Tag Archives: Hoarding

hoarding tag at APDO, Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers represents the UK decluttering and organising industry.

Headshot of APDO member Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy

An insight into hoarding behaviour

Jo Cooke of Tapioca Tidy is a leading expert on hoarding. She is Director of Hoarding Disorders UK CIC and author of the book “Understanding Hoarding“. In this post, Jo shares with us her insights into hoarding disorder.

Hoarding: is it a trait we all share?

Although hoarding is a relatively new diagnosed disorder, I believe that there is an inner hoarder in each one of us it’s just that some of us do it on a much larger scale than others.

My father was Polish, he grew up during the war and he remembers being hungry. In response to his upbringing he had his own hoarding behaviours, which my mother “managed” and were the backdrop to my own childhood. So it was a natural step when, a couple of years after my father died, I decided to set up my own business helping with hoarding issues.

Historical context

For centuries, as a result of deprivation and scarcity, both humans and animals have hoarded and accumulated not only foodstuffs but also objects. Just as squirrels hoard nuts to feed themselves through the winter months, and magpies collect objects for their nests, so do humans preserve and stockpile food, water and other essentials to see them through periods of shortage, recessions, war or natural disaster. Many of us were brought up by parents and grandparents who were wartime babies and who consequently hoarded to see them through periods of rationing and austerity.

Historically we have hoarded as a natural response to being unable to gain easy access to certain foods and essentials, or to being ‘stuck inside’ during bad weather. We stack and stock logs, tins of food, coffee, nappies, toiletries and medicines. There are generations of ‘just in case’ hoarders, hateful of waste and fearful of running out. Observe food shoppers panic buying just before bank holidays, at Easter and Christmas – loaves of bread and bags of potatoes fly off the shelves.

The throwaway generation

Nowadays we so easily and readily dispose of many items, abandoning clothes that are no longer in fashion, books we have read, household and technological items that are no longer cutting-edge, toys that our children have outgrown. With the ever-increasing urge to purge, and a growing culture of decluttering, there is a new throwaway generation.

Items can be so easily bought and accessed: shops are open on Sundays, buying online is easy and readily accessible. If we need a new winter coat, we don’t wait until Christmas, we can buy it here and now, at midnight, on our phone or our computer, and receive it in three or four days. We can even pay extra for next-day delivery. We have throwaway plates, disposable napkins, pre-chopped garlic, pre-peeled oranges, prefab houses, and electrical items that are not designed to be fixed or repaired. Invariably, if our washing machine, TV or dishwasher becomes faulty, we tend to replace it, not repair it.

Buy one, get one free – who can resist such a bargain offer? Shops in every high street sell products for a pound, charity shops are popping up everywhere – 50p an item. There are car boot and jumble sales every weekend. Stuff is readily accessible everywhere, and shopping and buying is steadily becoming a recreation, a social event. No wonder our homes, garages and sheds are crammed full.

Hoarding is a complex issue

In more recent times, it has been recognised that the reasons for hoarding are not just deprivation and the need to survive disaster, but are far broader, more complex. It is now widely acknowledged that hoarding can be linked to deep-seated psychological and emotional issues. We hoard as a way of seeking comfort and distraction from trauma and difficult life events, and hoarding is often connected with other mental health issues. Hoarding is a solution to a problem and can act as a comfort blanket, just as people may drink, gamble, exercise excessively or over-eat as a coping mechanism.

Possessions play an important part in people’s lives. They can define who we are as individuals, and provide us with pleasure, comfort, joy, convenience and opportunity. But accumulating possessions that impact adversely on our living spaces, put a strain on our finances, affect our physical and mental health, and challenge our relationships and our homes can cause significant distress. Hoarding can greatly affect a person’s ability to function and carries a high level of risk to those who hoard, the people they are living with and others. Excessive acquiring and saving, collecting items others have thrown away, and not throwing anything away ourselves, can all qualify as characteristics of hoarding.

Hoarding as a mental disorder

Hoarding is being increasingly recognised as a mental health disorder. The media has done much to bring hoarding into the limelight, but the subject is frequently portrayed in sensational terms. When the British Psychological Society (BPS) issued a perspective on hoarding, one of its recommendations was that ‘The national media should seek advice from experts including clinical psychologists about the portrayal of people with hoarding problems and desist from using mental health problems to entertain and shock the public.’

Hoarding disorder was recognised as a mental health disorder within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V) in May 2013. The five diagnostic criteria it uses to identify a case of hoarding disorder are:

  • Persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their monetary value.
  • This difficulty is due to a perceived need to save the items and distress associated with discarding them.
  • The difficulty discarding possessions results in the accumulation of possessions that congest and clutter active living areas.
  • The hoarding causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or to other important areas of functioning.
  • The hoarding symptoms are not restricted to the symptoms of another disorder (e.g. hoarding due to obsessions in obsessive–compulsive disorder or delusions in schizophrenia).

Working with people with hoarding behaviours

When working with people with hoarding behaviours it is very important to ensure that you work slowly and sensitively, be mindful of the language that you use, and work towards their agenda and not your own.

Hoarding is complex and it is possible that a home may well present as a hoarded home, but there may be underlying issues to understand. It may be that there is a lack of life skills, or they may be impacted by executive  functioning which involves being challenged by organisation, planning and prioritising which presents typically with people who are neurodiverse.

For help and support, you can find your nearest APDO-registered hoarding specialist on our Find An Organiser database.

 

 

 

 

a headshot of APDO member Lynsey Grundy

Spotlight on members’ professional development: Becoming a hoarding specialist

In this series of posts on our members’ professional development, we are interviewing APDO professional organisers who have undertaken additional qualifications or training, to find out how their clients and businesses have benefitted. In this next post in the series, Moira Stone of Uncluttered Wales talks to Lynsey Grundy of Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds about becoming a hoarding specialist. 

Lynsey and her assistant are employed to provide tenancy support for Southway Housing Trust, a social housing landlord in South Manchester. In addition, Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds – a service within the Trust – provides hoarding support to private and other clients. She also works with other housing providers and as a consultant.

What is a hoarding specialist and how did you get interested in hoarding?

I’m a specialist now but it’s taken a long time to get here.

I’ve worked in crisis management and social care for about 25 years. I came to work in social housing on tenancy support, to help our tenants with any aspect of their lives that’s causing them difficulty and is impacting on their tenancy. It could be drugs, alcohol, gambling, mental health, illness. This is a free service to our tenants.

The reason for tenancy support is that we want to help our tenants to sustain their tenancies and manage their homes. On a purely financial level, it’s much better for us to keep tenants rather than have property voids with the associated costs. But it goes beyond that.

In 2014-15 we did a review of all tenancies looking at things like the number of working families, under-occupancy and over-crowding. It was a bit like a general census and we made some interesting discoveries. We knew about tenants who we had regular contact with about tenancy matters like unpaid rent or anti-social behaviour, but we didn’t know much or anything about people who we weren’t regularly in contact with. They might have been paying their rent and allowing someone in to check the gas, but some of them also had hoarding behaviour.

Bringing these tenants to the surface highlighted that the Trust had no policy or strategy about hoarding. If there was an extreme case of hoarding (which was actually very rare) the only tool we had was under the terms of the tenancy agreement and enforcement action which could lead to eviction. I asked other housing trusts and the City Council – nothing. That there was no policy or strategy just didn’t sit right with me.

I went on a few courses and, with a solicitor, to a housing provider event about anti-social behaviour (“ASB”) cases. All this got my juices flowing and I wrote my ideas up for my boss and ultimately the CEO agreed for us to start working in a different way. Statutory services, NHS and social care were all interested and we came up with a hoarding offer. Southway Housing Trust saw the benefit and provided funds to make it work.

What makes a good hoarding specialist?

It’s not for the faint-hearted. Not everyone wants to wade through someone else’s belongings.

To start out, you have to have a genuine interest and relevant knowledge. That might come from, say, a background in counselling or something similar.

You have to know your limits. I won’t work anywhere with fleas, for example, until they’ve been eradicated. I’m not taking fleas home to my animals!

You need to be able to clear your mind. You need a poker face, an unshockable face! And you need a lot of patience and understanding to work together with the client to solve the problem together.

Building your expertise to become a specialist requires detailed knowledge and experience of hoarding in all its different manifestations. Think about it, ask questions about it!

And I’d just like to say how good it is that potential clients can now click on ‘hoarding’ as a specialism on the Find An Organiser page of the APDO website.

Hands around a mug

Tell us about training

There’s quite a bit of training out there now, some courses more expensive than others. Look at what hoarding training is available. Jump on it!

Different courses are run by, amongst others:

And there are so many basic online courses available now on relevant subjects like mindfulness, CBT and so on. Adding to your knowledge and experience with short courses all builds up your understanding and gives you tools to use.

Read books! I recommend Understanding Hoarding by Jo Cooke (founder of Hoarding Disorders UK) and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee.

How is your business benefitting?

Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds and Southway Housing Trust are providing a service that wasn’t there before.

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. People really don’t choose to live in a hoarded environment; something happened in their lives to make it like this. We try to get beyond the behaviour to the root cause of what’s causing it, by building up a relationship so clients feel comfortable. We try to ask the right questions and then provide information that will help. The client doesn’t have to be a victim for the rest of their life and we aim to be part of the solution.

We aim to cover our costs and last year, £12,500 went back into the service from private clients. We also save housing providers money. Not having to evict tenants who hoard can save landlords like us around £45,000. That’s the costs of eviction, cleaning, damage and voids. So paying around £2,000 for a service like Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds is a no-brainer. The cost is so much less and there’s a very much better outcome.

We benefit hugely from joining forces with other public sector agencies across the ten Greater Manchester local authorities. I’ll just give you three examples of how we all benefit from access to different learning and resources.

  • The Fire Service refers potential clients to us when they do safety checks. And we were able to use their premises free of charge to start a new peer support group. (We had to move elsewhere because we had so many members, and then COVID struck … but all the same!)

 

  • Tidy Homes, Tidy Minds is an approved provider with social services. As hoarding is classed as self-neglect in the Care Act 2014, potential clients may be eligible for a personal budget. We can provide a report assessment outlining their need, the service, required funding and the hoped-for outcome of an improved life. This can often unlock a personal budget of perhaps around £2,500.

 

  • Finally, and excitingly, I’m learning about ACE – adverse childhood experiences – and the trauma-informed way of working. ACE refers to four or more traumas occurring during someone’s childhood. Examples are abuse, domestic violence, prison and death. ACE is a big part of why hoarding can occur. I’m now part of ACE’s team working in a nurturing, trauma-informed way with schools and community centres. We’re planning to roll the approach out to the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester. I’m passionate about getting this launched.

Thank you Lynsey for sharing your work with us and explaining more about the help that is available for people who hoard.

If you would like to find out more about APDO members and their specialisms, take a look at the Find An Organiser directory.

APDO Hoarding Conference Birmingham

National Hoarding Roadshow 2019 – Birmingham

This week in the UK it is National Hoarding Awareness Week and the week was launched with the National Hoarding Conference in Birmingham, which took place on Monday 20 May.

APDO was delighted to exhibit at this wonderful event, raising awareness and understanding around hoarding behaviours and the sort of help which is available.

Our President Katherine Blackler ( SortMySpace ) was joined by our Head of Membership Lisa Pantling (Clutter Free Living) and Lynsey Grundy (Tidy Homes Tidy Minds at Southway Housing) to field questions from delegates struggling with their stuff as well as those keen to join the industry and help. APDO was well represented at the event as a number of members attended as delegates and others were also exhibiting on neighbouring stands.

National Hoarding Awareness Week logo

Hoarding behaviour is a complex and emotive subject. Almost everyone you talk to has some experience of their own hoarding difficulties, or those of someone they know and love. Even a lawyer I met in the hotel lift on her way to check out of the hotel briefly shared her personal experience! As soon as I mention what I do, I am invariably met with the response ‘Oh, my mum/dad/auntie is a hoarder’.

The conference opened with with a real treat: a filmed excerpt from the play ‘Stuff’ by the Women’s Theatre group. This superbly captured the thought process that people go through when they are trying to let go of things in their home. Each item has a story, a memory or a purpose, it brings joy, sadness or potential and this is why it so often feels truly impossible to let it go.

APDO member Lisa Panting standing with APDO Banner

Professor Paul Salvoskis gave a powerful and uplifting presentation around showing empathy, understanding and, most of all, compassion. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution or treatment, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. By showing respect and genuine care, we can help and support people to improve their situations.

We also heard from Lee, a retired Fire Officer of 30 years, who now works closely with people who hoard. He talked us through the process of assessing the highest risks of fire, and stressed the importance of really getting to know the person you are working with so that they can make progress.

Many APDO members have a wealth of experience of supporting people with hoarding behaviour. A growing number of members have been attending specialist training and developing their skills so that they are able to support people exhibiting hoarding behaviour. You can search for members with this specialism on www.findanorganiser.co.uk. In addition, you can find more information on hoarding support at www.helpforhoarders.co.uk and www.hoardersuk.org.

To read more about APDO and hoarding, please visit https://www.apdo.co.uk/what-is-hoarding/.

San Francisco 18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Studying in San Francisco: The 18th International Conference on Hoarding & Cluttering

Cherry Rudge (Rainbow Red) and Jo Cooke (Hoarding Disorders UK CIC) are knowledgeable declutterers. Between them, they have over 20 years’ experience of working with people with extreme cluttering and hoarding problems. They regularly deliver training, coaching and advice to a variety of organisations including housing associations, mental health teams, charities, fire services and social care teams and recently flew transatlantic to further their own professional development and bring their learning back to the UK.

APDO members attend MHASF’s Institute for Compulsive Hoarding and Cluttering Conference 2018

For the two of us, the idea of being able to talk about clutter, hoarding and “stuff” for an entire week was heaven.  Forget about drugs, sex and rock and roll – clutter was the buzz word and we used every opportunity to tell folks what we do and why we were visiting California.

Clinical studies of hoarding disorders began to be published in the USA about 20 years ago, so it was with great excitement that the three of us set out from Heathrow Airport (in the snow) on Monday 19th March 2018 to attend the 18th annual Mental Health Association of San Francisco (MHASF) conference on Cluttering and Hoarding – Thinking Outside the Boxes: Innovation in Action.

MHASF is comprised of a diverse team of peers, supporters, advocates, family members, and providers dedicated to taking the peer and recovery to the next level.

The conference was held at the University of California, Berkeley, and was attended by over 100 people from across the USA and Canada, including clinicians, peer group members, social workers, people with hoarding behaviours, housing officials and professional organisers – all as passionate and as keen to expand our knowledge of the subject as we are!

Training day

Wednesday’s fascinating training day was by Dr Michael A. Tompkins (author of “Digging Out” and “The Clinician’s Guide to Severe Hoarding – A Harm Reduction Approach”), and covered the basics of two major topics important to anyone working directly with clients dealing with hoarding challenges: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement.

Interestingly, Dr Tompkins believes that (a) change is a state, not a trait, and (b) it is depression that underlies hoarding behaviours, with loss triggers being secondary to that.

hoarding conference organise declutter

Heather Matuozzo, Dr Michael A. Tompkins (author of “Digging Out”), Cherry Rudge and Jo Cooke,,

Day One

Day one of the conference opened with a wonderful keynote address – “DisordR, The Play”, a solo show brilliantly written and performed by Hilary Kacser, an actor who had travelled from Washington DC. It was very clever to start the discussions using visual creative art-based interpretation, devised by a person with lived experience, who also works in the theatre.

The play introduced us to self-confessed hoarder Pakrat Patty, and used humour to illuminate mental health, and the interactions with people who she met during her journey to recovery.

There followed several breakout sessions which divided the attendees into four groups:

  1. Public Health
  2. Housing
  3. Stigma
  4. Prevention

Over the two days, the aim of each of these workshops was to find three key areas of concern and then spend two further sessions seeking potential solutions for those concerns.

There were various options for the afternoon sessions on Day One:

  1. Resilience and Overcoming Hoarding, by Satwant Singh (Nurse Consultant in CBT and Mental Health, and a Clinical Lead for a primary care psychological service in London).
  2. Building peer supports on the stages of change continuum – David Bain + peers from MHASF.
  3. Listening and learning from participants in the Help for Hoarding Treatment study – Monka Eckfield (Qualitative PCORI Study, San Francisco). Peer-facilitated support groups used the “Buried in Treasures” work-book over 16 weeks, and therapist-lead CBT groups, which included home visits over the same amount of time.

In the afternoon, we attended the Experience Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) for Hoarding session, presented by Chia-Ying Chou (MHA Therapy Group, San Francisco).  She explored what compassion is – i.e. a sensitivity to suffering and a willingness to try and alleviate it or prevent it – and looked at wisdom, strength, commitment and warmth and the need to use self-compassion.

Meanwhile, the selective sessions we sadly missed were:

  1. It takes a village – Nancy Trout, Prairie View, Winston, Kansas. Discussed how she created a multi-agency taskforce, drawing on every aspect of village life.
  2. Journal writing – the techniques, the purpose the benefits – David Bain – how to keep a hoarding action journal
  3. Legal aspects of hoarding – Kellie Morgantini (Legal Services for Seniors, Monterey, CA)

The evening’s social event gave us the perfect opportunity to network and develop strong relationships with delegates from across the US and Canada.  They were most impressed when we explained how the UK’s annual Hoarding Awareness Campaign has helped increase understanding of hoarding behaviours and reduce the stigma associated with them.

18th International Conference on Hoarding and Cluttering

Day Two

Day two started with all three of us attending a breakout session by Donald Davioff and Kay Jewels (McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, MA) – “A Neurocognitive Approach to Hoarding Disorder”.

After an insightful video about the MHASF, the final key-note speech on the final day was “New Developments in Hoarding Research: a novel approach using virtual reality” by Hanna McCabe-Bennett from Ryerson University, Toronto.

Through a series of room images, two groups (individuals with hoarding behaviours and then another group without hoarding behaviours) were tested for their levels of discomfort, versus the levels of items in the room.   In another experiment people were invited to choose as many items as they liked from a virtual reality thrift store (charity shop).  These were then restricted to how many can be fitted into a trolley and then how many of those items could they fit into a bag.

They then changed the mood of the people by reading a script to induce anthropomorphism which, it was found, increased the difficulty for the hoarders in discarding even virtual items.

After a couple of days sightseeing, we returned from San Francisco more inspired than ever, and fired up for UK Hoarding Awareness Week (14th – 18th May 2018) and the National Hoarding Conference on 14th May.  Later in the year we are also looking forward to the International Hoarding, Health & Housing Conference in Edinburgh on 4th October, organised by Life Pod CIC. Hope to see you there, or maybe at the MHASF conference next year!

If you need advice on hoarding or want to find out more about APDO, please visit the APDO website for further information or to find your nearest professional organiser.