What is hoarding?

Hoarding is a recognised mental health condition, which is estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population (approximately 1.2 million people).

Hoarding can be when someone:

  • keeps items that appear to have limited value or are apparently useless 
  • gets distressed with the idea of throwing away or parting with possessions 
  • collects items that cover their home, workplace, or other personal surroundings, preventing normal use of the space (for example, storing items in the bath tub) 
  • creates significant distress or disturbance in everyday life because of their hoarding. 

Why do people hoard?

There are many reasons why people become hoarders – it could be because of a past trauma, for example.

However, not all people who hoard see it as a problem, which is why it can be difficult to treat.

To get a better idea of what life can be like as a hoarder, watch this video about Keith Opens in new window, who hoarded for a long time but was able to get help.

Why can hoarding be dangerous?

  • Getting in and out, and moving around the property, can become unsafe.
  • There’s an increased fire risk because of the amount of items – if a fire started, they could act as fuel.
  • Portable heaters and extension cables may be being used, which can also increase the risk of fires.
  • Hoarding’s associated with self-neglect - there can also health and safety implications for neighbours.
  • Hoarding can cause damage to the property and could contribute to pest control issues – for example, rats.
  • Rooms aren’t used for their intended purpose - for example, the bath tub is being used to store items, so the resident can’t wash.
  • Hoarding doesn’t necessarily stay inside a property - Items can overflow into communal areas and gardens.
  • Access for important things like repairs and gas safety checks might be refused.

How can hoarders get help?

  • Through Sovereign: who’ll work with partner agencies If you’re one of our residents, you can get in touch with our Customer Contact team and ask for one of our locality officers to come and visit you. The same applies if you’re worried that a resident’s hoarding.
  • Through your GP: If you’re not sure what to say, you can fill in this ‘ice breaker’ document Opens in new window, which you can hand in when you arrive. You can use the form if you’re the one hoarding or you’re concerned that a friend of family member is.

Where can I get more information about hoarding?

Help for hoarders website Opens in new window - Find out further details on hoarding, as well as some ways hoarders may be able to help themselves.