How Can I Help Someone I Love Who Struggles with Hoarding?

Question from a reader:

Thank you so much for your teaching on money, possessions, and eternity. I have a question regarding a dear Christian friend who struggles with hoarding—not in the sense of wanting to acquire wealth and build barns, but more in the sense of holding onto everything because they think there might be a future purpose to that object, and to have to buy it again would waste God’s money. They also associate a higher sentimental value than normal to things. This affects personal relationships including inside the home and with family and friends. The clutter has also made it more challenging to open up their home for the purposes of hospitality.

Are there any resources (ideally Christian) that you would recommend? Aside from prayer, what else would you recommend? Would you recommend they seek counsel from their local church? How would you approach “accountability” without being over-bearing? And how would you evaluate the true root of this being a spiritual issue vs. a mental disorder?

Answer from Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff:

You ask some excellent questions, and your heart for your friend comes through.

In Randy’s book Money, Possessions and Eternity, I would recommend reading chapter 18. Though the focus is more on hoarding money, Randy does talk about possessions as well. Here are a few relevant excerpts:

Hoarding is an attempt to completely cover our material bases so that God becomes unnecessary. Rather than responsibly taking steps for future provision while trusting in God’s sovereignty, we assert our own sovereignty by hoarding. A common goal of hoarders is to achieve “financial independence.” But from whom do we wish to be independent? God? Our family? Christian brothers and sisters? I certainly favor independence from the government or parents, in the sense that I earn my own living. There’s a kind of dependence that’s terribly unhealthy. But isn’t there a kind of independence that’s equally unhealthy? “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (Proverbs 11:28). When we stockpile riches for every conceivable scenario, aren’t we trusting in our riches rather than in God? The clear teaching of the New Testament is that we are to be channels of money and possessions, not storehouses. Whatever role that saving has in our lives, it should always be secondary to giving. And it must never be a substitute for trusting God.

The book of Exodus contains a graphic lesson against hoarding. When God provided manna from heaven to meet the needs of his people, he told them they’d have just enough for each day. They shouldn’t try to store it up. But Israel had its hoarders. They determined to save up in case God didn’t come through. But God made the stored manna foul, filling it with worms (Exodus 16:16-20). Their savings may have seemed to reflect good planning; but they were stockpiling, and God would not bless it. God will provide for his obedient, responsible, and wise children who seek first his kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

Birds do the work that God created them to do; they sing when they work, they don’t hoard, and they instinctively trust their Creator to take care of them. Should we who know God’s grace do any less?

Following are links to CCEF, a Christian counseling organization that Randy highly recommends.

This article from Ed Welch seems quite insightful, and there are more insights from Ed here. As I think you’ll see, Ed addresses the heart/spiritual issues involved in hoarding as well its mental health aspect.

Here is a podcast episode from CCEF.

Here is a booklet they offer, connecting hoarding with OCD.

If this person in your life is open to seeing a counselor, you can see a list of referrals in your area.

A few more resources:

This Q&A offers some basic understanding of hoarding and what Scripture has to say.

Here is another biblical counseling organization that offers a podcast on this subject. I listened to this podcast and appreciated the emphasis on addressing the heart and pointing people to the Lord. These questions were mentioned:

  • Is this accumulation of things glorifying to God?
  • Is this the way Jesus would have you live?
  • Is this the way Jesus lived?
  • Are you afraid of something?

Randy writes, “Things have mass, mass exerts gravity, and gravity holds us in orbit.” We want our center of gravity to be Jesus, not things. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7, CSB).

Here is a website to check out that offers advice and resources for those who know and love a hoarder (not a specifically Christian organization).

God bless you and give you wisdom, as you come alongside this friend with grace and love.

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.