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Is Mom a Shopaholic? Handling Compulsive Shopping among Seniors

By Vickie Dellaquila,
April 20

Excessive clutter and hoarding are very difficult situations to deal with for seniors and their family members.  Issues with over shopping or compulsive shopping can attribute to the accumulation of way too much stuff. Many seniors who hoard have problems with over shopping or possibly a shopping addiction. Their home may be filled with multiplies of the same item. Many times there are boxes of brand new items that have been unopened and have been there for years. Why would someone purchase a brand new item and not open it up and use it? Compulsive shopping is defined as " inappropriate, excessive, and out of control," says Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. (Source-  According Dr. April Benson who specializes in the treatment of compulsive shopping …”Many people shop for many reasons: loneliness, a high they get from the purchase, avoidance, keeping up with the Jones, and a great feeling they get from shopping.” I have heard all these reasons why many of my clients over shop. The purchases that people acquire can come in from shopping at the mall, discount stores, big box stores, or the Dollar store. For many seniors shopping online or shopping by catalog is very easy to do. HSN (Home Shopping Network) and other television shopping shows appeal to many people especially seniors. It seems to be an easy fix for the senior for loneliness and all the other reasons mentioned above. For many it seems like the host is talking to them directly and letting them know how much they need this product. Customers are allowed to call in and tell how the host how much they love the product. It can feel like a friendship to them. Look for some of these signs that your senior relative may have a shopping addiction or a shopping habit that has gotten out of hand: •    The UPS driver visits their home often-every day or every other day •    There are empty boxes from known stores that have come via UPS or through the mail •    Unopened boxes delivered from UPS or through the mail that have been there more than a week •    Their favorite TV channels including shopping channels •    Websites tagged as favorites that include shopping websites •    Your loved one hides their purchases from you If you think your senior loved one may have a shopping problem or addiction what can you do? •    Talk to them and ask them to be honest about how much they are spending •    Suggest they talk to a therapist as to why they are shopping so much •    You also may be able to re-sell new products that they ordered and didn’t use through auction sites such as eBay and this may help them get some money back on their purchases so they can start to feel a little better about their situation. •    A great book and website for help with shopping issues is To Buy OR Not To Buy-Why We Overshop And How To Stop It by April Lane Benson, PhD •    Her website includes an online support group for those who have shopping issues. Check out her website: Shopping addictions or problems with shopping can create financial havoc for the senior and their family. If you suspect your senior loved one may have a problem with shopping, remember help is available. Click here to read Vickie Dellaquila’s blog, “Managing Paper Clutter during Tax Season”. Vickie Dellaquila is western Pennsylvania’s only Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and owner of Organization Rules® Inc. Organization Rules provides compassionate organizing services for every stage of your life®. She is the author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move. Please visit If you found this article useful, please click the “Share This” icon below to make it available to your family and friends.

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