What Is the Difference Between Hoarding and Being Messy

What Is the Difference Between Hoarding and
Being Messy

A little clutter here or there can definitely be a pain, but hoarding runs much deeper than just being untidy. Messiness and hoarding are not the same.

It’s important to be clear on that from the very beginning. While they might look similar at times, there is a significant difference between the two.

This difference matters because it impacts everything. Coming up with an effective solution is easier when the situation is properly identified.

Stay informed, and don’t make any hasty decisions.


What is the difference between
hoarding and messiness?

It is easy to get overwhelmed by a huge unsightly pile of stuff. But snap judgments won’t help you solve the problem. Messiness and hoarding have some similarities, but they are not interchangeable. Know the difference before you make your first move.
  • Messiness is all about organization. Neatness is more important to some than others. Everyone has a different level of comfort with clutter. Someone who has a few unwashed dishes or some recycling left out on the counter might not have a spotless abode. But, they are far from being a hoarder.
    Bad habits might cause the laundry to sit longer than it should. Or, maybe the countertops could stand to have the crumbs wiped off of them more often.
    These things can be considered generally untidy, and could use some improvement. But, as long as things are kept under control there is no need to worry.

  • Hoarding is the result of a much deeper issue. It’s more than just a few unsightly lumps of clutter that could easily be tidied up with a little effort. Hoarding disorder is normally caused by a variety of serious mental health issues.The extreme distress that hoarders feel can cause them to compulsively collect things that won’t make sense to the average, healthy person. Some may become so attached to their belongings that throwing things away can induce panic.

    Hoarders may be reclusive out of a distrust for others, or a fear that their collections may become threatened if anyone knew the state of their home. In the end, a hoarder’s inability to make healthy decisions can cause the home to fill up with so much stuff it becomes completely unlivable.

    This means that, while cleaning up a messy house might just take a few hours of hard work it is not so simple to help a hoarder clean. The clutter becomes truly unmanageable. Unfortunately, living this way can be incredibly dangerous.

    Read: Can Hoarding Cause Health Problems?

Both being messy and being a hoarder have their risk factors.

There are some similar risks involved between messiness and hoarding. 

But, although they have a lot in common there is a clear difference between the two. 

General untidiness can impact many aspects of our lives. Our physical and emotional wellness are more vulnerable when things are disorganized. 

Things can become extremely difficult if too much mess piles up.

Does Being Messy Lead to Hoarding?

Hoarder homes are more than just untidy. While messiness and hoarding do go together, not everyone who has trouble keeping things neat and clean is a hoarder. 

Severe mental illness is a common underlying factor for hoarding. Not just being messy. 

The unkempt nature of a disorganized home does influence quality of life. 

But, a hoarding disorder is more complex.

The Life Impact of Being Messy

  • Clutter can be stressful. The environment you are in can affect your mood. Your general mental wellbeing can be impacted by clutter in a very big way. 

    The more you have, the more difficult it becomes to think clearly and feel good. Because of this, messiness can take a toll on our relationships, self-esteem, and overall quality of life. 

  • Brain fog. Clutter can make it difficult to think straight. This makes it harder to make decisions overtime. It may even cause things to feel so overwhelming that organization never occurs. 

    The draining feeling that clutter creates can severely impact how well we function.

  • Disorganization can lead to injury. Tripping and falling on something unexpected can have some painful results. Taking a tumble because of a misplaced item on the floor may not result in anything more than a bruise.

    Or, it could be a one-way ticket to a sprained ankle. Nosediving on a heap of clutter isn’t the only cause for concern. 

  • A disorderly space is more vulnerable to catching fire. Piles of unopened junk mail next to an unsuspecting electrical outlet can ignite. Fires can spread frighteningly quickly when there clusters of flammable available to burn. 

    Things can escalate before there is enough time to process what is happening. Keeping a proper filing system, and making sure things are put away when not in use is not just a practice for a neat-looking home.

    It is crucial for health and safety.

The Life Impact of Hoarding

  • Hoarding takes all these risks to the extreme. Being surrounded by clutter may make the average person a little cranky. But, a hoarder suffers from something much deeper. 

    Depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD are associated with hoarding. While cleaning up clutter may be enough to elevate most people’s moods, a hoarder needs much more targeted treatment.  

    Attempting to intervene without proper education or training can actually make things worse. 

  • Health concerns become much more complicated in a hoarder’s home. Falling over an object that was somewhere it should not have been is still a risk. But injuries can be much more severe. 

    The dust and mold that builds up among the disarray in a hoarder’s home can cause serious infections if cut or scratched. Respiratory issues, allergies, and other illnesses are also more likely.

  • Damage to the home can amplify safety issues. Sometimes, the structural integrity of a hoarder’s house can become compromised. There may be a hole in the stairs, or plumbing that is completely backed up. 

    All of these factors can magnify the amount of bacteria, tripping hazards, and other risk factors that a person in a hoarder’s home can be exposed to. 

  • Fire hazards are much more serious. With all the extra stuff that is packed into a hoarder’s home, there are a lot more opportunities for fires to develop. 

    In the worst cases, emergency services may not be able to access the home. When someone’s living space is filled to the rafters with miscellaneous junk, windows and entrances to the home may be blocked off.  

    This can be extremely dangerous if a fire were to erupt.

Tips to Help a Hoarder

If you suspect a loved one might be struggling with hoarding, then you might be tempted to step in and help.

It is only natural to want to express your concerns. 
Before you take action, make sure you do your research. 

Staging an intervention for hoarders the right way takes patience and planning. Take some time to make sure you understand the situation so that you can approach things with confidence.

This will help to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

How to organize a messy home

A good strategy will make it easier to successfully break the ice. It will be much easier to convince someone that recovering from hoarding is possible when you have clear, attainable objectives.

  • Do an overview of the situation to determine its severity
  • Set goals to help give the cleanup some structure
  • Develop a system for items to keep, discard, or donate
  • Go room by room so progress can be easily tracked
  • Celebrate your milestones! It will help keep you motivated.

Hoarding is more than just extreme messiness. It is a complex issue with many underlying causes. 

The skills needed to keep a home tidy and mess-free are part of a learning curve for people affected by hoarding disorder. 

Supporting them as they strive to develop healthier habits is key for a full recovery. 

Getting guidance from a professional can help keep you and your loved one on track. Talk to one of our hoarding cleaning experts today for help determining your next step.

Read: Decluttering Tips: Room-by-Room Guide

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