Squalor Survivors logo

Consequences of squalor

What are the consequences of our squalor?

It wrecks our self esteem

Or is it the other way around? It's a chicken-and-egg situation: which came first, the low self-esteem or the squalor? Perhaps low self-esteem lets squalor gain a foothold, which further lowers our feeling about ourselves, and the downward spiral begins. Squalor mercilessly erodes your dignity.

It costs us financially

Squalor hits us in the pocket in many ways, including...

  • If you are losing items, and buying replacements, that's money lost.
  • If you lose receipts, and can't get refunds/reimbursements, that's money lost.
  • If you forget to pay a bill that's hidden in one of the piles and have to pay a penalty payment, that's money lost.
  • If the mess damages something badly enough that it needs to be repaired or replaced, that's money lost.
  • If you buy more things in an attempt to block out the mess, that's money lost.
  • If you have to eat out or order in because the stovetop is storing clutter, that's money lost.

It eats up our time

If hoarding is contributing to the squalor, you can find yourself in a pattern where you spend hours pile-shifting - trying to get the mess under control once-and-for-all, but never making any progress, because all you're doing is moving the mess around, not moving out of it. All that time taken up with pile-shifting is time that we could better use, well, to live the life we'd like to live.

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.Benjamin Franklin

It stops us enjoying our homes

As the squalor grows, the piles take over our functional living space. We may not be able to use our furniture, ovens, stovetops, bathtubs or the floor for their intended purposes. Armchairs are intended to store our bottoms ;-) but there's nowhere comfortable to sit if they are buried under a stack of papers. The washing machine is supposed to reduce the drudgery of laundry, but if it is broken and you're too embarrassed to let a repairman in to fix it, you have to wash everything by hand. Doors are supposed to open wide enough to let a person walk through comfortable, but if there's piles of stuff impeding its swing, you have to sque-e-e-eze through sideways like a crab.

It stands between us and our dreams

How many dreams and ideas do you put on the backburner, not to be considered possible "until the house is under control"? How long have you been denying yourself these opportunities for self-fulfillment? For example, see this list of "plans on hold", gathered from our community: things we'll do once the house has reached the maintenance stage and we are liberated from our burden of despair.

It isolates us from society

Ever heard of C.H.A.O.S? It stands for Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome and is often used humorously. But it's no laughing matter for someone living in squalor who literally can't have anyone over - not even close family. Some people haven't let anyone inside their house for decades. Squalor can cause us to limit our social interactions because we know that if we get out there and socialise, visiting other people's houses, sooner or later they'll start asking why we never invite them to ours.

It invites the involvement of the legal system

In severe situations, law enforcement officials may intervene. Attorneys, police officers, fire chiefs, child protective agencies, insurance personnel, animal welfare agencies can all be involved. Housing codes give an indication of what kind of squalor a person would want to eliminate first. If you have trouble getting the kids to school on time, their habitual tardiness will have consequences with the school and the court system. But even in milder cases, squalor gives ammunition to spouses in custody battles.

It affects our health

Clutter can hide dust, dirt, molds and fungi that can cause and exacerbate chronic medical conditions such as headaches, respiratory problems, allergies, fatigue or lethargy, and insomnia or sleeping difficulties. Piles of stuff, routine spills that can't be cleaned up successfully because of the clutter, and having to big-step your way through the house (or walk on top of shifting stacks) surely make accidents more likely.

In an emergency, you have to let people in to help you!

So you have to call for emergency assistance and you're in a panic—about the house, not the patient?! Hints to help you prioritise was provided by a real-life EMT with a messy house (so she's seen both sides!) which provides some practical advice combined with keeping the squalor in perspective.