Despite the craze for Marie Kondo's KonMari decluttering and tidying method, it seems that more of us than ever are hoarding – and we mean seriously hoarding. And for those among us for whom hoarding has become a way of life, the advice to only keep things that 'spark joy' doesn't help.
Hoarding is much more serious than having a cluttered home. The official NHS guidelines to hoarding explain the condition as manifesting itself in 'unmanageable amounts of clutter', to the point where the person may even be unable to use their kitchen or bathroom.
In fact, hoarding is officially recognised as a mental health disorder – although this has been relatively slow to happen – it only received this official status in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. Hoarding can be a symptom of another mental health condition, such as OCD or depression. In other cases, though, hoarding is a condition in itself.
The challenge with treating hoarding is that many people who have either don't realise they have a problem, or suffer from extreme shame about their condition, do not ask for help. The conventional referral system for mental health help is unlikely to be able to help hoarders – but Northern Ireland may have come up with an ingenious solution. ClearOut is the country's first hoarding help service staffed by fully-trained mental health professionals. They haven't been advertised themselves, but apparently have been inundated with bookings and are working seven-day weeks.
Clinical psychotherapist and co-founder Natalie Fordham explains, 'Hoarding, cluttering, chronic disorganisation and collecting can be an oppressive and overwhelming condition to live with. Most hoarders suffer from extreme bouts of embarrassment, worry about being judged over their living conditions and very often they’ll distance themselves from friends and loved ones.
'We offer therapeutic decluttering and cleansing, and weekly support meetings to help create the sort of support and positive solutions to help people keep clear of clutter. And I’m proud to say we are making real difference in lives, restoring families, family and home life and enabling people to live safely, comfortably and happier in their homes.
'Basically instead of binning and skipping hoarded items, we explore what lies mentally underneath the piles of stuff and work to address that.'
If you know someone who has a hoarding problem in the rest of the UK, try Help for Hoarders for advice.