When throwing things away becomes hard: How hoarding works

When throwing things away becomes hard: How hoarding works

SINGAPORE: Say “hoarder” and images of piled newspapers and containers, little space to advance, and in some cases, scurrying cockroaches come to mind.

These are the kinds of homes that Environment for Humanity Singapore has entered plus tried to turn around. Decluttering them, however , does not always mean entirely ridding them of unwanted products.

“When you employ the word declutter, we are always assuming that we are able to get the hoarder to completely declutter but in the experience, we have not seen too many instances of that happening for those who severely hoard stuff, ” said Mister Yong Teck Meng, the housing charity’s national director.

It is a “huge challenge”, he told CNA938 .

“Every product you want to discard, you have to get the permission from the hoarder. Maybe about one hour, two hrs down into the activity associated with decluttering, the hoarder will tell you that he or she struggles to go on because it is rather traumatic to your pet, so then you have to stop, ” he or she said.

What is more common is decreasing the severity associated with hoarding to some extent, mentioned Mr Yong.

Among the homes their organisation has tried to improve is one within Jurong that was therefore blocked that its occupier had to climb over a small hill of items just to get inside. At another home, 33 visits over one-and-a-half years led to the cleaning of just one-third of its contents.


The root cause of hoarding conduct is complex, Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said in Parliament on Monday (Sep 12).   The girl was responding to various questions from Associates of Parliament for the issue which came to the fore following a open fire in a cluttered home left one man lifeless.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said at the time how the firefighting and dissipating down operation for the incident was very difficult as the entire unit contained “a large amount of debris that was carefully packed together from wall to wall”.

Hoarding could be a symptom of underlying psychological health conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or developed right after trauma or deeply grief, she stated.

The government bodies are working on 260 active hoarding cases that remain “protracted and unresolved” because it is difficult to gain hoarders’ cooperation to remodel, Ms Sim added.

Hoarding may be linked to sentimental reasons.

Mr Sng Hock Lin, the PhD student at the Singapore University associated with Social Sciences who have did a study upon hoarding behaviour, declared that he met a senior who was gathering stuffed toys and maintaining them wrapped in plastic bags.

She had was able to accumulate discarded carnival tickets to collect the particular toys. When questioned why, she mentioned she was starving of such playthings during her difficult childhood, Mr Sng said.

“To her, it’s a wide range of memories of the child years that she experienced and also the emotional link with those stuffed toys, ” he said.


Hoarders may have difficulty discarding or even parting ways with their possessions regardless of the actual value of the items, stated clinical psychologist Stephanie Chan from Annabelle Psychology.

The girl gave examples of items like pieces of paper and plastic containers.

They may think they need to keep the items pertaining to next time or think about turning them in for a small profit, the lady said.

“What happens in a very cluttered environment is that these items start to take over the surroundings in a very disorganised manner that you no longer know where that one container you have kept, maybe two weeks ago, offers disappeared to, ” she said.

“So you just think to yourself, maybe I must collect another one in case I need it again next time. ”

The hoarder also offers a problem trying to perceive what is of value, Mr Yong said.

“To all of us, it may look like a part of junk, but towards the hoarder, it could be as precious as a lb of gold, ” he said.

“They keep gathering stuff and they keep accumulating for simply no conceivable purpose. ”

However , a suggestion that the items needs to be discarded could cause a “significant amount of distress” in such individuals, said Ms Chan.

Such distress would be a distinguishing aspect between someone who just has no time to clean up and someone who has the hoarding disorder, the mental health condition, mentioned Ms Chan.