Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Hoarding Disorders UK launch support group in West Berkshire.

A unique organisation, the first of its kind in the UK, has been set up in West Berkshire. Hoarding Disorders UK – CIC (a community interest company) will combat the increasing problem of hoarding.

Hoarding Disorders UK is officially set to launch on 22nd May with its first monthly support group meeting scheduled for Thursday, 29th May. There will be free support group meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month from 7pm to 9pm at Broadway House, The Broadway, Newbury. Anyone suffering from hoarding disorders or their families is welcome to attend. The venue for the support group has been provided by Greenham Common Trust.

Andy Honey will contribute and participate at the inaugural event. Andy featured in Channel 4 documentary “Britain’s Biggest Hoarder” helping Richard Wallace whose house contained so much stuff that he had to tunnel from room to room through newspapers and other accumulated possessions. Neighbours in Westcott, Surrey, dubbed his house an “eyesore” and a “health hazard”, and stated that the best solution was to ‘burn the place down.’

The support group will also include help from psychologists and talks from the founders of Hoarding Disorders UK; professional declutterer and organiser Jo Cooke from Tapioca Tidy and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner Amanda Peet.

An expert in decluttering and an accredited member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO), Jo points out that “clutterbugs” and hoarders are very different. Having 40 handbags does not necessarily make you a hoarder.

She set up Tapioca Tidy in March last year after a varied career in charitable organisations, human resources, project management, book-keeping and the civil service, but realised that she had a flair for organisation when a friend emigrated and later when she had to sell her family home of 30 years. However, she stresses that working with hoarders takes a responsible approach as they need to be dealt with sensibly and patiently. Jo only works with hoarders when she is accompanied by a mental health practitioner.

Her co-director Amanda Peet has been a qualified EFT Health & Wellbeing Practitioner since 2011 and helps clients conquer their phobias, fears, addictions and problems. Amanda has had an eclectic freelance background which includes working in agricultural, countryside, environment, education, and exhibition organisations. She combines a 'down to earth' approach with the ability to see that what is normal life for one person is what makes them unique and extraordinary to another.

Amanda said: “I have had great results with many clients, including fears of lifts, fear of flying, stopping smoking, fear of the dark and fear of buttons. We develop fears, phobias, addictions and depression-related illnesses from all sorts of events and hoarding is no different.

“I’ve found “tapping” to be invaluable in getting your life back on track and have helped clients who have experienced severe trauma in their life which has had a knock-on effect in their life. EFT is a lovely way to clear the raw emotion related to trauma, and because I only work with the emotion, my clients’ experience remains private; they don’t have to share the ‘what happened’ part with me.”

Jo and Amanda met at a networking meeting last year and realised that they could both bring their blend of coaching, EFT and organisational skills together to set up the first collaboration of its kind in the UK to help hoarders and their families.

With 2.5% of the population estimated to suffer with the condition, which has recently been recognised as a mental illness, it’s thought that there could be more than 3,500 households in the West Berkshire area who need help.

Amanda and Jo believe the key to helping people who suffer from varying levels of hoarding disorder, ranging from people who are chronically disorganised to extreme hoarders, is patience and non-judgement.

Jo said: “Often, people find themselves in a situation that’s not of their own making. It can be that someone in their family has died, leaving them lots of stuff, or it could be a traumatic event such as grief, loss or divorce that a person can’t cope with, which manifests itself in hoarding. I am working with a gentleman whose late wife was a hoarder. His wife’s compulsive shopping impacted on the couple’s finances and the spare room was lost to the accumulation of clothes and meant friends couldn’t stay. When the boiler broke down, he was so embarrassed at the state of the house that the boiler was never fixed.

“He now realises that hoarding is a mental health disorder and it has helped him in his grief to understand that his wife did not choose to compulsively buy and hoard. I have been helping him clear his house bit by bit. Having lived with the hoard for over 20 years, it was important to work at a pace that suited him. We are gradually organising the house so that he can regain some space for himself and transform what felt like a storage unit into a home.”

Hoarders’ houses can be classified into nine distinct levels, measured by an ‘Image Clutter Rating’ used internationally, from one (tidy) to nine (belongings disorganised and reaching the ceiling). If a house is beyond “four”, the effects of one person’s hoarding can be far-reaching. Children have nowhere to play or bring their friends; basic needs are not being met; broken appliances can remain unfixed because hoarders are too embarrassed to let anyone into the house or they can’t even get into the house; bathrooms are out of bounds; and the whole house can be a fire hazard. The disorder’s negative impact can affect neighbours and the wider community.

Amanda and Jo have worked together successfully on a pilot scheme with Sovereign Housing in Basingstoke. Placing a family into temporary accommodation while their house is cleared can cost the local authority on average more than £10,000, with the added problem that without identifying the root cause of the hoarding, the sufferer can simply refill it again. The impact of being moved while their belongings are discarded without their input can have sometimes fatal effects on a hoarder.

However, Hoarding Disorders UK can get a family back on track for less than £5,000 on average thanks to their “eight-step” plan which includes Amanda’s EFT technique. On the pilot scheme, it was clear that most sufferers had lost loved ones. Some were reluctant to work with Amanda and Jo at first, but the pair’s patience and expertise paid off with positive feedback, including one former hoarder who claims the duo saved her marriage.

Amanda adds: “Everything is done with the householder’s permission and involvement. If you were to just clear the house, the people living there would struggle to regain their identity without their belongings. There are reasons behind all eight of our steps and we may go up and down the steps, it is not all one way.”

Additionally, Jo and Amanda wherever possible, do not send anything to landfill; everything is recycled or rehomed. In one case, Jo came across a valuable vintage jacket which the owner agreed could be sold with the proceeds nearly covering the cost of a few decluttering sessions. Hoarding Disorders UK are listed on ‘Help for Hoarders’, the information website set up by Jasmine Harman from Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun whose experiences with a hoarder mother led her to set up the “Help for Hoarders” website.

The plan for Hoarding Disorders UK is to expand the support group and its services to the whole of the UK.

More information can be found at and donations to continue the work are welcome at or @HoarderDisorder


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