Let's Talk About Hoarding...

Here in the City of Maryland Heights, addressing concerns about hoarding is a prevalent part of the duties of our Code Enforcement, Animal Control, Police, and Fire departments. Response to hoarding situations from these departments are urgent due to threats to life, health, and personal safety.

What makes hoarding so prevalent in our city? The answer is, nothing. Hoarding is a common problem all over the world. It is estimated that anywhere from 3-5% of homes are hoarded, which means roughly 400 million people worldwide could be affected by hoarding. Many experts believe this number is underreported, meaning it is likely even more people are living with severe hoarding behaviors. In other words, it is likely that every person on the planet knows someone who has overcome or is currently struggling with hoarding behaviors - and if you recognize these behaviors in yourself, you are not alone. 

While research about hoarding is very limited, those who hoard to extreme levels are often diagnosed with a mental illness known as “Hoarding Disorder.” This can be surprising to many, as hoarding is often considered an intentional decision; this explains why common advice to "just clean up" seldom works for people living with Hoarding Disorder. People who struggle with hoarding behaviors often seek a feeling of control over their space. Mental health professionals widely regard hoarding as a coping mechanism for major forms of loss.

So why is hoarding a concern? The immediate answer is safety. Stacks of belongings piled taller than human beings are frequently unstable, and pose a serious risk of injury if they were to fall. Extreme clutter can block entrances, pipes, outlets, vents, windows, and more - cutting off ways to escape from a house in case of emergency, or restricting access to appliances or utilities in case they fail or otherwise pose a serious hazard to one's safety.

There is one important distinction to make when talking about hoarding. Having a cluttered home is typically not a concern as long as the home is still safe. To check whether or not your home is safe, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are all of your entrances and exits within home clear, and are you able to easily use them?
  • Can you move through your hallways freely, or do you have to dodge or step on top of your belongings?
  • Do you have easy access to your electrical outlets?
  • Does your home appear to be significantly more cluttered than most of your friends and family?
  • Have any of your friends or family expressed that they are concerned about the amount of clutter in your home? 
  • Is it stressful or uncomfortable to think about people seeing the inside of your home because you feel like they will judge you? 
  • Do you find it extremely difficult to reorganize, throw away, or donate your belongings? 
  • Do you find it difficult to walk through stores without buying something, or do you fall into repetitive shopping habits that create clutter as a way to make yourself feel better?
  • Do you notice that clutter gets worse when you are feeling depressed or anxious?
If you find yourself relating to some or all of these situations, it may be a good idea to talk to a trusted friend or family member about the state of clutter in your home. If you are concerned about someone you know who may have hoarding behaviors, you can provide support and remind them that this situation is common. When people are struggling with hoarding behaviors, they often need a strong support system, including the help of a mental health provider, while they work on overcoming these behaviors.

If you or a loved one is struggling with hoarding behaviors, there is help for you. You can refer to the resources below for help, or make an anonymous phone call to a Code Enforcement officer at (314) 291-6550.

St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute • (314) 534-0200 • slbmi.com • 1129 Macklind Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
*SLBMI does not accept all types of insurance, and waitlists are often long. However, they have therapists on staff who specialize in Hoarding Disorder

Clean-Up Services:
  • BioOne Services • (636) 279-9570 • 1939 Wentzville Pkwy., Suite 273, Wentzville, MO
  • Steri-Clean • (636) 328-6424 • 180 Hughes Lane, St. Charles, MO
  • Benecorp • 1 (877) 305-1095 or (636) 305-1095 • 1197 South Old Hwy 141, St. Louis, MO
  • PureOne Services • (314) 470-1426- 24/7 •10805 Sunset Office Dr., Suite 300, Sappington, MO 63127

Emergency Services
Servpro • (866) 927-0714- 24/7
Various locations

*These services are only some of the options available to those in the greater Saint Louis area, and are not specific recommendations by the City of Maryland Heights,