- Start simple: Identify items which are destined for the bin and/or recycling and start with them so you can make a bit of space and build up your confidence. Then start looking at what can be donated to charity shops, local schools or animal shelters – anywhere really – just to get things moving and get some space back in your home.
- Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help; this is the first, and most difficult, step. If you are asking friends or family to help, be clear that their help must be on your terms. It might help if you write out some rules for them to follow e.g. ‘nothing goes in the bag without me seeing first’ and ‘we take a 10-minute break every 40 minutes.
- Get professional help: Do you think you would benefit from having some professional help? If so, search for a professional organiser near you by going to the home page of this website and clicking on ‘find an organiser’.
- Hoarding ice breaker: Use the hoarding ice breaker form to help you talk to a professional about the difficulties you are facing https://hoardingdisordersuk.org/research-and-resources/ice-breaker-form/
What other help may be available to hoarders?
- Local Fire Brigade fire safety home visits: These visits are free of charge. The Fire Brigade can provide and fit smoke detectors, and offer advice on how to make your home safer by reducing the risk of fires. They can also advise you on how best to vacate the premises should a fire ever break out.
- Adult Social Care teams: Provision varies around the country, so you will need to check what your local authority is able to offer. The Care Act 2014 states “local authorities must:
- carry out an assessment of anyone who appears to require care and support, regardless of their likely eligibility for state-funded care.
- focus the assessment on the person’s needs and how they impact on their wellbeing, and the outcomes they want to achieve.
- involve the person in the assessment and, where appropriate, their carer or someone else they nominate.”
- GP: Your GP may be able to offer advice or refer you for appropriate support
- Local hoarding support groups: There are an increasing number of hoarding support groups around the country. APDO is currently compiling a directory and hopes to publish it soon. There is some information available at https://hoardinguk.org/support/support-groups/
- Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice can give support if you are having difficulties with your landlord or are facing eviction https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/social-housing/
- Bereavement Counselling: If you think your difficulties stem from bereavement or loss, then Cruse Bereavement Care may be able to offer support https://www.cruse.org.uk/
Some practical advice for friends and family
- Listen: Start by asking them how they feel about things. Are they worried about anything? Make them a cup of tea. Offer support.
- Don’t judge: If it’s the first time you have seen inside their home, or it has become much worse since your last visit, try not to look shocked. This may be difficult, but the last thing the individual needs is to feel that you are judging them.
- Don’t touch anything: It’s so tempting to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in. You can probably see straight away what needs to be done, but you must resist the temptation. In all likelihood, the individual will know the precise location of everything they need. If you move things the individual could find this very traumatic, and it could reinforce their view that they shouldn’t let anyone help, or that they need to leave things exactly as they are.
- Mirror their language: If the individual uses the word ‘hoarding’ then you can do so too, otherwise try to notice how they describe things and mirror their language. If, for example, they talk about their ‘things’, their ‘stuff’ or their ‘collection’ try and use the same words. This will put them more at ease.
- Talk in a positive way: Talk about ‘reclaiming space’, making their home safe, enjoying the space, creating space for hobbies or having guests. Avoid talking about throwing things out, calling their belongings junk or suggesting they need a skip.
What to do now
We have members who are experts at helping hoarders and can provide the services required to get the job done. Sometimes they need to work with individual hoarders over a long period of time because it can be a slow and delicate process. When decluttering a very cluttered home, many people feel a sense of relief as the clutter diminishes but, without sensitive support, hoarders can find decluttering very painful. Clearing space too quickly can cause more harm than good.
If you need advice on hoarding, or want to find out more about how APDO can help, please search our website for further information or use our directory to find your nearest professional organiser.
Other useful information
Hoarding UK: a charity for people affected by hoarding behaviours
Hoarding: article by Mind
Help for Hoarders: a charity for people affected by hoarding behaviours
Psychological Perspective on Hoarding (British Psychological Society)
Understanding Hoarding: a book by Jo Cooke (member of APDO)
Clutter Image Rating Scale: a visual scale to assess hoarding
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