Attics and basements, closet shelves and kitchen drawers, spare rooms, and even bathtubs can fill up with things over the years, like handwritten notes, baby clothes, newspapers, old books, holiday decorations, and more. Even the least sentimental among us may have a pile of college t-shirts we just aren’t ready to say goodbye to yet.
Plus, with Covid-19 restrictions separating loved ones and increasing stress, the need to hang onto comfort items and keepsakes may be even more prevalent—even when such items are no longer used or are taking up valuable home space. So, we wanted to explore hoarding habits across the United States, including how people in each state rate themselves on their ability to acquire without excess and discard items they no longer use.
We surveyed over 1000 Americans and asked them about their hoarding practices and perceptions, items they hoard beyond practical use or without available space, and how hoarding practices may have impacted their personal lives and health.
To determine which states have the greatest prevalence of self-identified hoarders, we conducted state-by-state surveys asking respondents to rate their agreement with a statement about their ability to acquire without excess and discard items they no longer use. Only results from states with more than 25 respondents were included in the data presented below.
Read on to see where people across genders and generations are piling up their possessions and why!
The United States of Hoarding
When it comes to hoarding, Americans are all over the map. South Carolina had the highest percentage of self-identified hoarders at 50%, followed by Ohio at 42% and Alabama at 41.7%. Southern states, steeped in history and nostalgia for eras past, made up the bulk of the states with the most hoarders—eight states out of the top 20 had over 28% of self-identified hoarders. In the Northeast and Midwest, where long and bitter winters call for building up reserves and battening down the hatches, four states apiece had over 25% of self-identified hoarders.
Washington, D.C. had the lowest percentage of reported hoarders at only 2.8%—over 47% lower than South Carolina, the state with the most hoarders. D.C.’s population skews towards the younger side, with a median age of 34, and apartments in the district have trended towards diminished square footage over the last decade—with a shorter amount of time to have collected possessions and less space in which to store them, D.C. residents may have no choice but to live the minimalist lifestyle.
Less than 10% of respondents in New Jersey and Wyoming self-identify as hoarders, and less than 15% of Mississippi and Minnesota residents report a hoarding issue. Even with strong regional showings for Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern states among those with high percentages of reported hoarders, these states break the pattern, proving that no matter where you live, the decision to acquire or discard possessions may not always be difficult, but it is always personal.
Even for those who don’t generally struggle with overly acquiring items or discarding unused belongings, there may be specific possessions they’d never dream of parting with. For most people, clothing, electronics, and books were most commonly kept long past need, use, or space, with over a quarter of respondents (28%) reporting that potential need in the future keeps them from discarding these items.
For older respondents, however, the past is worth protecting—45% of Baby Boomers were most attached to photos and memorabilia, and almost 40% of respondents aged 55 and older reported holding onto items for their sentimental value. Sentiment plays less of a role for younger respondents—Gen-Z respondents are more concerned with the monetary value of their unused possessions than any other generation, at almost 20%.
Hoarding Across Genders and Generations
But how much of a role do gender and generation really play in hoarding habits? This survey revealed key demographic differences in people’s hoarding practices and perceptions.
Women are more likely to donate items they no longer use, feel less anxiety when discarding possessions, and see less of an impact from hoarding habits on their health and relationships. Men are 10% more inclined than women to discard items with monetary value before sentimental items. Males are also 15% more likely to hold onto electronics than females, and over a third of male respondents (36%) say hoarding has interfered with a prospective relationship. While 37% of women say hoarding has impacted their health (physical, mental, or both), over half of men (51%) report the same.
Over half of Baby Boomers (53%) have little to no free storage space in their homes. Interestingly, another 53% of Baby Boomers say they are rarely or never encouraged to discard items. 42% of Gen-Y respondents have shame about the number of items in their homes, and 36% of Gen-Z respondents are anxious when discarding items they no longer use or have space for. Almost a third of Gen-X participants have shame about the number of items in their homes.
The Impact of Hoarding
With significant reports of hoarding-related shame and anxiety across genders and generations, it’s no surprise that over 44% of survey participants say their hoarding habits have impacted their health. For 23% of respondents, hoarding habits have affected their mental health. Still, only 2.5% of the population meets the diagnostic criteria for clinical hoarding disorder, so it’s unlikely that these survey participants fall within that group, despite their reported mental health changes.
Items piling up at home may also play a role in a person’s ability to date or build a relationship—especially if a prospective partner doesn’t struggle with acquiring items excessively or discarding items that are no longer useful. 42% of survey participants say hoarding practices have gotten in the way of a romantic relationship, with 20% of those reporting their own hoarding habits as the reason a relationship didn’t move forward.
It’s safe to say that hoarding habits in the U.S. are widespread and varied, but always deeply personal. Did these results encourage you to consider your own hoarding habits? Is it finally time to clean out your home? Take the quiz below to find out how much of a pack rat you are, and contact TurboHaul for your free junk removal quote today!