When collecting clutter or hoarding can become a problem
Last updated on 19 Jul 2016
We all collect a lot of things throughout our lives. Often these things can have great sentimental value and it can be difficult to part with them. Most of the time our possessions do not pose any problems however having a large number of possessions can start to become a problem if it makes it difficult
- to clean your house
- to heat your home
- to maintain or repair your house
- to move around your house
- or if the possessions could pose a fire risk
What is hoarding?
Hoarding is where someone collects large amounts of items and is unable to throw any of them away. As their collection of possessions grows in size, it begins to encroach upon their living space and affects their quality of life. For example they may be collecting newspapers, cds, clothes, crockery, electrical items, animals (in some rarer cases) and more.
If hoarding is left untreated the habit can become worse until it becomes extremely chaotic and unmanageable. The definition of chronic hoarding is when rooms in the home become ‘unsuitable for their intended purpose’ or too cluttered to live in.
Help for Hoarders has a range of self help materials for hoarders and their family and friends, including a ‘Clutter Image Rating’ which you can use to help realise if your view of your home is realistic or if it has become too cluttered to live in. They also offer useful tips on where to begin tidying up the clutter and how to tackle small areas at a time.
Compulsive hoarding was recently recognised as a medical condition and can be treated on the NHS. For more information please visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/hoarding
What are the risks of hoarding?
There are a number of risks which are associated with hoarding or large amounts of clutter in the home including;
- Slips, trips and falls
- Illness caused by bacteria/damp/mould
- Increased risk of fire and fire will spread much quicker in a cluttered home
- Making it difficult to escape your home in a fire situation
- Blocked exits and entries may prevent your escape and could delay your rescue in a fire situation
- Illness caused by rats or vermin
- Poor health caused by inadequate heating
- Mental health problems – hoarding is often associated with depression or anxiety problems
- Isolation – often people who are hoarding avoid contact with others as they feel guilty or ashamed of their home
- Poor quality of life – living in a small cramped space with little outside contact.
If you would like to begin clearing some space but the task of decluttering seems too overwhelming to do by yourself, there are organisations that can help with this process. APDO (The Association for Professional Declutterers and Organisers) has a list of accredited companies.
How can I help someone who is hoarding?
Hoarding is often triggered by a life changing event such as bereavement or retirement. The person may then wish to ‘hang on to things’ to help them to stay in control of their life or to fill the gap. It can be difficult to help someone suffering from compulsive hoarding as the person may not realise that their habits could cause a problem to themselves or pose a risk to others.
If you are worried about someone you know or care for you may wish to talk to them first and see if they would like some help with cleaning or clearing their home. A sensitive approach is essential to helping someone come to terms with the hoarding habit. The items which they have collected may not appear valuable to anyone else, but it could cause great distress to the person if these items were simply thrown away.
They may need some support from their GP or a counsellor to help them before any clean ups can take place. Your GP can refer you to a mental health service if this would be helpful for you.
Local Help and Support
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service can offer free fire safety advice, fit smoke alarms for free and help people to plan their emergency escape route in case of a fire.
First Contact Newcastle Referral Scheme is a free scheme that can help with referrals to local organisations who can help with information advice and support around, fire safety, crime prevention, electrical testing, heating your home, staying healthy and community activities. You can complete the form online.
Envirocall - Newcastle City Council can arrange a separate rubbish collection for you if you are removing large items or amounts of material from your home. There may be a charge for this service. Alternatively you may wish to find a private skip hire company.
Public Health and Environmental Protection - Newcastle City Council can help If you are having problems with your privately rented home or your neighbour’s property is affecting yours.You can contact them confidentially if you are worried about someone else’s property. This may be because you have concerns about their poor living conditions for example, a large amount of clutter in or around their home, pests, noise nuisance, unsafe electrics or fire risks.
The team will assess what the problems are and can take action to make sure the house is safe to protect the resident and/or their neighbours. They can also make referrals to other services such as Community Health & Social Care Direct (formerly Adult Social Care Direct) if the person needs extra support. They can issue an enforcement notice on the landlord or the home owner if they are unable to carry out the work themselves.
As with rented property the team have powers to carry out the work if it is not completed within a set time. The cost of this work will then be charged back to the landlord or home owner. If the person doesn’t have the means to pay, payment plans are available or the money may be recovered at a later date. For more information please visit the article on Having problems with your house or neighbourhood
House Clearance Services - There are some private companies that you can pay to carry out a house clearance. The price of this service will depend on the level of work required. It is always best to check a companies references and request a number of quotes before you decide to use a company.
Charities - Some charities can help with house clearances for a fee. They are usually looking for donations of furniture or other items for the charity too. Why not ask at your local charity shop to see if they can help, particularly if you have larger items of furniture that they may be able to pick up for you?
Other Useful Information
Our 'Practicalities of moving home' article lists organisations that can help you dispose of your unwanted furniture or household items, including donating items to charity.
Age UK as more information on hoarding on their website.