At first glance, it looks just like hoarding. A home filled to the brim with clutter. But could it be “Domestic Squalor” and not hoarding? Even though they look just alike, there is quite the difference.
Domestic Squalor is defined as multifaceted neglect, deliberate hoarding, and extreme household uncleanliness. Its when a person chooses not to keep up with trash removal and cleaning.
According to Mayo Clinic, hoarding is defined as the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them.
So the difference in Domestic Squalor and Hoarding all lies in the attitude. In a domestic squalor situation, there isn’t the obsessive need to keep or “hoard” items. When help is offered, the person is more than happy to get rid of things and cleanse their home.
So how does Domestic Squalor begin? In the cases of domestic squalor that I have worked on, the client has gone through a major life transition or tragedy. As with many life changes, depression, confusion, or lack of energy can occur. They simply let go of their home, health, and environment. The functioning level drops and you have a case of multifaceted neglect. The trash that was once taken out each week, is now left sitting and new bags are added each week. Mail is thrown on the floor in piles. You get the picture. As the years pass, the accumulation looks like hoarding. Little by little the house fills up and becomes non functional.
In the recent cases of domestic squalor that I have worked on, the clients have been ready to roll and have had no hesitation in purging out their home. As organizers, we still treat it as a hoarding situation and sort all the clients belongings by category and help them make decisions.
Whether its hoarding or domestic squalor, you need to be kind and gentle. You need to listen to the persons needs and work at their pace. Guide the person into making good decisions -don’t force them!!
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