Understanding Hoarding

Hoarding is the persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.

Commonly hoarded items can include newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, photographs, household supplies, food and clothing.

Such behaviour can often have harmful effects – emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal – for a hoarder, their family, friends and those who may care for them in a professional capacity.

Why does someone hoard?

There are many reasons why a person hoards – they may believe an item will be useful or valuable in the future; they feel the item has sentimental value, or that if they throw it away they won’t be able to remember the person who gave it to them or the time they acquired it.

WOLVERHAMPTON MULTI-AGENCY HOARDING FRAMEWORK

Wolverhampton Safeguarding Adults Board has endorsed this Multi-Agency Hoarding Framework - Guidance for Practitioners. Just click on the image to download the document.

Keith's Story - helping us to understand hoarding

Birmingham Safeguarding Adults Board has produced a film about hoarding – Keith’s story.

This film raises awareness of hoarding and guides professionals on what kinds of interventions seem to work the best so that the people affected (both the person who hoards and other people whose lives this impacts upon) get the support that they need.

The film tells Keith’s story, in his own words, describing how hoarding affected his life and with the right support, his journey to recovery. Professionals (including fire officers, social workers and mental health staff) talk about the challenges hoarding can present and approaches that can help support recovery.

 

Symptoms and Behaviour

Someone who hoards may exhibit the following behaviour:

  • Inability to throw things away
  • Severe anxiety when attempting to discard items
  • Indecision about where to put things or what to keep
  • Distress, such as feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed about their possessions
  • Suspicion of other people touching items
  • Obsessive thoughts and actions: fear of running out of an items or of needing it for the future
  • Functional impairments such as the loss of living space, becoming isolated from family and friends, financial difficulties, health hazards in the home

 

Why hoarding disorders are a problem

A hoarding disorder can be a problem for several reasons. It can take over the person's life, making it very difficult for them to get around their home. It can cause their work performance, personal hygiene and relationships to suffer.

The person hoarding is usually reluctant or unable to have visitors, or even allowing tradesmen in to carry out essential repairs, which can cause isolation and loneliness.

The clutter can pose a health risk to the person and anyone who lives in or visits their house. For example, it can:

  • make cleaning very difficult, leading to unhygienic conditions and encouraging rodent or insect infestations
  • be a fire risk and block exits in the event of a fire
  • cause trips and falls
  • fall over or collapse on people, if kept in large piles
  • cause a problem to other people, especially if the person who hoards lives in close proximity to others, for instance in a block of flats.

 

What you can do if you suspect someone is hoarding

If you are concerned about your own situation or think a family member or someone you know has a hoarding disorder, arrange to see a GP in the first instance. This may not be easy, as someone who hoards might not think they need help.

If dealing with a family member or friend try to be sensitive about the issue and emphasize your concerns for their health and wellbeing. Reassure them that nobody is going to go into their home and throw everything out. You're just going to have a chat with the doctor about their hoarding to see what can be done and what support is available to empower them to begin the process of decluttering.

The GP may be able to refer you/your family member or friend to a local community mental health team, which might have a therapist who's familiar with issues such as OCD and hoarding. It's generally not a good idea to get extra storage space as this won't solve the problem and the clutter often quickly builds up again.hoarding is the persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value and commonly hoarded items can include newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, photographs, household supplies, food and clothing. Such behaviour can often have harmful effects – emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal – for a hoarder, their family, friends and those who may care for them in a professional capacity.

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