Shining a light on hoarding
Find out what hoarding is, how to spot signs of hoarding and what to do to help someone who is hoarding.
Hoarding isn’t just the act of keeping and collecting unnecessary items in your home. Hoarding is a recognised mental health disorder, which often only becomes apparent after a period of time.
Let’s shine a light on hoarding to help you understand what it is and how to help someone you think might be hoarding.
What is hoarding disorder?
As defined by the NHS, “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.”
A hoarding disorder can have negative impacts and in some cases take over the person's life, often making it difficult for them to get around their home. This can cause serious safety issues such as increased fire risk in the home, risk of trips and falls and health complications. In addition to this it can prevent necessary repairs and maintenance work from being carried out in order to keep the home in a good, safe condition and can also cause the person’s personal relationships to suffer.
Hoarding disorder can be difficult to manage as many people may not recognise that they are hoarding, or they may not recognise the complications and negative impact that this has on their life and day to day activities.
How can I spot the signs of hoarding disorder?
According to the NHS, the following things can be signs of a hoarding disorder developing:
- Keeping or collecting items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
- Finding it hard to categorise or organise items
- Having difficulty making decisions
- Struggling to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
- Becoming extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
- Having poor relationships with family or friends
Seeking support (for yourself or somebody else)
- Contact GP who will often be able to signpost based on what support the person needs (this could be physical or mental health, referrals to support groups)
- Contact SLH and ask to speak with the Neighbourhood Management Officer about any concerns regarding hoarding – 0330 303 3000 option 3
- Our Tenancy Sustainability Team or Health and Wellbeing Officer who may be able to help and can make external referrals if needed.
- Liverpool Hoarders Helping Hoarders support group meets fortnightly on Wednesdays 1pm-4pm at Alexandra Court, 20/28 Princes Road, Liverpool, L8 1TH (this is free of charge and open to any members of the public).
- Request a free home fire safety check by calling Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service on 0800 731 5958 or visiting their website. They can provide additional safety measures to help to reduce fire risk, particularly if there is an excessive amount of items in the home.
Help with clearing your home
Various organisations across Liverpool will collect items, either for free or for a small charge:
How to help someone who may be hoarding
Useful tips on supporting somebody else who may be showing signs of hoarding.
- Focus on the person, not just the items – there may be underlying causes or contributing factors which need addressing so that the person gets the right support
- Listen and empathise – the person may be isolated and afraid to open up about hoarding issues so it’s important to be non-judgemental, listen and build trust with them
- Encourage the person to set realistic goals – clearing items can be really overwhelming, particularly if there are a lot of items in the person’s home. Empowering them to agree on setting small, manageable goals will help to break this down and make the task less daunting
- Ask the person if they are willing to accept support – explain the different types of support available and how this may benefit them. This could be practical support like helping them clearing some items, or supporting them to attend local hoarding support group, getting help from their GP or mental health services.
- Always ask the person for their consent before making referrals/involving other agencies, unless there is an immediate risk of harm/threat to life.
- Do not touch the person’s belongings without their permission – this may cause distress for the person and could damage your relationship with them.
- Don’t judge the person – there are various reasons why someone may develop a hoarding issue, these are often quite complex and everyone is different. It’s important to be non-judgemental and empathetic so that they feel listened to and can get the right support.
- Don’t expect a quick clear-out to resolve the issue – there are often complex underlying issues therefore it is not just about the items. Hoarding issues often develop over a long period of time and therefore cannot be fixed overnight. The person will need time and support to set manageable goals in order to make gradual progress.
- Don’t take over and do everything for them – it’s important to work with the person rather than for them. Having a conversation with them about what they think is manageable and what support they are willing to accept will help to build trust and empower them.
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