked her to define “huge stack”, & she said “Gee, maybe 5 or 6?” She wasn’t kidding. I didn’t mention my multiple stacks of magazines, papers, catalogs, etc, which probably numbered (and still number) in the hundreds. This is the same woman who “pre-cleans” before her cleaning woman comes every week for her 900 s.f. condo.

    We’re all different, I guess!

  23. posted by another depressed hoarder on

    Reading stories like this makes me sad because I foresee a similar fate for myself. The comment “Be aware that hoarding usually takes a hold of an individual when they reach middle age and progressively gets worse.” is true in my case. When I got divorced in my early 30s I became depressed. Things started piling up around my house, years’ worth of magazines, newspapers, mail, broken electronics, etc. I am now nearing 40 and I still have piles of junk around me. I am afraid of ending up like this man but it is difficult to know where to turn to find help. Blogs like this one so far have helped to inspire me to clean maybe a room or two. Then the piles start up again. Is this something I should see a doctor for? I wish I could just throw it all away but I cling to it.

  24. posted by julia1060 on

    My father hoarded progressively from the time my mother died until his own passing 20 years later. When he died, we filled two dumpsters full, moved countless items out of the house and sold countless more. It took a solid week of full time work with multiple people doing it. As the person who organized his estate sale, moved the dust and wore a ventilator while doing it, all I can say is hoarding doesn’t save, it wastes – time, energy, emotions, money.

  25. posted by trying hard on

    I wish I could be a #1, but being in a small apartment, just married, with no garage storage or anything, no matter how much I try to organize, there are just things that don’t have a place to go. I do my best, but it doesn’t help that my husband is a “plopper” (drops everything he’s carrying into the house right by the door, and then proceeds to empty out his pockets onto any available surface). Although things pile up, I always make sure there is a pathway to everything and tablespace (even if it’s reduced somewhat). Then, when I get a chunk of time, I tackle a trouble spot until it’s like #1, feel great, and keep going, until it’s back to the workweek and I come home to #3 again… *sigh*

  26. posted by Whyfly on

    To another depressed horder:
    It sounds like counceling could do you good, if you are continuing to fight depression. Hoarding makes us feel secure, which is okay until dealing with the clutter takes over our lives.

    As for cleaning out the clutter, stop kicking yourself for not finishing, pat yourself on the back that you keep trying. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It took you some years to build up the clutter, it’s may take some time to get it out. Just keep trying.

  27. posted by Elizabeth on

    What are some good ways to teach children to be uncluttered? My Gran died leaving a house full of old papers and big balls of little bits of string tied together; my stepfather has taken over a (large) house with papers and scientific apparatus, much of it outdated; my husband uses a floordrobe and never puts things back where he found them; my in-laws attempt to give us furniture they don’t want (nor do we) but want to keep in the family. My own accumulations of papers that I might need to refer to in future, and supplies for art-and-craft projects I will never undertake, are of course quite different. I guess I’m right to fear my kids are doomed…

  28. posted by A FL Flybaby on

    http://www.flylady.net *That’s my two cents.2
    T

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