Lynn Howells, our company secretarial administrator, who runs the Bracknell hoarding support group, is the author of this article.
Did you know that 2-5% of the population have hoarding habits? Or that hoarding was only recognised as a mental health disorder in 2018?
To mark National Hoarding Awareness Week, we want to raise awareness about hoarding, and the profile of support groups as the first line of help for anyone with hoarding habits.
Lynn Howells, our Company Secretarial Administrator, runs the Bracknell hoarding support group. She describes herself as a: "hoarder who is continuously dealing with a work in progress." She has shared her experiences to help others who may be suffering from a hoarding disorder.
What is hoarding?
Hoarding is a compulsive desire to keep things that may or may not have financial or sentimental value. Sometimes the number of items can get out of control and take over the hoarder’s home and life entirely.
It often creates cramped living conditions, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Virtually all surfaces are usually piled with all sorts of items. When there's no more room inside, the clutter spreads to the garage, vehicles, outside spaces and other places.
What causes hoarding?
While hoarding can be linked to genetics, the most common cause is believed to be trauma. It's used by some as a coping mechanism to deal with traumatic life events, usually involving a loss of some kind. Bereavement is a very common reason, or it can be something like losing your job or a relationship, or a combination of losses. When too many things happen at once and you can't cope with them, you can turn to coping strategies like hoarding.
I’ve found that you're often not aware of it until it becomes overwhelming. That's why hoarding is such an issue– it’s not a conscious choice. We all acquire things, and we've all got special things we want to hold on to. That's what makes it so difficult as you don't realise it is a problem until you are unable to deal with it.
Hoarding should be tackled sensitively and individually. Have a support network, work with people you trust, and make sure the person with hoarding behaviours is at the centre and nothing is done without their permission. Getting them to make the decisions ultimately helps them cope in the long term. Clearing everything out and making things 'better' often results in a more hoarded home very quickly.
There are many organisations and support networks you can approach. These include Clouds End, Hoarding UK and Hoarding Disorders UK. You can also search Facebook for the 'LifePodUK' and 'Stay In and Sort Out' groups.
Reuse, reduce, recycle and refuse
Attending the hoarding support group and talking about the issues of hoarding has aided me to deal with some of the items I struggle to let go of. Helping others has made me think more about some of my own items and how they fit into the reuse, reduce, and recycle categories.
I’ve found that truly embracing ‘refuse’ has given me the power to decide what I want in my home. It’s not only helped me maintain the areas I have already cleared, but it has also prevented cluttered areas from becoming worse.
For example, I have signed up for the mailing preference service and no longer get junk mail with my post. Now, if a company sends me a catalogue, I will call them and instruct them to remove me from their mailing list.
Of course, it’s not always easy. I must carefully consider any offers of items from well-meaning friends and family. I do this by thinking: “do I need this item, or just want this item”. If the answer is no, then I will refuse it.
This includes unwanted gifts for birthdays and other events, which go into my re-gifting drawer, or to the charity shop.
If you are challenged by an excess of items, I hope you can find support to deal with them in a manageable way.
I can always be contacted by email at email@example.com if you want to discuss any hoarding issues with me.