Is it time for a spring clean?

April 19th, 2016 by The Mag Editor in Features

Roy and Cathy stand in a room cluttered with belongings

Most people are guilty of gathering a bit of clutter now and then. How many times have you said “I will hang onto that just in case” or “that might come in handy for something” - but what about when it starts to build up? It can lead to a more serious problem.

According to the NHS, a hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. These items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter.

Hoarding is not uncommon, it’s estimated by organisation Help for Hoarders that there are over 3 million people in the UK alone who display hoarding behaviour. Someone who has a hoarding disorder may typically: find it hard to categorise or organise items, have difficulties making decisions, become extremely attached to items and may have poor relationships with family and friends.

Some stats around hoarding:

• 42% of compulsive hoarders have difficulty accessing the sink and the bathtub

• 45% of hoarders have trouble getting to the fridge due to excessive clutter

• 50% of compulsive hoarders are also excessively acquiring free items

• 75% of hoarders have been found to engage in excessive buying behaviour

You may have seen the recent Coronation Street storyline exploring Cathy Matthews, played my actress Melanie Hill, and her struggles with hoarding. It came to a head recently when poor Cathy was trapped in a mountain of her own possessions and was forced to lie there patiently, waiting to be rescued.

Although, Cathy began to turn her life around and sought help with her hoarding, the more serious dangers of hoarding were also highlighted when a fire broke out in her home. The piles of clutter made it easier for the flames to spread and engulf her home more quickly. Although Cathy escaped unharmed, this isn’t always the case. In 2014 it was reported that over a quarter of fire deaths were linked to hoarding.

When a fire breaks out in a home where there is a hoarding, it can become very difficult, or even impossible, to escape. Likewise, it can be more difficult for firefighters to get into the property to tackle the fire.

There is also an increased risk of personal injury, due to falling objects and obstructions. Plus, access to more burning material can fuel a fire further, making it spread faster and produce more dangerous smoke.

Top tips to help to keep your home clutter free:

• Tidy up as you go along – it makes it less daunting that way

• Try not to simply move things around – get rid of anything you don’t need or use

• Try and stick with the motto “a place for everything, and everything in its place”

• When tidying up make a decision about whether or not to keep an item within 10-20 seconds.

• Ask yourself – Do you really need it? When was the last time you used it?

• Try to avoid mounting up items by buying in bulk, visiting sales, or taking other peoples unwanted good “because it seems a shame to let it go to waste”

If you think you may display tendencies for hoarding then you can speak to your support worker about how you can begin to address these problems. You can find out more about hoarding at www.helpforhoarders.co.uk or www.nhs.uk/hoarding.