Headlines like these, in newspapers and on the internet, have been grabbing our eyeballs recently. Add to that a joint government taskforce to address hoarding and you know that we have a (growing) problem in our midst.
According to this article, "from January to August 2014, HDB received feedback on 23 hoarding cases, the same number it handled for 2013. These figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, said those who work closely with the elderly, because cases go unreported, or those who exhibit such behaviour refuse to seek treatment."
It's easy to declare judgment and call these folks "hoarders"; ridiculing them for collecting "useless junk"; or even heave a sigh of relief that they don't lurk in our neighborhood; or worse, cite someone we know who's like that. But what these folks need is not notoriety.
They need compassion. Compassion that sees beyond labels and seeks to understand why they began collecting things in the first place.
No one wants to live this way, if they can help themselves. But somewhere along the journey of life, these folks lost precisely that - the ability to pick themselves out of a rut. It may be because of the death of a loved one, abandonment by grown children, a debilitating illness, a summary dismissal from the company he slaved for. An event that made something crumble on their insides and make them seek security in things.
Labeling these folks "hoarders" and throwing away their possessions is not the long term solution. They may even react aggressively in defense of their security blanket. And no matter how many tonnes goes out the door, the clutter will return (as seen in this article) - because it provides emotional security.
The only way out? Give them vision of a life worth living for. Clearing clutter is not the goal. Living the life they want is. Address the underlying insecurity and they will be open to help.
Make no mistake - the road to recovery is long. But if we don't start somewhere, these folks can't get anywhere.
Want to see how we help a family in need? See this video on 3M's "One Home At A Time" initiative.