Inside the Mind of Hoarders

Common characteristics of people who
 clutter their lives with inanimate objects


© Ron Alford 1999-2010




The Wanton misuse of the word Hoarders


The newest The Learning Channel, A and E  Hoarding TV shows, Oprah, Dr, Phil, the media, the drug dispensing medical community, self proclaimed experts AKA, psychologists, psychirists, social workers, professional organizers, trash and garbage companies, trauma clean up services consistently and unjustifiably misuse the word HOARDER to describe a wide variety of people who are very rarely hoarders.


These alleged hoarders fall into many kinds of categories and types from the very rich who collect rare works art, vehicles, real estate etc to the homeless shopping bag ladies we see on the big city street with all of their worldly possession in shoping bags.


The difference between these people is what they save and collect and how the public sees and reacts to alleged hoarders.


Bernie Madoff, the multi billion dollar crook, was a world class hoarder and a top flight criminal with class yet, not one media mogle was able to see a true hoarder. Sadly the media only gets to see the unemployed, disabled, and mostly low income people. We the public like to make fun and judge these people don't we? .


We have yet to publicize the thousands of other Madoff types who will go to any means to collect more stuff than they can comfortably and easily mange.  These TV shows would stink if they did not exploit people with the "Oh my god factor." Even Larry King has gotten in on the ratings game inviting all of the publicity seekers to appear with Jeff Probst standing in for Mr. King. 


It was clear to me that Probst also got blindsided by the publicity seekers on this old, but new subject. He too was taken for a ride by the people the producers invited to this show. All of whom has a serious financial stake in the parade.  


Because the public is misinformed about real hoarders, about 15 years ago I created the word Disposophobia ™ to describe a wide variety of life styles and behaviors to set the media, the amateur professional organizers and the medical community straight. We are all hoarders of certain things.


In 69 years I have never met one person who did not suffer from some form of Disposophobia and that includes you. We all have things that we are very attached to and are not willing to give up without a fight. To prove you have a serious case of Disposophobia take out your wallet, car and house keys then place them on the table in front of you.


I will wait till you do this.   OK Now, throw those articles in the trash can.


Oh? You can’t?  Does that make you a hoarder? No. but you do suffer from Disposophobia.


Don’t worry, Disposophobia is mostly a self taught and learned behavior and it is no different than you learning to smoke, drink alcohol, gamble, do drugs, over eat etc It is all about what and how we think. And most of all ….HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?  


See this site later, not now.  


The question is: To what degree do you collect and hold on to stuff?


Starting early in 1980, I have had thousands of one-on-one interactions with alleged hoarders  in their homes where they have taught me how to successfully undo years of their self abuse by holding on to too much stuff because of the way they think. Having recovered thousands of cases over the years I have never failed to complete a project or the promised results on time and on budget.


Why? We know what the end results will be for the client and what their place will look like from the start because we have developed a foolproof recovery process that works perfectly when it is done our way. Client’s consistently use the words failure, tried, overwhelmed, impossible and many more. Those words are simply not in our vocabulary. Once a chronic Disposophobic retains our Life Transition Management Services failure or quitting is never an option.


Below are some, but not all of the common characteristics I have personally witnessed and recovered our clients from which is probably more than all of the therapists in your state combined.


Extremely Smart: They are very smart and in most cases they are very articulate. More often than not they are articulate incompetents which mean that they talk about their short comings and how to fix them but can rarely do what they talk about.


Learned HELPLESSNESS: We humans learn to be helpless on a plethora of issues.

I can or I cannot. From day one in our lives we learn by our environment, experience and training. As we mature, we form an internal opinion of ourselves (esteem) about our abilities and limitations. Some of the smartest and most successful people suffer from learned helplessness in that they never learned to take better care of themselves yet they have all sorts of degrees and honors from the best universities in the world.


EXAMPLES are .Health care professionals, academics, professionals, government employees and trust fund babies make up over 80 percent of our clients.


When we believe that we can, we can, when we believe we cannot, we cannot. Like Disposophobia, everyone suffers from a myriad of dysfunctionalities. Managing our belongings and home life is just one. When we cannot manage our belongings they grow to be unmanageable.


Do it yourselfers:

The do it yourselfers are the very reason they get into trouble in the first place. Why? Their methods of contents management and household maintenance simply does not work. They buy cleaning supplies, vacuums, how to books, storage shelves, containers and more. Most of which end up on top of the rest of the stuff never to be used except to expand the clutter.


Albert Einstein said.  It’s insane to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.


Multi-taskers:  Being so smart they mentally think they can do several physical projects at the same time but, they never figure out how to do more that one task at a time like climbing a ladder. Only when you ask them… How many ladders can you climb at the same time? Then they may get it. When they have to decide which of five ladders on a wall they will climb first, they rarely decide or act without a complicated response and hesitations or tell you how they will put two ladders together and climb them both.


Shop and Drop Syndrome:  When the going gets lonesome the lonesome go shopping looking for some kind of adrenaline rush to get them out of the depressing cave they created to live in.


What’s on Sale? Will this make me look fun, smart or sexier?

Look it’s a 3Fer sale.  3 for the price of one.  Give me 9 they say. They all say… I like it, I want it, I need it so they buy it.

Their only question should be… Where will I store it when I get home and WHEN will I use this new pair of shoes etc?


Master Forecasters:  Almost every one of our clients have practice mind reading and forecasting. Before they finally got the facts on what we do and the scope of our services, they admitted to reading our minds and forecasting what we would say and do before they even picked up the phone to find out.


Example: Rather than calling or carefully reading the 10 Most asked questions at  to get the straight scoop on who we are, what we do best, why are the best source in North America to restore their lives and determine what a new life will cost, they will forecast that we are too far, too expensive, will steal their stuff, judge and abuse them, did I say… “steal there stuff?” and hundreds of other excuses to put off their recovery until later. When they do call they are always surprised to learn that their forecasting and procrastination is one of their worst traits as they are almost always wrong. Once again.  Excuses, rationalization, procrastination rule their lives.



Multi-talented:  Far too often these kinds of people will proclaim to possess and qualified to perform several skills.  Their problems are that they are never able to pick and concentrate on just one of their many skills as a result of the conflict in their heads. They want to be able to do all of them and the result is that they fail at all of them.  This is a form of greediness. They want to do all and get none in the process.


Time Wasters:  Saving time is a flight of the imagination. Time is forever moving and can never be saved like stuff.  Time cannot be stopped, canned or bankrolled. One can always get more money but never more time. People have only 3 kinds of time. Time to invest, time to spend and time to squander. Chronic clutterers squander almost all of their time. What they can NOT do is stretch a clock to have more than 24 hrs each day to do all the things they think about and therein is their major problem. Their area of concentration and time management stink.


Animal Hoarders: These people fall into many “reason” categories. At some point in their live they were rejected by someone or many and they turned their need for love and companionship toward animals. Others see themselves as saviors of the beasts and want to provide care and shelter for their stock. They never see the facts that animals’ like people need a certain amount of space to live and enjoy life.  That is one reason why the penal system puts criminals in tiny cells as they are simply cages.


NO FUTURE PLANS: People who have little ability to plan their future will live their lives looking back at their past and would rather live there than in their current conditions they created for themselves.


A time to die.  Some elderly people have given up living and chose to live in squalor to end their misery.


Control Freaks: Control freaks are generally extreme collectors who simply live in fear and greed. The fear of loss and the greed to get more. These two emotions are so powerful that they always suffer from anxiety and depression. They are the consummate collectors of stuff from chewing gum wrappers to real gold bars and 100 dollar bills and everything in between.


Passive Aggressiveness: In cases where spouses believe that they are stuck in their relationships and are not able to come forward and deal with issues straight up, they often “GET EVEN” with the other by ruining the space in which they live. When this behavior is not stopped at the outset, by default, the other spouse is acting to enable the others behavior and it never gets better it just gets worse over time.


Memory Managers: These folks hoard imammate objects to recover historic feelings about people of the past.  “This is grandmas, moms, and etc stuff. It makes me feel … Good, Bad or reminds me how lonesome I am.”


Perfectionists: They start hundreds of projects and never finish them because the project is never good enough so the project gets put off till LATER.


Isolationists: Some Disposophobics build walls of stuff in their homes as a physical method to keep others away and out of their spaces. Often these same people appear to be social butterflies when you meet them away from their homes. You would never guess in a million years they live like they do.


Excuses: These people have PhD’s; in excuses for everything. Most could give seminars at Harvard on excuses.


Procrastination: They are masters of… never do today what you can do tomorrow.


Rationalization:   They can rationalize the use and benefit of anything, anytime for any reasons.


Anxiety: They suffer daily from conflicting thoughts in their heads that create serious anxiety in their bodies which wears them out physically. They don’t know that it is the way they think and what they think about that causes the anxiety that is the mother of their depression.


Depression:  Their chronic anxiety is the mother of their depression.  


Physically Incompetent:  Most talk about their own cure and restoration but they are physically incapable of doing what they say because the conflict in their brains won’t allow their bodies to work without suffering from increased anxiety.


Obese & Physically Handicapped: Handicapped people including disabled persons and older senior citizens whose bodies wear out to the point that they are unable to care for themselves often are characterized as hoarders. They are not. They just did not Transition their behavior to adjust to their lack of ability to do what they once did.


Convenience Oriented which also means lazy:

Some will place all of their commonly used articles next to or on top of their bed, desk or living room chair so as not be inconvenienced or reaching them. They think that getting up to get things is a waste of time so they clutter up their environment.


Information junkies: People who collect tons of books, periodicals and paper seem to think that the books make them smarter or somehow a better person event if they don’t read all of the books. They rationalize that they will read every one of their treasures one day, but never do because they are too busy collecting more than reading what they have.


Visual learners: They are highly visual people so they will place current projects strategically around them as a reminders or a physical form of their TODO stack.


Unfocused and highly distracted: As they move about to do one thing they see their other things along the way and will often become derailed or distracted from what they are doing or where they are going.  The net results are that they churn their stuff from one pile to another and then wonder why they spent the entire day to get nothing done.


Selfish - Self Absorbed: Rarely do they ask or care how you are doing because they are always thinking about how well they are or are not doing.


Self Taught Behavior: This behavior is self taught and is not in the genes or inherited. People have to learn to smoke, abuse booze, drugs, gamble to excess and they teach themselves to be devoted to inanimate objects more than people.


Self directed

They pride themselves on being self directed. The problem is that in most cases they directed themselves down the wrong road for the wrong reasons. As long as they think that they are on the right path, it can be very difficult to impossible to change their mind. Only when they think that recovery is their idea will they change. These folks are likely to be hoarders.


shaME or Embarrassment: These smart people can’t understand why they are so smart yet, so inept at taking care of themselves. They suffer greatly form shame and embarrassment of their behavior and resist reaching out for qualified help.


Therapy and drugs

After more than 30 years of one-on-one interfacing with Disposophobics, hoarders, and clutterers I have yet to see one who has been recovered by drugs, therapy or the medical community. To the contrary being reminded of your past simply reinforces the thoughts and habits and just keeps them in the same place. Good for therapists in revenue, not good for the Disposophobic. One of the several keys to success is to forget the past and move on to the future.


AUTISTIC:  Early on some autistic children will present chronic Disposophobia behavior which we are not able to provide any solutions other than for a guardian or legal agent.


Dementia: Elderly people who suffer from dementia often present Disposophobic behaviors. Other than working for the legal guardian or caretaker we are not able to resolve their hoarding issues. 

Only guardians are able to make decisions for dementia and autistic people.


Brain Damage: Brain damaged people often display chronic Disposophobic behavior which we are not able to provide any solutions. 


WHAT Does WORK: If and when a chronic Disposophobic wants to get a better life they somehow find out that there is a better way to live and that there is a Firm of qualified experts than can truly help them, will they will contact my office at 1 800 THE PLAN. This number is simply short for The Recovery Plan for a new life. Since the principals of the company answer all of the calls personally so that the caller does not have to suffer from shame and misery by telling their story to a secretary.


The Process: The project manager, usually me, who answers the phone will interview the caller and then decide if they are serious and willing to allow us to manage their recovery using our documented Life Transition Management Services.


BOTTOM LINE: If you are a victim of a hoarder there is nothing you can do to fix them until that person figures out that their way of thinking is not good for them. Just like a drunk who wakes up in the gutter or on the bathroom floor. They must bottom out. When they do, our services are the best resource available in North American to recovery them and their space.


Our integrated services are more like a hospital than a doctor in that we provide every kind of skill, material, transportation, cleaning and coaching services required to remove the clutter in the mind of the Disposophobic and from their living environment the same time.


Each project must be reviewed by us in person or via photographs of the space provided by the client so that we can determine the overall cost to recover the client and the space.


Once we have reviewed the client and the space we can then provide a fixed guaranteed cost and time frame to produce a guaranteed result of habitability and normal usefulness.


We also provide a continued follow up program for our clients.  


Copyright 1998-2010 Ron Alford, All rights reserved in all media.

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