Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) kick off their National Organising Week (6-12 November) and are encouraging the nation to tackle their clutter, large or small, with the goal of reducing stress and saving time. In extreme cases, hoarding interferes with living space and basic freedoms such as space to prepare food or even sleep.
Other challenges in hoarded homes can include restricted access for social visits and maintenance calls (e.g. servicing utilities, repairing leaks and dealing with infestations). Financial implications may include not having access to paperwork, leading to unpaid bills and potential legal complications.
Here are some of top tips and guidance on how you could help a hoarder.
Health & Safety
It is important to address any potential health and safety issues, including trip hazards and potential avalanches as items that have piled up start tumbling down. Many hoarded homes have “daisy chains” of extension leads, locked windows, blocked exits and paperwork kept near the cooker or open fire sources.
It is important to first consider any areas that cannot be accessed with ease. For example, a bed to sleep in, somewhere to wash, the use of a kettle and being able to answer the door.
Research suggests that 25% of accidental domestic fire deaths involve hoarding. The fire services can be a very important ally. They offer free “Safe and Well” visits where they can install free smoke alarms and provide advice on practical hazard reduction tips.
Where do we start?
Start small: A corner of a table, a shelf in the hall, a bedside table. Choose something contained and manageable. Starting with just one corner and committing to addressing that area will create confidence in the person you are helping. It is important to remember that decluttering in baby steps on a frequent and consistent basics can lead to a sustainable and improved living environment.
Hoarders tend to have strong emotional attachments to most of their possessions so this needs to be considered if you are trying to help.
Myth: You can go in and clear all the clutter and that will help the person to keep it that way.
False: This approach will usually lead to trauma for the person concerned and a greater problem which quickly builds up again, sometimes to a greater degree that previously.
Myth: Hoarders can’t stop hoarding
False: With help and support and the correct treatment, people can overcome their hoarding behaviours and rid themselves of items they no longer want or need.
Myth: I’m not a hoarder as I can still get in and out of the front door.
False: There are different levels of hoarding and it’s not always like the extreme TV show examples.
There are therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), emotional freedom technique (EFT), counselling and mindfulness that can help. There are also hoarding support groups and the Help for Hoarders website has many useful resources.
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Jo Cooke is director of Hoarding Disorders UK and author of Understanding Hoarding
Jo understands from personal and work experiences, that hoarding affects an individual’s health and lifestyle and impacts the whole family
The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to write a blog for AUK please email email@example.com for more information