Article originally written By Devin Golden and taken from the recovery village.
Hoarding is the compulsive need to find and keep objects, animals or trash regardless of their value. Items commonly hoarded include newspapers, photographs, boxes, clothes, food, furniture, paper and plastic bags, appliances or electronics. Depending on how extreme a person’s hoarding is, the behavior can impact their physical or emotional health, relationships, financial and legal stability, and professional aspirations.
There is more than one type of hoarding disorder. There are different levels of hoarding that identify the severity of a person’s disorder. The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization created a clutter hoarding scale with five levels of hoarding. Understanding each level of hoarding disorder can help people understand how to help those affected by the condition.
Hoarding Level 1
The first level of hoarding is the least severe. The residence of a level 1 hoarder may include:
Light amounts of clutter and no noticeable odors.
All doors and stairways are accessible
No more than three areas with animal waste throughout the house.
Hoarding level 1 involves few signs that an individual has a hoarding disorder. The lack of clutter might hide the condition, but the individual may still have difficulty throwing away items and shop excessively for objects they do not need.
Hoarding Level 2
Hoarding level 2 requires a blocked exit from a person’s residence, one appliance not working for at least six months or the presence of a malfunctioning heating, cooling or ventilation system for at least six months. This level of hoarding involves additional clutter around the residence, specifically in two or more rooms, and narrow pathways through the home. There must also be at least a light amount of mildew in one bathroom or the kitchen. Other characteristics include:
Light pet odor
Pet waste on the floor
At least three incidents of feces in a litter box
Minimal fish, bird or reptile care
Evidence of household rodents
Overflowing garbage cans
Dirty food preparation surfaces
People within hoarding level 2 may avoid inviting people into their homes or show embarrassment due to the state of their residence. This level of hoarding may cause anxiety or a depressed state and lead to withdrawal from social interaction.
Hoarding Level 3
Residences within hoarding level 3 have visible clutter outside of the home, including items that are usually indoors (such as televisions and furniture). At least two appliances have been broken for six months, and one area of the house has light structural damage. The number of pets exceeds regulations, and animal tanks and cages are neglected. There is visible and audible rodent evidence, fleas, spider webs and narrow paths through the halls and stairways. Other characteristics include:
At least one unusable bathroom or bedroom
Small amounts of hazardous substances or spills on the floors or surfaces
Dirty clothes, towels and sheets
Blocked electrical outlets resulting in tangled cords
Overflowing garbage cans
Odors throughout the house
A person within this level often has poor personal hygiene and weight issues due to an unhealthy diet. An individual in this level of hoarding may become dismissive or angry when approached by friends or family members about the state of their lifestyle.
Hoarding Level 4
Residences within hoarding level 4 have noticeable mold and mildew throughout the building, structural damage that is at least six months old, odors and sewage buildup. The number of pets exceeds regulations by at least four, and there are more than three visible areas with aging animal waste. The bedroom is unusable and rotting food is on surfaces. Other characteristics include:
Aged canned goods
No clean dishes or utensils
Beds with lice, or other bugs, and no sheets or covers
Excessive webs and spiders
Bats and other rodents audibly noticeable in the attic and walls
More than one blocked exit
Flammable substances stored in the living room
People within hoarding level 4 have poor hygiene and may not bathe for weeks. These individuals often have worsening mental health and focus their emotional energy on grandiose plans or nostalgic memories.
Hoarding Level 5
Hoarding level 5, the most severe type of hoarding disorder, involves severe structural damage to the residence. Broken walls, no electricity or running water, fire hazards, and visible rodents and other non-pet animals are a few of the characteristics of homes within hoarding level 5. Other signs include:
Clutter filling bathrooms and kitchen
At least four too many pets, per local regulations
Noticeable human feces
Rotting food on surfaces and inside a non-working refrigerator
People within hoarding level 5 often do not live at their residence due to the clutter but rather stay at a friend’s or family member’s house. They may also discharge their waste into bottles or buckets that remain inside the home. Individuals within this level of hoarding usually have noticeable symptoms of depression.