Explained: The 5 Stages of Hoarding

4 January 2022

small old house with visible clutter outside from hoarding

The act of hoarding derives from hoarding disorder, which is a brain-based disorder that results in chronic disorganization, the lifelong struggle and inability to plan or control.

Hoarding disorder is a mental illness that results in excessive clutter, isolation and disposophobia, which is when someone experiences unmanageable stress when trying to discard anything.

When it comes to recognizing the signs of hoarding, people often refer to the 5 stages of hoarding, created by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. These stages represent the severity of a person’s hoarding symptoms from least to most severe.

Here’s everything you need to know about the five stages of hoarding. If one of these stages describes someone who you think might have hoarding disorder, view our resources below to get them the help they need.

Stage 1

room filled with clutter and various objectsWhile the first stage of hoarding is the least severe, it is the most difficult stage to identify.

During this stage, clutter is generally minimal and all areas of their home are still accessible. At this time, there are no noticeable odours and nothing that would harm one’s physical health.

The only real indicator would be related to their mental health, specifically the comfort they get from accumulating items and difficulty to throw away or even organize excess items.

It’s important to note that this stage of hoarding is very different from collecting.

Collectors will want to organize and display their items in a specific area of their home. On the other hand, hoarders will have lost their ability to control clutter and are more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety.

Stage 2

The second stage of hoarding will include some characteristics that are far more noticeable.

Hoarders in this stage have amassed enough clutter to begin filling their walkways and possibly even block some exits.

As a result, they will generally let no friends or family members into their home due to embarrassment, stress and anxiety.

In some cases, health risks can begin at this stage in the form of mildew, mold and even animal waste. By now, extreme cleaning services are already necessary for the removal of mold and mildew.

Do you have a major mould problem, or hazardous mess
that needs a professional extreme deep cleaning crew?

Contact First Response Cleaning today to take care of it!

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Stage 3

narrow hallway from hoarding disorder clutterThe third stage of hoarding is when distinct and foul odours are present throughout the home, likely from garbage overflowing and pet feces.

By now, the clutter would block out some rooms completely. This would lead to clutter that begins to be stacked outside.

Hallways will be very narrow, and it is likely that there will be a visible infestation somewhere throughout the home.

Stage 4

At stage four, the odours continue to intensify, exits are blocked off, and extreme health risks are well under way in many forms.

Individuals at this level of hoarding will have extremely poor hygiene, limited access around their living space and structural damages would have happened at least six months ago.

Stage 5

Stage five is the most severe type of hoarding, and despite having lived in their home for the previous stages, it may be too much for them to handle. Many hoarders will even hoard pets, in which case they would exceed the legal capacity of pets at this stage.

Hazardous materials and fire hazards will be present all around the home now. For both pets and humans, the space becomes completely unlivable and dangerous. The space will have no electricity, no running water and the hoarder in questions could even face legal consequences for animal cruelty.

How to Help Someone with Hoarding Disorder

Publicly-Funded Hoarding Counselling and Therapy

Hoarding disorder is compulsive, it’s an irresistible urge that goes against a person’s wishes or conscious desires.

Whether a person’s hoarding disorder is in the more severe stages, it can affect their basic day-to-day activities and cause issues with their relationships with friends, family and themselves.

If someone you know struggles with hoarding disorder, reach out immediately to ensure they get the help they need. Helping someone with a hoarding disorder requires that you have a lot of compassion. As much as it is not easy for you to help, it’s much more difficult for them. For more info, view our guide on how to help a hoarder.

There are many publicly-funded counselling services available to help with the mental health of those with a hoarding disorder. These services are available for people of all ages.

Hoarding Cleanup and Extreme Cleaning Services

Homes that are subject to severe hoarding can quickly result in health hazards.

person in hazmat suit providing extreme cleaning services

When cleaning the home of someone who struggles with severe hoarding disorder, we always recommend contacting local extreme cleaning specialists.

If you, or someone you know is looking for professional hoarding cleanup services in Eastern Ontario, contact the hoarding cleanup professionals at First Response.

The many years which we’ve dedicated to helping people with hoarding cleanup have enabled us to form partnerships with the Lanark County Hoarding Coalition and Canadian Mental Health Association of Champlain East.

For more information about our hoarding cleanup services, contact us.