Hoarding

A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value. Hoarding is considered a significant problem if:

  • the amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms
  • the clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationship suffers

Someone who has a hoarding disorder may typically:

  • keep or collect items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
  • find it hard to categorise or organise items
  • have difficulties making decisions
  • struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
  • become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
  • have poor relationships with family or friends

Hoarding can start as early as the teenage years and gets more noticeable with age. For many, hoarding becomes more problematic in older age, but the problem is usually well established by this time.  It's thought that around 1 or 2 people in every 100 have a problem with hoarding that seriously affects their life.

Some people with a hoarding disorder will hoard a range of items, while others may just hoard certain types of objects. Items that are often hoarded include:

  • newspapers and magazines
  • books
  • clothes
  • leaflets and letters, including junk mail
  • bills and receipts
  • containers, including plastic bags and cardboard boxes
  • household supplies

Some people also hoard animals, which they may not be able to look after properly. More recently, hoarding of data has become more common. This is where someone stores huge amounts of electronic data and emails that they're extremely reluctant to delete.

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 house. 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 allow 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

The hoarding could also be a sign of an underlying condition, such as OCD, other types of anxiety, depression and dementia.

Some adults in Derbyshire are supported with their hoarding issues via the VARM process and VARM hoarding grant.

Clutter Image Ratings

These are Clutter Image Ratings that have been done from a previous study which are widely used across the world.

This shows the severity of the problem in many homes across the UK.  2.5 % – 6 % of the UK are affected by this disorder.

Keith's story - a film about hoarding

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.

Hoarding case study

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DRFS) got in touch with us to provide a good news story in relation to C, an 86 year old man who has been supported via the Vulnerable Adult Risk Management (VARM) process.

DFRS visited C in his home to provide fire safety advice. The property was found to be very cold and in poor condition with damp and mould, faulty electrics and the property was hoarded in parts with some routes blocked or partially blocked.

DFRS ensured that four smoke alarms were installed and also a C02 monitor placed in the kitchen near the boiler. Four old cube adaptors were removed and replaced with extension leads.

Due to the concerns around the house being cold, C was given a winter pack including socks, hat, gloves, hot water bottle and thermal blanket to assist him with keeping warm.

C agreed that other agencies could be notified to provide him with further help and support.

Environmental Health was contacted and a referral was made to the Healthy Homes team to see if they could assist further.

Adult care arranged a VARM meeting.

During this meeting the following risks were identified:

  1. C was using his heating sparingly due to the price of LPG cylinders, so the property was very cold, which was preventing his C’s leg ulcer from healing. It was felt this needed exploring.
  2. There were concerns regarding the high level of items stored in the home and blocked escape routes. Neighbouring properties were also at risk if a fire occurred and spread.
  3. There was a concern regarding the quality and safety of the electrics. C advised that the electrics were last checked/completed around 26 years ago.

Actions following the VARM meeting:

  • neighbouring properties were offered visits from fire service personnel
  • adult care ascertained funding from the VARM hoarding grant process
  • Healthy Homes worked with C and were able to change his gas cylinder supplier to reduce bills - they are also exploring draft proofing for C’s home
  • funding from the VARM hoarding grant enabled Environmental Health to arrange for a skip and 2 men to be available to remove excess items
  • prior to the agreed day for items being removed, DFRS and adult care staff supported C in removing 86 black bin bags from his property for collection
  • Poppy Calls arranged for a handyman to complete practical jobs such as replacing a starting motor in flashing bulb, front door not closing flush
  • The Royal British Legion are in the process of looking at funding for white goods, befriending services and potential new flooring - they are also seeking future emotional support around hoarding
  • Electrical check completed with VARM hoarding grant funding
  • C has had a new reclining chair to help with his leg being elevated, and a stair rail is hopefully going to be fitted to assist him further
  • C has also had support from Citizens Advice about managing costs of daily living, with a particular focus on heating
  • continued support from adult care with a view in the future to explore third party monitoring services from Care Link

This short report highlights the importance of shared partnership working and the VARM has been a real success in contributing greatly to C being safer in his home, but also improving his emotional state, health and wellbeing.

C agreed to the above information being shared and said the following:

“The whole (VARM) process has helped me greatly. It has had more of a positive psychological impact on my life then you all will ever know. I feel much safer in my home and feel like I have been spoiled by all the help I have received.

“I appreciate all the practical help like the washing machine, fridge freezer and carpets and I’m really looking forward to the sketching table and will get great use and enjoyment once that comes. I feel lucky that the black cloud over me didn’t descend into depression like it did with Winston Churchill.

“The best part has been meeting the people and the interaction I have had, mainly Lisa from social care and you (Carol from the fire service). Neither of you judged me and I thank you sincerely for that.”