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 ranging from plastic carrier bags to empty containers and newspapers to old clothes.
A hoarding disorder can be a problem for several reasons. It can take over the person's life, making it very difficult for them to get around their house. It can cause their work performance, personal hygiene and relationships to suffer. The person hoarding is usually reluctant or unable to have visitors or even allow tradespeople in to carry out essential repairs, which can cause isolation and loneliness.
The clutter can pose a health risk to the person and anyone who lives in or visits their home. For example, it can:
- make cleaning very difficult, leading to unhygienic conditions and encouraging rodent or insect infestations
- be a fire risk and block exits in the event of a fire
- cause trips and falls
- fall over or collapse on people if kept in large piles
- be a sign of an underlying condition, such as OCD, other types of anxiety, depression and dementia.
Hoarding disorders are more common in men and older adults although symptoms can start in adolescence. The North West Surrey Alliance, Surrey County Council, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, with support from Surrey’s 11 borough and district councils, are working together to address the problem.
The Alliance has funded a dedicated hoarding and de-cluttering post within Woking Borough Council’s Health and Wellbeing team to implement Woking’s hoarding protocol. This involves developing a referral process, care pathway and case management plan, which could be replicated in other boroughs if successful.
Lee Jolliffe, an experienced health and social care practitioner, took on the role in January 2023, and within his first six months in post, has received 47 referrals, made 125 house visits and provided more than 170 hours of one-to-one support.
Lee said: “The results to date have been really encouraging. 82% of clients feel they have benefited from the service. 89% feel they have a clear plan to achieving their decluttering goals, and 61% said our support made their daily routine easier to manage and improved their mental health.
“From a safety point of view, we’ve reduced physical risks to clients by clearing exits, reinstating use of rooms, reconnecting utilities, carrying out essential repairs and installing fire safety measures. We’ve reduced the scale of hoarding among clients and helped speed up hospital discharge by ensuring they have a clean and safe environment to return home to with adequate support.
“I’m currently working with a client in Sheerwater who self-referred because he was embarrassed about the number of items in his home, stopping him from inviting any friends over and causing him to feel isolated.
“He openly acknowledged that due to his poor physical health and mobility issues, he needed help to address the clutter in his home and we began talking about his goals and agreeing what actions I would take to support him.
“Over the space of five months and eight visits, we successfully lowered the clutter rating on all rooms and the garden by at least two points on the hoarding scale, with all indoor and outdoor spaces now being functional, safe, and tidy.
“Once decluttered, he reported improvements in his mental state and feeling less lonely, and was even happy for me to refer him to other local support services to continue working on his mental health and wellbeing.
“I now touch base with him every three months to check his progress and provide additional support as and when required.”
For more information about our work to tackle the problems associated with hoarding, please go to our hoarding support webpage.
To make a referral or get help with a hoarding disorder in Woking, please call us on 01483 743 592 or email firstname.lastname@example.org