Death By Clutter: Sometimes Your Mess Can Kill You

We’re all guilty of amassing clutter in some form. Whether it’s a stack of magazines that you keep meaning to read, a smattering of clothing that you haven’t got around to hanging up, or your collection of tchotchkes that do nothing but sit and look pretty while collecting dust. For the most part, our clutter is manageable.

But what happens when these seemingly innocuous piles of stuff multiply, joining other supposedly benign piles until they form one continuous mountain of trash? If you are sharing your home with a Mount Vesuvius of things and find it impossible to part with them, you are likely a hoarder.

What is a hoarder?

A hoarder is an individual who accumulates and retains objects or animals in excess. These possessions begin to interfere with the hoarder’s ability to function in their family, employment, and social roles.

What does a hoarder’s home look like?

If any of the following statements describe your home, your hoarding problem is out of control and poses a danger to everyone who lives there.

–  Your home does not have a pathway throughout the house that is at least three feet wide.

–  You do not have safe access to all rooms in the house.

–  Your floor joists have been strained by the piles of stuff that they have been bearing.

–  You have windows or doors that are blocked off by possessions.

Why is hoarding dangerous?

Falls. Hoarders run a high risk of tripping over stray clutter or setting off an avalanche of falling items within their home.

Pathogens. Dust, dirt, insects, rodents and rodent feces, are more plentiful in the homes of hoarders–all of which can lead to respiratory illness, skin conditions, and various diseases.

Stress. Hoarders live in a constant state of chaos, which is extremely stressful. They run the risk of withdrawing, becoming anti-social, or suffering from acute depression. Relationships suffer as family members and friends find it more and more difficult to cope. Hoarding parents also run the risk of having their children removed from the home.

Collapse. The weight of stacked magazines and newspapers and other assorted hoarded items can compromise the integrity of the home, itself, leading to sagging or collapsed floors.

Fire. If fire should break out, hoarders often find themselves trapped. Due to the overwhelming amount of combustibles present, flames tend to spread quickly. That coupled with the fact that passageways and doors are often blocked, equates to disaster for anyone within the home.

Sadly, hoarding stories with tragic endings are becoming more common. In November of 2013, a fifty-five-year-old New Hampshire man succumbed to smoke inhalation when neighbors and first responders were unable to make their way into the home. The doors were blocked by clutter.

On December 5, 2013, an elderly London couple were found dead in each other’s arms after a blaze whipped through their home. A tea light candle ignited the fire, and due to the enormous volume of contents within the home, the flames spread very quickly.

In August of 2010, a Las Vegas woman was discovered buried beneath a pile of refuse in her home. The woman had been reported missing by her husband four months earlier. Police and sniffer dogs had searched the home several times prior to the discovery of her body, but due to the extreme odor within the home, they were unable to pick up her scent. Her husband came across her body when he was cleaning out a back room that he referred to as her “rabbit hole.”

Yes, clutter can sneak up on you and take over your life. If you fear that your clutter is getting out of control, you need to take action immediately. Start clearing “things” out of your life and if the job seems too big to tackle, contact a local health professional.

What tips do you have for de-clutting a home?

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger. She is a social media addict who has written a barrage of stories on social media marketing, blogging tips, and online technology degrees. You can follow her at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

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