Is My Child a Hoarder?

This post was written by Sarah Fernandez. Photo Credit: Tim Hall/Getty Images

Lately I've been starting to get concerned that my son might have the tendencies of a hoarder, and I've been worried that it might go too far. We've all seen the shows where people can't walk through their living rooms because there are boxes stacked to the ceiling and there are mice in the kitchen because the dishes haven't been done in years. I wonder at what point these people developed their obsessive compulsiveness and if I really need to worry about my son or if he just attaches himself to weird objects every once in a while.

Hoarding Tendencies

The latest item he just had to keep was a large box from a multi-pack of snacks I bought at BJ's. When he asked me where the box was and I told him in the recycling bin because they were all gone, and he marched outside and pulled it out of the bin, along with a few of his sister's scribbles that he didn't think should be in there either. He also refuses to get rid of a Happy Meal box that he got several weeks ago, and I don't know if it's just so rare that he gets one that he wants to keep it or if there is a deeper issue. And whenever we get a package in the mail (which isn't very often), he insists on saving the box. I won't let him keep it downstairs and so he'll take it upstairs and put it under his bed. He may occasionally take it out and play with it.

Toys are an entirely different issue. He certainly doesn't want to get rid of any of them because why would he? He's a kid. He loves toys. But he's five and his sister is two so there are certainly toys in our house that we don't need any more. Occasionally, I'll go through the house and get rid of all the little toys that he gets in gift bags or just anywhere that add to the clutter without adding much joy to our lives, but every time I suggest that we get rid of some of the bigger toys, I am met with great resistance.

The Solution

The fact is that I don't really think that my son is a hoarder, and even if he's showing some hoarding tendencies, I think if I take action now, I can help him get past it. Hoarding is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (something that I definitely show signs of myself), and although my son is stockpiling useless items from time to time, he is not losing sleep over it, being manic about it, or letting it get in the way of his everyday life which are the signs that Psych Central says are an alert to a more serious problem.

I've been thinking of instilling a one in-one out policy for toys or really anything he wants to keep. But the problem with that is that I still want to reduce the amount of "stuff" we have. I could just get rid of a bunch of stuff while he's at camp, but I think he's old enough that he needs to learn how to let go of items he doesn't need or use anymore. I found some interesting ideas on how to do this over at Mom Logic. The one I think will work the best is to give him a nickel or dime for every toy he agrees to get rid of, and then take him to the store to let him pick out one new toy with the money he has earned. Eventually he will have to learn to donate things without getting anything in return, but I think this method will motivate his five year old mind.

And not only will I be teaching my son an important lesson, but the entire family will benefit by having less clutter in our house!

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