I have bags of mail taking up space in my closets. Bags, plural — last time I counted, it was more than a dozen grocery bags full, and that was more than a year ago. I’ve filled a few more since then.

Whenever going paperless is an option, I take it, so aside from bank statements, it’s all junk and the occasional holiday note from my parents. But I hang onto it all because I’m afraid if I don’t shred it all, someone will find something with my personal information and steal my identity, and if I do shred it, I’ll shred something incredibly important and need it later. Also, at a dozen-plus bags now, I’m a little overwhelmed.

I’m not a hoarder, but I do have this one hoarder tendency. OCD and hoarding can overlap. It makes sense; both have their roots in anxiety and compulsions, and both tend to come with a sense of shame, because we know our behaviors are not typical.

What is Hoarding?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, hoarding can be a standalone disorder, or present alongside obsessive-compulsive disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (which is a different thing), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, or more rarely disorders like psychosis or dementia.

I knew a little about hoarding before, but I got a crash course last week while writing a story about pet hoarding. Before that, I didn’t actually realize there are two main types of hoarding: object hoarding, and animal hoarding.

They seem to have different roots, too. In object hoarding (e.g., my bags and bags of mail), people usually save objects because they fear that they might get rid of something important by accident. In animal hoarding, people fear that no one else can care for their beloved pets as well as they can, even when they have so many animals they can no longer care for them properly themselves.

It’s easy to see how OCD and hoarding can share symptoms or coexist.

Getting Help

If you have some hoarding symptoms as part of your OCD and you’re currently in therapy, you can ask your therapist about it. That’s what I did on Thursday, and while I don’t have any other real hoarding symptoms, we agreed the bags of mail need to go.

Your therapist (if they’re a good therapist) won’t judge you, and will help you begin taking steps to clean up your home. If you have more animals than you can properly care for, you can contact your local rescue to try and find some of them new, good homes and create a plan so the rest get the care they need.

If you’re not in therapy right now, there are often low-cost options. If you’re in the U.S., you can contact your local NAMI chapter or your county for information about low-cost services, free support groups or apps, and other resources.


Photo by The Library of Congress