The expert opinion of Dr David Mataix-Cols on the helpforhoarders.co.uk website, suggests that hoarding disorders affect between 2 & 5% of the population. Which means that here in the UK, even the conservative end of that figure is close to half-a million people. That’s a lot of folk who, for whatever reason, find it very difficult to throw things away.
We’re not talking the I’m-going-to-keep-that-because-it-will-add-to-my-collection brigade, or the I-could-fashion-a-new-piece-of-furniture-out-of-that types. No, these are people with a condition that over the past few years has become increasingly recognised by health professionals. So what is it and what can be done to help… Back in March the British Heart Foundation carried out some research that revealed 80% of Brits admitted to hoarding at some level. Their top-ten list of items included old CD’s, obsolete or no longer used kitchen equipment (e.g. a bread maker and soda stream) superseded technology (such as gameboys and walkmans) and sports equipment (the most popular of which was rollerblades).
But whilst the majority of of us hang on to things because we don’t like to see things go to waste, compulsive hoarding is an altogether different story.
Compulsive Hoarding is defined by the NHS as “…excessively acquiring items that appear of little or no value and not being able to throw them away, resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter.”
The NHS definition recognises compulsive hoarding as a problem when it interferes with everyday living and causes significant distress or affects a person’s ability to function. In the most extreme cases that means whole rooms buried under mountains of stuff, making it almost impossible to walk through a room, let alone live in it.
If that sounds familiar to you (either yourself or someone you know) then there is an increasing amount of help out there. We previously mentioned Help For Hoarders – a website setup with the specific intention of providing advice and a community network of other people affected by compulsive hoarding. With guidance for both self help and family & friends it is an impressive and developing online resource.
For most people, Compulsive Hoarding is unlikely to be a condition that can be cured quickly. It can also have a ring of knock-on consequences. In May 2014 Fire and Rescue Services across the UK held the first National Hoarding Awareness week. That’s on the back of data that shows hoarding has been a factor in 20 fire deaths over the past 3 years, with crews attending – on average – two fires a week nationally in the homes of hoarders.
We’ll leave you with this London Fire Brigade video – which was taken to show just how quickly a fire can take hold and smoke can overcome occupants in a home full of clutter.
If you’re concerned that you might be at risk take aloof at LFB guidance and book a fire safety visit.