Most of us are reluctant to throw things away or have a good clear out, and it’s so easy to convince ourselves that we might need these possessions again in the future. Many homes across the UK have cupboards, lofts and garages filled to the brim with clothes, books, old toys and collectables, many of which haven’t been looked at or used for years.
While it is very common to have homes which could do with a good spring clean, hoarding takes clutter to a completely different level. Sharing a home with a hoarder presents real practical and emotional challenges, but hoarding is more common than people think. Over 1.2 million people are recognised hoarders in the UK, plus many more who go unreported.
What is hoarding?
Hoarding is the collection of a large amount of possessions and clutter that creates chaos in the home. While the hoarder is very good at acquiring these possessions, they have real difficulty getting rid of them when they are no longer needed. Extreme hoarding is a real problem, particularly for family or friends who share their home with a hoarder. Sometimes entire rooms become unusable because there is so much clutter on the floor and on every surface, and hygiene can be a real issue in a hoarder’s kitchen. Living with a hoarder makes everyday tasks such as walking down the stairs or trying to access the front door difficult, and exits can become blocked which poses a real health and safety risk. Hoarding outside into the garden can also cause problems with neighbours and local councils.
The real challenges faced by hoarders and their family and friends was highlighted in the insightful BBC television programme “The Trouble with Mother”:
What items do people usually keep?
This can depend on the individual, but most people who love to hoard things can save anything, and clutter is made up of all sorts of different items. Some common hoarder items include containers, books, arts and craft kits, clothes, magazines and newspapers. In severe cases, these items will cause so much clutter that furniture is no longer visible and the hoarder will have lost control of the state of their home completely.
Why do people do it?
Understanding why people love to hoard possessions is vital, particularly if you share your home with a hoarder. Hoarding has been linked to anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, and can be debilitating to the person affected and to their family and friends. People often hoard because they can’t bear the thought of wasting things, or because they are worried about losing vital information that may be stored within the clutter.
Sharing a home with a hoarder takes understanding, patience and sympathy. There is an increasing amount of help and advice available, and hoarding is recognised as a condition which may need treatment. With the right support and advice, even the most dedicated hoarder can overcome their condition and regain control of their home.