01 Nov

Written by Kathryn Vercillo on November 1, 2010

Compulsive hoarding is a condition in which people accumulate things. There are many similarities between living a frugal lifestyle and hoarding. However, there are also key important differences between the two. Living a frugal lifestyle is okay. Compulsive hoarding doesn’t feel good and is something to get help for. Check out the following ten signs to make sure that your extreme frugality hasn’t turned into compulsive hoarding:

1. Hoarders keep things that are unsanitary or unhealthy for others in the home. For example, a hoarder may be unable to let go of food that has been expired for a long time even though others believe that the food is unsafe. Many frugal people choose to ignore the expiry dates on their food so that they aren’t wasteful. However, if this decision gets so extreme that other people are saying they won’t eat the food because they think it’s unhealthy then it’s probably worth it to take a closer look at your behavior. If you are putting anyone’s health at stake then you’re probably a hoarder.

2. Hoarders get things that they don’t need just because the things are free or cheap. Frugal people love to get a good deal. However, this can get too extreme. It can get to the point where you absolutely can’t pass up a good deal on an item even if you don’t need the item. Hoarders do this so often that they may run out of room in their homes since they have so much stuff. Trent Hamm points out that this has a cost. It may mean you need to pay for storage or for a larger home. Or it may just have an emotional toll from having to clean up around so much stuff. Frugal people factor this cost into consideration. Hoarders can’t do that and feel compelled to get that good deal.

3. Hoarders get mad when other people try to help them with their problem. Frugal people are always looking for new tips and tricks for saving money in a way that’s healthy and supports their other life goals. If you find that you’re getting defensive and angry when your “frugal” lifestyle is brought up then this may be a sign that you actually have a problem with hoarding.

4. Compulsive hoarding affects personal relationships. People who have a problem with hoarding allow their attachment to their things to impact the relationships that they have. Their partners or children may move out of the home to get away from the hoarding, for example. Alternatively, the hoarding (especially combined with compulsive shopping) can lead to a lot of internal fighting in relationships. Frugal people may sometimes fight about money but they don’t act as though they value their stuff more than they value the people in their lives.

5. People with a hoarding problem feel an intense emotional attachment to their belongings. We all have items that we feel have sentimental value. However, hoarders actually cannot get rid of items without feeling like a part of them is being ripped away. If you have this problem, you may justify it by saying that it’s a waste of money. That seems frugal but ask yourself if it’s really that you just can’t let things go. If so, you might want to seek help for hoarding.

6. Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility in the home. If you can’t access certain areas of the home (especially core areas like bathrooms, sleeping areas and cooking appliances) then there’s a problem in the home. A frugal home may have a lot of stuff that you don’t want to get rid of but it’s organized in a way so that the home still functions

7. Hoarding is associated with anxiety. If the idea of having to get rid of your stuff fills you with panic then there’s probably something else going on besides just living a frugal lifestyle. Frugal people may think that throwing something away is a waste of money or resources but they don’t have a physical panic attack when they do it. Hoarders do.

8. Frugal people make use of the items that they save as a resource. For example, a frugal person who saves plastic shopping bags actually uses them as tote bags, lunch bags, in craft projects, etc. A hoarder intends to use the items that he or she has collected but almost never gets around to actually using them. This is particularly true once the hoarding has gotten out of control since there are then so many items in the home that the idea of actually starting any of the projects one plans is just really overwhelming. If you find yourself saving a lot of things to “use later” but you don’t actually use them then you should ask yourself if a problem is going on.

9. Frugal people make decisions based on logic and analysis. People who are truly frugal are interested in weighing all of their options and making sure that they’re making the most cost-effective decision. Hoarders are often reacting out of emotion rather than actually thinking through the pros and cons of the decisions that they make when it comes to money and material possessions. Hoarding is often a symptom of someone’s inability to deal with an emotional problem such as the loss of a relationship or a trauma that has happened to them. The emotional reaction towards material items is therefore stronger than what the brain says should be done.

10. Hoarders feel shame over their actions. Frugal people are proud of what they’ve accomplished in terms of saving money, re-using items and accumulating useful possessions. Hoarders are shameful of their behavior and may try to hide it from others.

It’s important to note that there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to all types of mental health issues including hoarding. There can be a fine line between extreme frugal living and a problem with compulsive hoarding. This article isn’t meant to provide medical or psychological advice; only to point out that if your frugality is causing you problems in your life then there may be something else going on.

Did you see our recent article on repulsive ways to save money?

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