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Tips for Talking with People Who Hoard

Helpful tips for communicating with someone who hoards.

When you're dealing with someone who hoards, it can be quite challenging. Often the person with hoarding disorder is resistant to changing their behaviors. But friends and family will implore them to change their habits nonetheless.

Does nagging, pleading, and threatening really work? Nope.

Dr. Michael A. Tompkins gave a presentation at the Mass Housing Community Service Conference (2014) in which he talked about how people who hoard ARM themselves against these kinds of approaches. He stated that when loved ones nag, plead and threaten the person who hoards they're met with Argumentation, Rationalization, and Minimalization (ARM). And this leads nowhere.

Tompkins instead says to use PIUS statements.

  • P = Positive statement

  • I = I Statement

  • U = Understand statement

  • S = Share the responsibility statement

Here are some examples:

Instead of

"You have got to get rid of this stuff!"


"I want to help you declutter your couch."

Instead of

"You shouldn't buy that."


"I would be so happy if that stayed here."

Instead of

"You are a slob."


"I worry that the condition of your home makes it hard for you to bathe regularly."

Instead of

"You never listen to me."


"I understand that our discussions can get heated, but I want to work with you to figure things out together."

Tompkins also suggests that family members refer to the stuff as the problem and not their loved one. Ie: "The clutter here makes it hard for me to have the kind of relationship I want to have with you."

Another example of this would be if your loved one is begging you to take them shopping or hit up another flea market, say "I see you're having a hard time with your accumulation today. I'm not going to side with the hoarding, I'm going to side with you and beating it."

Dr. Tompkins co-authored the book Digging Out: Helping your loved one manage clutter, hoarding, and compulsive acquiring which I frequently recommend to family members who call me concerned about their loved one's hoarding.

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