Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding
Do you struggle to let go of things?
Do things come into your home and never come out?
Lots of people have clutter.
Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders are different.
They don't just have a bit of clutter - they have a lot of clutter that contains everything and anything. Their clutter grows, day by day.
Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders are different.
When does a Clutter Challenge become a question of Compulsive Hoarding?
When I work with someone privately, the first thing I do is complete the Clutter Clearing Assessment Questionnaire with them.
In my experience since 2001, a Compulsive Hoarder as someone who:
brings things into their home and rarely, if ever takes things out of their home because they can justify keeping everything.
They also acquire things because they're collecting those items, or there's some important information.
Everything might come in useful.
Everything has a memory that might be lost if they let go of the 'thing'.
Often a hoarder is someone who is in denial that more is coming into their home than going out.
They may also unable to resist the impulse buys, the special offers, the things that will make them 'feel' better or that they believe are important.
Doesn't believe they have a problem.
Compulsive Hoarding, in my experience, is when someone continues to accumulate clutter (things they don't use or need within a clearly defined space of time) at the same or greater rate as they reduce their clutter.
No one in my mind is beyond help - if they want it. I only work with people who want the help and are willing to try something different so they get different results.
If you don't want to be 'labelled' as a Compulsive Hoarder by friends and family, and you are open to a new way of decluttering then contact me now.
You can deal with this challenge. You can clear your clutter for good.
Because I did it - and I had been labelled a Hoarder...
Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding is listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which means many private health insurance companies will cover the cost of dealing with it i.e. my 2 year Hoarder Journey.
An Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder is usually diagnosed by someone other than themselves, be it a friend, family member or support worker. Consequently, the way I work with Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders has to be different to how I work with people who know they have clutter that is out of control and are seeking help themselves.
Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding
A few symptoms a hoarder might experience are:
1. Tend to hold onto a large number of items that most people would consider not useful or valuable.
Old catalogues and newspapers
Things that might be useful for making crafts
Clothes that "might" be worn one day
"Freebies" picked up
2. The home is so cluttered that many parts are inaccessible and can no longer be used for intended purpose.
Beds that cannot be slept in
Kitchens that cannot be cooked in, refrigerators filled to the brim with rotting food, stovetops with combustibles such as junk mail as well as old food piled on top of burners.
Tables that cannot be used for dining
Chairs or sofas that cannot be used
Filthy insanitary bathrooms; piles of human faeces collected in areas of the home, sometimes there are animal faeces over the floors of the home, giant bags of dirty diapers hoarded for many years.
Some hoard scores of animals they cannot even marginally care for; often dead pets cannibalized by other pets are found under the heaps.
3. The clutter and mess is so bad it causes illness, distress, and impairment.
Does not allow visitors such as family and friends, or repair and maintenance professionals because the clutter embarrasses them.
Keep the shades drawn so no one can see inside
Get into a lot of arguments with family members about the clutter
Are at risk of fire, falling, infestation or eviction
Feel depressed or anxious much of the time because of the clutter
Not only are there significant health risks associated with compulsive hoarding, but scientists are also trying to pinpoint how significant the interference is with occupational and social functioning in a hoarder's daily life.
In a pool of compulsive hoarders, 42% found their behaviour problematic to the 63% of their family and friends who saw the behaviour as problematic.
Compulsive hoarding in its worst forms can cause fires, unclean conditions (e.g. rat and roach infestations), injuries from tripping on clutter, and other health and safety hazards.
My work with Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders is very slightly different to someone with 'normal' levels of clutter. I still give them the tools, support and guidance to clear, organise and maintain a clutter free home. However, their needs are more significant and intensive than simply creating a clutter free home that you want and need so you can save time, reduce the stress, and have the life you want and need.
For someone who is an Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder, what needs to be achieved is more fundamental.
A home that is safe (by dealing with clutter that can cause a trip or fall hazard)
Dealing with the amount of flammable materials contained within the home of a hoarder, most commonly paper, and act as a potential accelerant should an accident with a gas cooker, electrical item or naked flame occur.
A change in habits so that they stop accumulating potential clutter at the same rate and increase the amount of clutter they are letting go of
The creation of new habits to keep the areas that we clear, clear.
Dealing with the clutter and the huge volumes of dust associated with it which, perhaps unknowingly affects the health of the Hoarder.
In order to achieve all this I cannot work alone. One person alone cannot possibly help a hoarder due to the parallel issues of physical and mental clutter that a hoarder has.
Therefore, when working with a hoarder, I insist that they are having parallel therapy or counselling. I help them with the physical clutter, the therapist deals with the mental clutter.
Some start their therapy or counselling before contacting me. Most people who contact me directly are friends or family members, concerned about a loved one.
As with anyone with Clutter, it is crucial to their treatment that they acknowledge that something is not right about the amount of 'stuff' they have - and want to do something about it. Just as an alcoholic needs to acknowledge their problem, so too does a hoarder. No amount of intervention from outside agencies or friends will be able to help a hoarder who does not wish to start their long, slow journey to a clutter free and organised home. It has to be one step at a time.
If you are a friend or support worker researching help for someone else, then I would recommend downloading the Clutter Clearing Assessment Questionnaire below to see whether they MAY be a Hoarder. Then you have some evidence to take to a doctor, social worker or return back to Clare at Clutter Clearing so she can arrange a 1 hour call to discuss the best next steps.
Who are your typical hoarder clients?
Aged 50 plus. Live alone. Have suffered from depression and / or anxiety (either in the past or currently). Have had their clutter for at least 10 years. Have had people comment or 'try to help them' for years. Have often had a blitz - with or without help - in the past that didn't last. Have experienced at least one fall / fire / accident in the home as a direct result of the clutter. Have had a significant event that triggered their turning point such as refusal from a service provider to enter a property, a fire, threat of eviction, council intervention due to complaints, a bad fall, illness, bereavement.
Do you work with men or women?
Both. Hoarding affects men, women, people who live alone, couples, families living in the same home.
Have you worked with anyone who's been on the TV programmes?
There was a TV Programme on the BBC in 2013 called 'Britains Biggest Hoarders'. In the last episode they tried to help a lady called Wendy from South London. Wendy was one of my first ever hoarders and was the reason why I developed the unique Obsessive Compulsive Hoarders package, because the needs, issues and challenges are so unique.
I have also successfully helped 7 hoarders since 2006 who have been on the TV programmes and discovered that after the TV cameras left the clutter returned. They worked with me for, on average, a year and finally became clutter free and have stayed clutter free ever since.
Have you been asked to work with the TV programmes?
I've been approached by them, but because they want access to my client list rather than to find out how I work with hoarders and do a programme about my unique method. I suspect that's because it's not dramatic or quick enough for a TV makeover programme!
I will NEVER pass on my client list to a TV programme, so until they want to do a responsible programme that follows someone on their Clutter Clearing journey from hoarder to home maker, I won't be seen on the TV programmes any time soon!
I did do a short piece on BBC Breakfast TV in 2016 from a self storage unit in Manchester, UK. I strongly made the point that self storage was not the solution to a Clutter Challenge.
How many hoarders have you worked with?
In the 19 years that I've been a Clutter Coach, I've worked with 15 hoarders.
Since the introduction of my 7 Step Journey in 2017 I've worked with 4 hoarders. I only work with a maximum of 2 at any time.
How long do you work with a Hoarder?
It is a slow process. On average, I work with a hoarder for 2 years, every week around an academic term timetable.
They have had their parallel counselling / therapy every week while I work with them to deal with the anxiety and issues that clutter clearing inevitably causes for a hoarder.
As with any skill, the longer they are dealing with the mental clutter AND physical clutter, the easier and quicker it becomes to clear it.
Two years?! That's a long time - the person who is a hoarder needs to deal with it significantly quicker than two years.......
They often do. However, if you are a support worker you need to understand that there is no magic wand solution to a clutter challenge.
You will cause serious mental health issues if you try to force a hoarder to let go of things, try to make them do it quickly, or offer to get skips to throw things away. You will make them hoard more in the future as a result, and that will mean their clutter will be back to the same levels again within a relatively short period of time.
The question must always be - what's more important. Quick results or meaningful results that last?
Me / the Hoarder has tried other methods that haven't worked. What's different about this?
There is no guaranteed solution.
However, the Clutter Clearing 7 Step Journey for Hoarders is different in that it involves experts in the 2 key areas - the mental clutter AND the physical clutter.
The therapist / counsellor deals with the mental clutter, and I (Clare) deal with the physical clutter.
By dealing with the 2 types of clutter that a hoarder has separately, the rate of success is higher than trying to do both at the same time with 1 person.
Just dealing with the mental clutter, hoping the hoarder will 'do the doing' when they get home fails due to associated procrastination. Just focusing on the physical clutter causes anxiety that needs to be addressed otherwise it will cause a hoarder to stop completely and hoard more.
How much time do you spend with a hoarder?
Just like all my clients, we do 3 hours of Clutter Clearing together each and every week to begin with.
With a hoarder I always work with them in their home with any support staff or friends or family that they have.
This may not sound much time, but it's enough. A hoarder will feel overwhelmed and pressurised very quickly and easily, therefore it's better to take one positive step in the right direction each and every week rather than two steps forward and three steps back.
For the first step in their Journey they we are doing exercises to understand their clutter and their home.
By step 2 we are 'doing some going' and I have build up enough rapport with them - and they've been having their weekly counselling for at least 3 months by this point - that we make significant progress in Step 2, reducing the accumulation of new clutter.
3 hours a week for is long enough to be making decisions and following a new and very different process - it's more mentally and physically tiring than people realise.
3 hours has been proven to be long enough to see a difference without becoming over tired. You can't expect to know instantly what to do with something that you find in your clutter that you haven't seen for a while - sometimes years.
We may not be able to access the memory or the decision instantly, so we need to give ourselves time to make the right decision.
We also need time to adjust to and live with having less clutter and more space.
We need time to create the habits that will keep it clear in the long term.
The crash diet approach never lasts for more than a few days, weeks or months.
We need time to create the new habits and routines to ensure that we clear and organise your home AND maintain it in the long term. That all takes time.
You could do an intensive day or two if you wanted, but you should know that many of my clients have tried that in the past and discovered that it doesn't lead to a long term permanent solution which is why they recognise the benefit of taking one positive step in the right direction each and every week, and maintaining that step.
I've seen other types of help on the internet and on the TV that help hoarders quickly - why don't you do that?
Because the results don't last and they doesn't put the hoarder in control.
In 2011 I was asked to be involved in 5 TV programmes about hoarding - and I refused to be involved in any of them because they were aiming to 'cure' the hoarders in a matter of weeks. And I know from my experience of working with hoarders that you cannot and will not 'cure' a hoarder in a matter of weeks. Not even months.
Remember - it's significance of each step that matters, not the speed or size.
What's the difference between a Clutter Coach like Clare and a Professional Declutterer and Organiser?
a Clutter Coach is someone who teaches you how to declutter, organise and control your clutter in the future. They have recognised, regulated skills and experience and works with you over a period of time to help you deal with both the CAUSE AND SYMPTOM of your Clutter so that you achieve a long term permanent solution to your clutter challenge and you stay clutter free forever.
As the name suggests, a Professional Declutterer and Organiser declutters and organises for you. They don't have any recognised, regulated skills or experience, and most only work with you for a short period of time - usually a day or two - dealing only with the SYMPTOM which usually results in a short term temporary solution.
This sounds great.
Scary, but exciting!
Good. It's important to 'feel the fear and do it anyway' because it'll be a journey of a lifetime. Ultimately, if we keep doing what we've always done in the past (i.e. the blitz's, the weeding, the moving of clutter from corner to corner, room to room) we'll keep getting the same results. This way not only will you get to experience a process that works, you'll also be able to get the help, advice and support you need on that journey to a clutter free home FOREVER.
Just one more question:
What do you mean by "You and I will be clearing your clutter in a completely different way to how you have in the past"? What exactly do you mean?
We will be using the Clutter Clearing Process which is a clear, step-by-step process that I discovered when I was dealing with my own clutter challenge and is tried and tested. I've shared it with thousands of people who are as determined as I was to clear the clutter once and for all.
It's also tried and tested on 15 hoarders.