For someone who has never walked inside a hoarder's home, but has a some idea of what it might look like once they walk through the front door, it is more times than not more troubling than expected when they finally get inside. How can this person acquire so many items to a point of endangering themselves and cause such a rift with their loved ones?

And so the big question everyone wants to know is: "What is really going on inside a hoarder's house?"

No two hoarders are exactly alike and the severity of their behavior ranges from mild to grave. But speaking in general terms, let's take a quick glance at the living conditions compulsive hoarding usually festers and see the dangers that lie within.

1. The Smoke

On the surface, it is easy to see that a hoarder's collection usually consists of flammable materials (mostly paper), and any type of spark would touch off a fire that would spread in an instant. Newspapers, magazines and food and beverage containers are very combustible whereas things such as plastic bottles, old vinyl albums and rubber produce a toxic smoke should they catch fire.

2. Call 911

When compulsive hoarding is taken to its extreme, living areas only become accessible by way of a path that leads from one room to another. Sometimes there isn't even a clear path to speak of and someone must actually walk on the hoarder's "collection" to move about. Entrances and exits to rooms are usually completely obstructed and making a last ditch attempt to escape through a window may be impossible. Should there be a medical emergency, the hoarder and any other family member or pet would be unable to get out in time. Also, because there is so much clutter around, paramedics would have a problematic time getting to a person.

3. When It All Comes Crashing Down

A common execution that hoarders use to make more room when they have filled up all their floor space with clutter is to buy large boxes. In order to free up some space so they can compile more possessions, a hoarder will stack heavy boxes on top of the one other. The problem with this is quite obvious. Since the loaded down boxes are sitting on other boxes which are not completely stable, the danger of them falling on a person is very real. There have even been documented case studies where folks have died from the impact of a fallen box, or have been pinned underneath it and were unable to free themselves. For the large majority of hoarders who live alone the danger is compounded even further due to their inability to move through their house freely. This hampers their ability to get to a phone or call out to a neighbor in an emergency situation.

4. A Solid Foundation

Due to the extreme shear weight of the hoarder's collection the house itself (depending on its age and construction) may not be able to bear the load. Floor boards that are not supported properly can sag and eventually buckle. And should the stockpile accumulate on a second floor, one section may simply collapse, injuring or even killing anyone below. The walls are not immune to the extreme weight either. Cracks can form and cause walls to bow outward under the constant stress of excessive materials.

5. The Road To Destruction

As mentioned above, the clutter in a hoarder's home greatly reduces mobility. The hoarder becomes accustomed to getting around by memorizing the path of least resistance from room to room. This more times than not leads them to defend their conduct and say something to the effect that they can manage to live comfortably in the home just fine. Due to the number of obstructions, even the hoarder is susceptible to tripping or falling down a flight of steps if they're not paying close attention to their movements. Research shows that hoarding tendency reaches its peak when someone reaches their 40s. If left untreated, it will continue until the person dies. And with most seniors experiencing a few degree of bone fragility, life-threatening fractures are a real concern.

6. Infestation Breeds Disease

With the compulsive hoarding compulsion comes an inability for the person to throw away objects that others see as basic garbage. Food waste is the biggest concern due to its ability to germinate bacteria and attract unwanted pests such as rats, raccoons, squirrels and disease carrying insects such as cockroaches. Full-blown infestations are not uncommon, and yet these deplorable living conditions normally are overlooked by the hoarder. When questioned, the response is usually "I'll clean it up tomorrow/next week" or "I realize there are bugs and animals running around but they don't bother me and I don't bother them".

7. Every Day Household Chores

The growing hoard can hamper the person's ability to carry out day-to-day chores that affect their health and well-being. Appliances like stoves, washing machines, and sinks may be unusable, thereby affecting the person's ability to cook, wash clothes, and even keep up with daily hygiene.

Author's Bio: 

Palmer Pullen is a successful journalist and researcher. He has dedicated himself to teaching others how to help a loved one stop this dangerous hoarding habit. You can find Palmer's in depth study on his Compulsive Hoarding webpage. He has also published some valuable information on the dangers of hoarding food.