Unfortunately many people incorrectly use the terms hoarding and cluttering interchangeably. Both terms can be used to describe someone who accumulates things to the point of it becoming a problem, but there is a significant difference between the two terms.


This describes a person who accumulates things without too much thought and effort. These people are often able to make changes in their lives and declutter their stuff if motivated enough to do so. The type of clutter accumulated would be considered normal by most people i.e. clothes, kids’ toys, kitchen utensils, books. Clutterers are able to get rid of rubbish and throw things away without too much trouble but with a little bit of effort.


This describes a person who obsesses over their things and who often deliberately seeks out things to bring into their home and hoard. The things collected would not be considered normal by most people i.e. stacks of old newspapers, broken and non-working items, rotten food and rubbish. Hoarders will often bring other peoples rubbish into their homes.

In recent times, the prevalence of television programmes focusing on the issue of hoarding has increased. Many of these people who the media term hoarders are in fact clutterers. This has been a huge contributing factor to the incorrect use of the term and therefore people incorrectly diagnosing their or others condition/s. Of course, a programme on hoarding makes for better television, but in truth true hoarding affects less than 1% of the population whereas cluttering affects millions of people.

According to the experts, it’s not entirely clear as to what causes hoarding. Researchers believe that hoarding occurs on different levels for different people. On the mild end, some people are considered to be harmless pack rats, but on the more severe end the hoarding behaviour can be life threatening. Studies show that hoarding is much more likely to affect those with a family history of hoarding, therefore genetics and upbringing are likely to be among the triggering factors. In a recent study in the US, it showed that 80% of hoarders were children of hoarders.

Amongst experts, hoarding has been considered to be a subtype of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but recently this has come under debate. Although many people with OCD have hoarding tendencies, hoarding is not specific to OCD. In fact, one study found that hoarding was no more likely to be associated with OCD than with other anxiety disorders.

Current and ongoing research is aimed at understanding the biological and environmental factors that seem to play a role in hoarding. Experts believe that the findings from these studies may lead to the classification of hoarding as a new and separate mental health disorder.

If you are living with clutter you will be able to acknowledge that you need to do something about it – either on your own or with the help of a professional organiser.

If you are a hoarder you may not realise that you have a problem. It may not be until a friend or family member brings it to your attention that you become aware that you have a problem.

If you are concerned you may be or you may know someone who is a hoarder and you wish to seek help, please seek the guidance of a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.

Check out Clear room, clear mind: Clearing the clutter in 7 areas of your life for the rest of this great series.

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Kia ora koutou

We will be running a one day workshop at the Auckland Women’s Centre on Saturday June 21 for women wanting to explore their patterns of accumulating and letting go and finding ways to move forward.

This workshop is facilitated by Pyschodramatists Marian Hammond and Estelle Mendelsohn. Spaces are limited to 20 enrolments. For more info please call 376 3227 xtn 0 or email info@womenz.org.nz

Love it or Leave it
Saturday June 21, 2014
9.30am – 3.30pm
Auckland Women’s Centre
4 Warnock St
Grey Lynn
Cost: $45-$80 sliding scale


My name is Steph Knight and I am a Professional Organiser in Wellington. My business is called Less Mess, and you can see more details on my website – http://www.lessmess.co.nz. I am happy to talk to and help anyone who needs help with clutter or hoarding 🙂


And ‘Professional Organisers’ who specialise in hoarding?

Rochelle Gribble

HI Anonsw,

Most professional organisers specialise in hoarding – if you do a Google search of professional organisers in your area, you’re bound to find someone 🙂

Good luck,



Are there any hoarding specialist psychologists in Auckland that I can contact?

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