The Very Real Dangers of Hoarding

May 12, 2014

It’s easy to think of hoarding as the mere act of keeping things you can’t bear to get rid of. But there is a big difference between keeping things that have some sentimental value and keeping things like newspapers, old letters and much else besides. There isn’t much use in old envelopes you can’t re-use for example, and yet these are the kinds of things found when people are discovered to have died in their homes.

Of course, people pass away all the time but sometimes people are found to have died as a direct result of hoarding. It’s not always just a case of keeping things you don’t want to get rid of; sometimes it can be a symptom of a mental illness of some kind. One pensioner in Hampshire was found earlier this year in his home, having died amid piles of hoarded items. As he was known to be a recluse it was evident he could have been there for several months.

A woman living in Wimbledon had a lucky escape last month as a fire took hold in her house. She got out safely but the number of belongings she had hoarded in her home – including lots of cardboard boxes – added fuel to the fire and made it a challenge to tackle it successfully.

This isn’t a scene that is unique to the UK either. Another recent story – this time coming from America – told of a woman in her sixties who died when a cluttered floor in her house gave way and collapsed into the basement. Last year the US formally recognised hoarding as a known psychiatric disorder. Sadly this wouldn’t be of any help to this woman, although perhaps it will help others in the future.

We’ve explored how you can spot hoarders from their behaviour before on this blog. Very often it is blatantly obvious that someone is a hoarder once you get inside their property. Many hoarders are isolated and reclusive, which means they are often able to start hoarding very easily and aren’t discovered until it is too late. In this situation, they need more than just access to a self-storage unit, although this can be useful. If you suspect anyone you know is suffering from this affliction, do step in to help. It could make all the difference to the rest of their lives if you do.