Hoarding: how can you spot it and how can you help?

We’ve all seen the programmes on television about people who have their houses filled to the brim with things they can’t possibly want or need to keep, like old newspapers and knick-knacks that aren’t valuable and can’t have a great deal of sentimental value to their owners. These items make the home an impossible place to live in because of fire, health and access problems, but it’s been asserted in the last few years that people who have this kind of problem may be suffering from a precursor to conditions like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

 Symptoms which can help to diagnose compulsive hoarders include excessive levels of junk that seems more important to the hoarder than it actually is, to the point that it blocks access to different rooms, prevents things like beds and sofas from being used for their intended purposes and attracts vermin which bring health problems into the home. At this point, family members or friends might feel as though they have to step in to help the hoarder take control of their life again.

You can see how easily a hoarding obsession might begin – most of us find it extremely difficult to throw anything away as it is, as we think that we might need it again or that it might be useful in the future. An item might also have sentimental value, making the decision to throw it away a very difficult one. Before you know it, you’ll have towers of clutter reaching up to the ceiling and you’ll be in trouble.

A good solution is (obviously) to use a self storage unit to relieve some of the pressure on your home, but you could also have a good spring clean every year and set aside a weekend to make those tough decisions about what to throw away and what to keep. If you’re getting a payoff from keeping something (a CD has your favourite music on it, a deflated football can be blown up and taken to the park) then do so, but if you’re keeping junk for the sake of it, take it the dump or to a charity shop where someone might have a use for it.

If you think that anyone you know might have a problem with hoarding, you can get in touch with experts at the NHS or talk to people who have dealt with the same thing on various help pages and websites online.

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