Hoarding shows have become a popular topic for reality TV. The BBC has Britain’s Biggest Hoarders, Channel 4 broadcasts the Hoarder Next Door and Channel 5 is working on a similar show. In 2012 the Channel 4 offering was a big hit – regularly attracting over 2 million viewers. And whilst such shows might – on the face of it – be seen to sensationalise hoarding, there’s a really important message behind them. When hoarding gets out of hand the impact can be catastrophic.
Since May 2013 compulsive hoarding has been a recognised psychological condition. The NHS define it as, ‘excessively collecting items that are of little or no value and not being able to throw them away – resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter.’
The smaller your property the less free space you have and the quicker and greater the impact any hoarding tendencies. Which means in London – where room is at a premium – those afflicted by the condition are especially up against it.
Experts suggest that between 2 – 5% of the UK population suffer from some form of Compulsive Hoarding. That’s a staggering statistic and so it’s no surprise that these hoarding reality shows make fascinating viewing. They focus on extreme hoarders and introduce specialists to help them, their families and friends deal with their compulsion.
Take Windsor based Primary School Teacher Jo, featured in the second episode Channel 4’s 2013 series of The Hoarder Next Door. Since the death of her husband 3 years previously, the rooms in her house have become a precariously cluttered and overcrowded with stuff. Through a combination of therapies the team of specialists manage to help Jo overcome her compulsion and clear the clutter.
In her case they opted to bring in a skip, but an alternative strategy employed by the experts is to move the clutter into storage. By using a storage unit as a sort of staging post – where the hoard hasn’t been thrown away for good but is off the premises – they present a compromise that can be a helpful transition for hoarders.
Sounds simple? In this episode from Britain’s Biggest Hoarders we see how hard it is for presenter and expert Jasmine Harman to persuade South London Resident Wendy to agree even to this. Once the day finally comes to move her things out to a storage facility she deploys a common tactic and suggests moving the items to a different room, rather than the different location.
It’s well worth remembering that most tendencies to collect, stock-pile and acquire stuff do not mean the individual suffers from a Compulsive Hoarding condition. In fact, keeping and collecting things is a natural human instinct that serves a purpose. In most cases we’re protecting something that will have value in later life, or securing memories and connections to our past.
So if you’re wondering if that stack of old magazines and two boxes of clothes in the corner mean that you’re a sufferer – don’t panic – they probably don’t. There are plenty of tools and information out there for helping start to diagnose the compulsion and its severity. The Clutter Image Rating system (scroll to the Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring section on the link) is a good example.
If you do think you or a loved one might suffer, there’s a growing community of help and resources. We’d recommend Jasmine Harman’s helpforhoarders website as a brilliant place to start.
Or, if you simply lack room because you’ve go too much stuff and you need somewhere in London to keep it – then we can provide long or short-term storage space. A storage unit at any of our branches in Camden, Southwark or Wandsworth is designed for it.