People with hoarding disorder typically save items because:

  • They believe these items are unique or will be needed at some point in the future

  • The items have important emotional significance—serving as a reminder of happier times or representing beloved people or pets

  • They feel safer when surrounded by the things they save

  • They don't want to waste anything

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Excessively acquiring items that are not needed or for which there's no space

  • Persistent difficulty throwing out or parting with things, regardless of actual value

  • Feeling a need to save these items, and being upset by the thought of discarding them

  • Building up clutter to the point where rooms become unusable

  • Disorganized piles or stacks of items, such as newspapers, clothes, paperwork, books or sentimental items

  • Possessions that crowd and clutter walking spaces & living areas & make the space unusable for the intended purpose

  • Buildup of food or trash to unusually excessive, unsanitary levels

  • Significant distress or problems functioning or keeping others safe in the home

  • Conflict with others who try to reduce or remove clutter from the home

  • Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter

As the person grows older, he or she typically starts acquiring things for which there is no immediate need or space. By middle age, symptoms can often be severe and may be harder to treat.

Problems with hoarding gradually develop over time and tend to be a private behavior. Often, significant clutter has developed by the time it reaches the attention of others.