Okay, I admit it. Part of my fascination with this job is because of my own hoarding tendencies. While I don’t hoard trash or “stuff” from yard sales and garage sales like the couple in the Philadelphia home, I’m an “information junkie.” And it’s information that usually ends up on my desk as piles and piles of papers and books.
My research on this topic has been a real education. Dr. Samuels from Johns Hopkins University Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Clinic (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ocd/patient.asp ) has identified five common traits that go with the tendency to hoard:
* Avoidance behaviors
* Difficulty organizing tasks
Of the five, I think that two of them – perfectionism and avoidance behaviors – are the ones that cause me the most problems. I’m sure my husband and family would agree. I’ve had these traits since birth, but they were also reinforced during my 12 years in grad school working on a dissertation.
But what sets many of us information junkies and pack rats apart from the true compulsive hoarder is that most of us can look at the problem and actually see it as a problem. People who have the true compulsive hoarding disorder don’t see themselves as having a problem. And therein lies the problem.
The actual number of people who may have a compulsive hoarding disorder in the United States is unknown. Gerald Nestadt, MD, MPH of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says the disorder may affect between 700,000 to 1.4 million people. On the other hand, Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the International OCD Foundation http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding, estimates that there may be as many as 5 million hoarders in the U.S.
Why is there such a difference between experts? Because hoarding usually takes place in isolation and often doesn’t come to light until there is a crisis – like property damage from a fire like the home we were called to in Philadelphia – or death of an aged parent.
On the surface the hoarding problem looks and smells bad. But as noted on the http://www.insurancequotes.com/home-insurance-hoarding website, there are other concerns that put people with compulsive hoarding disorder in danger. Loretta Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) lists four reasons for increased risk in a hoarder’s home that are of particular concern for insurers:
1. Increased fire risk from materials like papers, books, and food
2. Potential liability from accidental injury to a visitor
3. Blocked exits that keep people from getting out in case of emergency
4. Poor maintenance of plumbing, roofing, flooring, heating, and electrical systems that causes increased risk of property damage
So, while there is no current “hoarding exclusion” on insurance, because of the increased risk caused by hoarding behaviors, a homeowner’s insurance policy may be denied or not renewed after there is a loss if the adjuster notes that the property belongs to a hoarder. And that puts the hoarder at an additional risk should a loss occur later on.
Because hoarding has become such a problem, PuroClean Emergency Recovery Services has begun to network with organizations and treatment professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area who specialize in assisting hoarders and their families (for the complete list of resources, see our previous post at (http://purocleanpers.us/2011/06/11/help-for-hoarders-in-philadelphia-part-i/ ). If you know of other resources in our area, please contact me and I will add them to the list.
As part of our commitment to help, we now offer families of hoarders a 10% discount (up to $500) for debris removal and clean up services. If you or someone you love needs help with hoarding clean up in the Philadelphia or South Jersey area, please contact us. We’re only a phone call away! 877-750-7876