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Compulsive hoarding--a lot more than just being messy

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A mess like this, which was built up by compulsive hoarding, can usually only be tackled with the help of intensive therapy or medications. Professional organizers may clear out the boxes, but psychological urges to collect papers or appliances will result in the quick return of clutter. (Courtesy of Melissa Korn/CNS)

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Katy H., a compulsive hoarder from Manhattan, sleeps on a mattress on the floor, surrounded by five-foot high piles of boxes, bags and papers. No more than two square feet of carpet are clear in the studio apartment's entire main room. (Courtesy of Melissa Korn/CNS)

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Compulsive hoarders, who make up at least 1 percent of the general population, find the act of throwing things away very traumatic. Katy H. collects newspapers, old appliances, shoes and clothing even though she knows it's not always logical. (Courtesy of Melissa Korn/CNS)


Psychologists say that hoarders often collect boxes and bags with the intention of sorting through their belongings and cleaning up their homes. But because that is such an intimidating task, the containers themselves may begin to pile up and add to the clutter. (Courtesy of Melissa Korn/CNS)

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Compulsive hoarders surround themselves with piles of papers and stacks of stuff. Cleaning up the mess isn't as easy as hiring a professional organizer; their problems are psychological and require lifelong treatment.