Understanding Hoarding

Matt Paxton and the Clutter Cleaner crew have worked in over 300 of the most extreme hoarded homes in the United States. They’ve seen it all and understand what a hoarder is thinking. They know the hoarder’s thoughts and fears and can usually figure out what the hoarder will do next. We’ve placed some of the insight from Matt’s book “The Secret Lives of Hoarders” online to help better explain the disease, what the hoarder is thinking and why they act a certain way.

If you’ve read the “The Secret Lives of Hoarders” and still want to learn more about hoarding or how to help a hoarder, please contact Clutter Cleaner to take one of online or live seminar classes taught by Matt Paxton and the Clutter Cleaner crew.

Paxton Hoarding Scale:

After working with a traditional hoarding scale used by the organizing community, Matt Paxton became frustrated that the scale focused mainly on the physical attributes of a house. He understood that the house is only half of the problem and the mental needs of a hoarder are just as important in recognizing how to help a hoarder.

So, Matt created a 2-part hoarding scale that equally identifies the physical state of a home and the mental state of a hoarder. It shows equal importance to each side and accounts for the flexibility of a hoarder’s home being completely full, but mentally not being as bad off as other hoarders or vice versa. For example, a hoarder could be living in complete squalor, but the person is mentally doing well and progressing. And on the other hand, a person could be living in a fairly clean home, but mentally they are 100% cluttered. Matt created a new scale to better understand hoarders and effectively identify the tools to help.

Paxton Hoarding Scale

By using the simple chart above, Matt Paxton identifies homes differently according to the mental state of the hoarder and the physical state of the home. A traditional home that is cluttered and the family simply needs rules to keep the home clean is a 1.1 or a 1.2 on the Paxton Hoarding Scale. Alternatively, an extreme Stage 5 hoarder that is dangerously full of physical items and the hoarder has anxiety, depression and many other needs may be a 5.4 or a 5.5 on the scale. A full explanation of all 5 stages is available in The Secret Lives of Hoarders and in the online Hoarding Education Classes presented by Clutter Cleaner.

Paxton Hoarder Scale showing Extreme Hoarder

Paxton Hoarding Scale showing cluttered home

Paxton Hoarding Scale is posted by permission from The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton with Phaedra Hise, Perigee Books/Penquin Group USA Inc. Copyright ©Matt Paxton.

Hoarder Life Cycle

The Hoarder Life Cycle shows the emotional roller coaster that a hoarder will experience multiple times in their life. After cleaning a few extreme hoarding houses, Matt Paxton started to see that the hoarder became very happy during the clean-up and would have a relapse 3 days after the clean-up was completed. He saw that hoarders usually went into a deeper depression he now calls the “Hoarder Hangover.” The good news is that the depression only lasted a few days, but Matt needed to find a way to show the hoarders that it would get better. The Hoarder Life Cycle is an important tool to show hoarders that it probably will get worse before it gets better. The graph will hopefully help everyone involved understand that mood swings are part of the disease.

Hoarder Life Cycle Graph

The Hoarder Life Cycle is posted by permission from The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton with Phaedra Hise, Perigee Books/Penquin Group USA Inc. Copyright ©Matt Paxton.

Feel free to download a copy of the Hoarder Life Cycle and share it with a friend if needed.

“They were hard working, careful and thorough. It only took them a couple of hours to clear a clear a cluttered basement and leave it in better shape than it has been since I moved in this house. I will probably have them back again to help with another project.”

Petersburg, VA