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Hoarding and the Gifted

Not to pick on my husband (whom I love!), but who keeps torn up packaging from 25 years ago? Yes, I know it’s from Star Wars. Maybe males will have a different response to this picture than females. Just to be clear, my husband is not a hoarder, but one of his favorite sessions at the 2011 SENG conference in Seattle was about hoarding and the gifted.

The session my husband attended was called Helping the Disorganized Gifted Family: “If I’m so smart, why can’t I ever find my keys?” by Kathleen D. Crombie, M.E.d.

Apparently, hoarding can sometimes be an issue gifted people deal with for a number of reasons. They can have intense intellectual curiosity that causes them to collect things and they can have intense emotional attachments to objects. This of course makes me think of L.M. Montgomery’s book Pat of Silverbush. In the book, Pat is obsessively attached to items such as clothing, and feels sick at heart when they were disposed of. I’ve often thought L.M. Montgomery was gifted, and it saddens me to know that she eventually committed suicide.

Speaking of depression, that is another contributing factor to hoarding. Gifted people suffering from depression have a whole other set of unique challenges; existential depression, imposter syndrome, etc. There can also be a 2e, or twice exceptional issue thrown into hoarding situations as well. Perhaps the person is gifted but also has ADD or OCD, both which would make organizing and purging difficult.

These are the help for hoarders tips my husband wrote down in his notes from this session:

  • Start with something small
  • Reward yourself afterwards
  • 15 minutes on, 5 minute break, 15 minutes
  • For major changes no more than 2 hours
  • Take pictures of things and then get rid of them
  • It has to be the hoarder who makes the change! If family members try to clean up for the hoarders, it might make things worse.


  1. Jean says:

    I just read a book on hoarding (and it’s up on my blog!) and the authors had quite a bit to say on this. Apparently many hoarders see so many possibilities and/or interesting details in *every single object* that it’s hard for them to let go. They often said that their clients were very intelligent and interested in the world around them. So if it’s a topic you’re interested in I’d recommend that title to you.

    I have clutter problems, but it’s probably because I’m a little lazy. That’s why I read books like that–to remind me to work on my problem. But it would be great if I could blame it on my amazing intelligence! 😀 (Except then my house would still be messy anyway. Guess I’d better just go tidy something up.)

  2. jengod says:

    Hahaha. I call it “creating a print-rich environment” but…yeah. 🙂

    • jenbrdsly says:

      From what I have read, and what my husband learned at the SENG conference, it can go both ways. There could be a person who loved collecting books and had a massive collection, but then a traumatic even could happen to them and boom… collecting turns into hoarding.

  3. Ametrine says:

    Stumbled across this and said to myself: “OMG! That’s my son!”

    DS (6) needs constant help purging. I’ve done my best to teach him since he was four that some things are no longer beneficial to him and need to go to another child “who needs them”.

    This particular phrase has been very helpful for us. Especially since he sees his things going to a local consignment store and can also buy things he wants from the same place! It has made a connection for him that giving things to Goodwill or another similar charity hasn’t.

    I know that this is a life-skill that needs to be taught. For some it will come easily and for others, it is something they will need assistance with for the rest of their lives.

    My best advice: Take it one day at a time and one item at a time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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