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Hoarding - more than just a pile of problems (Part 1)

One man's rubbish is another man's treasure (Photo by Jon Moore on Unsplash)
One man's rubbish is another man's treasure (Photo by Jon Moore on Unsplash)

You may have come across these news articles featured last year about hoarding behaviour and the impact on the people who hoard, as well as their neighbours and community. You may even be living next to or with someone who hoards and are finding it difficult to manage the problems that come with hoarding. You are not alone.

One IMH study in 2010 found that 1 in 50 people in Singapore will display hoarding behaviour in their lifetime ( Although most reports point to elderly with hoarding behaviour, hoarding can start at a younger age and gradually spirals out of control. It is more obvious in one- or two-room HDB flats due to their smaller floor areas, and in which the elderly lives alone, or with family members who permits hoarding or who also hoard. Studies have shown that hoarding, and its degree of severity, is directly linked to emotional insecurity which arises from social isolation and a lack of resources, be they financial, material and emotional (

Hoarding is defined as an excessive acquisition of objects and inability to discard or part with possessions that appear to have no value to others, leading to excessive clutter, distress and disability (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 2013; 5th edition, American Psychiatric Association). While not all hoarding behaviours are pathological, hoarding can be one of the presenting symptoms of mental illness. It can manifest within psychiatric conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, major depressive disorder, acquisition-related impulse control disorders, generalised anxiety disorder, schizophrenia or dementia (

In the next few posts, we would like to share with you stories of people with hoarding behaviour that O’Joy has witnessed or worked with. You will find that hoarding is only one of the many issues the older persons or families faced. Help is provided after holistic assessment and consideration of various perspectives, including the bio-psycho-social needs of the individual and their family members, family dynamics and interactions, as well as the impact of interventions on the individual and their families.

It is not as simple as just clearing away of the clutter.

Written by Chew Yat Peng, principal counsellor at O'Joy


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