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Measuring squalor

Measurement tools have been developed to quantify the scale of a clutter and hoarding problem.. The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization has developed a Clutter Hoarding Scale, which measures four dimensions (Structure & Zoning Issues, Pets & Rodents, Household Functions, and Sanitation & Cleanliness) on a scale of 1 to 5.

The material available online to go with the <cite>Treatments That Work: Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring workbook</cite> include material for a Clutter Image Rating—you look at nine pictures of a progressively cluttered room and pick the best match for your situation.

The "Degrees of Squalor" scale below was described by Kimmy in the Living in third degree squalor...where do I start? (Internet Archive copy) thread that sowed the seed for Squalor Survivors. This scale is purportedly used by psychologists, but I have not been able to find a match in any textbooks or academic papers. I am keeping it online to give context to the name and beginnings of this website.

First degree squalor
You are getting behind in tasks that you would normally manage, like laundry and dishes. You are not the tidy person you once were. Little piles are starting to emerge and your disorganization is starting to affect your life and inconvenience you. Things are just starting to get out of hand and become unmanageable. A sign of first degree squalor could be that you might be embarrassed for other people to see your mess...but you would still let them in the house.
Second degree squalor
Now things are really starting to get out of hand. Signs that you have reached second degree would include losing the use of normal household items like your bed, table, television or telephone, because the piles have expanded to cover the items up. You start to develop new methods of moving around your house, as normal movement is impeded by your piles of stuff. You might start making excuses to discourage people from entering your house.
Third degree squalor
At this stage, you have all the above, plus you have rotting food and animal faeces and/or urine in the house, and this is the rule not the exception. You cannot cope with the growing mess. Essential household repairs may not be done, because you are too afraid to let a tradesperson see your house. Just the thought of someone seeing your mess causes you great stress.
Fourth degree squalor
At fourth degree squalor, you have all of the above, plus you have human faeces and/or urine in your house that is not in the toilet.


Whatever stage of squalor you are at, know two things:

  1. You are not the only person to have reached this degree of squalor. Other people have been where you are...and come back.
  2. You deserve better!
I was sitting here reading posts and it dawned on me that I am at level 1 in every room of the house except the mud porch where my laundry is, and that is a level 1-2.I don't know what I expected... fireworks to go off, or something magical when I hit that milestone... It just happened slowly but surely—though there was a lot of kicking and screaming along the way, lol. This happened over the space of two years, but it did happen—one baby bite at a time. I still let things go and have to run a maintenance marathon now and then but it is now all manageable! Thank you, Squalor Survivors, and all the SS members for giving me the tools, encouragement, laughter, and for always having a hankie ready for the giving along the way ......I could not have gotten this far without you all. DustyDiva