Definition of Hoarding
San Francisco Bay Area Internet Guide for Extreme Hoarding Behavior
Clutterers Syndrome or Pack Rat Syndrome

Supported by Peninsula Community Services, Inc


Frost and Hartl (1996) provided the first systematic definition, identifying three characteristics:"(1) the acquisition of, and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value; (2) living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed; and (3) significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding." This definition distinguished hoarding from the collecting of objects generally considered interesting and valuable.

Go to this site for further definitions 

"Two behaviors characterize hoarding: acquiring too many possessions and difficulty discarding or getting
rid of them when they are no longer useful or needed.  When these behaviors lead to enough clutter and
disorganization to disrupt or threaten a person’s health or safety, or they lead to significant distress, then
hoarding becomes a “disorder." Simply collecting or owning lots of things does not qualify as hoarding. 
A major feature of hoarding is the large amount of disorganized clutter that creates chaos in the home.  Such as:
  • Rooms can no longer be used as they were intended
  • Moving through the home is difficult
  • Exits are blocked
Collectors typically keep their possessions well-organized, and each item differs from other items to form an
interesting and often valuable collection. Further, an important purpose of collecting is to display the special
items to others who appreciate them. People who hoard are seldom able to accomplish such goals."    Randy Frost

What makes getting rid of clutter difficult for individuals who hoard?
        Difficulty organizing possessions
        Unusually strong positive feelings (joy, delight) when getting new items
        Strong negative feelings (guilt, fear, anger) when considering getting rid of items
        Strong beliefs that items are “valuable” or “useful,” even when other people do not want them
        Feeling responsible for objects and sometimes thinking of inanimate objects as having feelings
        Denial of a problem even when the clutter or acquiring clearly interferes with a person’s life
More at : Hoarding Fact Sheet - Association For Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

IOCD Foundation
Interview with Randy Frost on the Today Show

 * Causes of Hoarding
 * Classic Profile of the Hoarder

 * The way to Help a Family Member
 * Non-shopping Trip
 * What To Do When The Hoarder Does Not Change
 * Downward Arrow
 * When Stuff Takes Over

Dr. David Tolin says you may have a
compulsive hoarding problem if you meet all three of these criteria.  

1. You regularly hang onto a large number of possessions that most other people would not consider to be  very useful or valuable.
    For example, many people with compulsive hoarding problems hang onto things like:

         Junk mail
         Old catalogues and newspapers
         Things that might be useful for making crafts (although you don't 
      actually get around to using them for that purpose)
         Things that you think you might want to give to others as gifts 
(although you never actually give them)
         Clothes that you think you might want to wear someday 
(but you don't actually wear them)
         Broken things that you think you might want to fix someday (but you 
      never actually get around to fixing them)
         "Freebies" that you pick up

2. Your home, or parts of your home, is so cluttered that you can no longer use those parts of your home for their intended purpose.
    For example, many people with compulsive hoarding problems have:

         Beds that they cannot sleep in
         Kitchens that they cannot cook in
         Tables that they cannot use for dining
         Chairs or sofas that they cannot sit on

3. The clutter is bad enough that it causes significant distress or impairment. For example, many people with
    compulsive hoarding problems report that they:

         Cannot have friends or family over to their homes because they are so embarrassed by the clutter
         Cannot let repair or maintenance professionals into their homes because they don't want them to 
see the clutter, so things don't get fixed
         Keep the shades drawn so that no one can see inside
         Get into a lot of arguments with family members about the clutter
         Are at risk of fire, falling, infestation or eviction
         Feel depressed or anxious much of the time because of the clutter

If you recognize yourself in these compulsive hoarding signs, Dr. Tolin explains how some treatments may
help people to manage the symptoms

Some of this information was adapted by:  Dr. David Tolin from Steketee & Frost (2003), Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 905-927

Is compulsive hoarding inherited?
Psych, September 1, 2009
The Genetics of Compulsive Hoarding