Hoarding dilemmas: Friends and family cope with junk piles and health hazards

Reality TV and talk shows have put hoarding in the spotlight, showing in vivid and heartbreaking detail what happens in the worst cases.

But hoarding is also something many of us witness firsthand.

According to a survey by Insure.com, 46 percent of adults say they know someone who hoards.

Among those who know a hoarder, here are the culprits:
  1. Friend: 32 percent.
  2. Family member: 27 percent.
  3. Neighbor: 23 percent.
  4. Parent: 15 percent.
  5. Spouse: 8 percent.
  6. Myself: 6 percent.
  7. Child: 5 percent.
  8. Other: 5 percent.

Compulsive hoarding is more than just poor housekeeping or collecting a lot of stuff. Collectors usually display their possessions with pride and keep them organized. In a hoarding situation, the items are usually in disarray, according to the International OCD Foundation.

The foundation says compulsive hoarding includes all three of the following:
  • The person collects a lot of items, even things that appear useless to others.
  • The belongings clutter living areas to the point that rooms can't be used as they were intended.
  • The stuff causes problems in daily activities.

Too much stuff everywhere

All sorts of things are hoarded. According to Insure.com's survey, these are the most commonly hoarded items:
  1. Mixed items: 34 percent
  2. Knickknacks: 16 percent
  3. Magazines and newspapers: 11 percent
  4. Clothes: 9 percent
  5. Food: 7 percent
  6. Electronics: 5 percent
  7. Containers: 4 percent
  8. Other: 4 percent
  9. Animals: 4 percent
  10. Bags: 4 percent
  11. Appliances: 1 percent

Among write-in answers for “other,” people named boxes, broken-down cars and, in many cases, simply “everything.” And much of it is “stacked to the ceiling,” many reported.

Bugs on food, rat droppings, pet poop, maggots, dead animals and even murder plans were some of the “most shocking” items seen in hoarders' piles. Other oddities spotted were 200 pairs of shoes, boxes of empty pill bottles, collections of fast-food and Starbucks cups, and used Band-Aids.

Fire and health risks

Hoarding becomes a home insurance issue when it creates health and safety hazards.