What is Hoarding?

Compulsive hoarding or collecting is a pattern of behaviour that is characterised by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that would seemingly qualify as useless or without value.  Compulsive hoarding behaviour has been associated with health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members.  When clinically significant enough to impair functioning, hoarding can prevent typical uses of space so as to limit activities such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house and sleeping.  It can also be dangerous if it puts the individual or others at risk from fire, falling, poor sanitation, and other health concerns.

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Approximately 30% of British adults define themselves as collectors, (approximately 2-5% of the population – that is potentially over 1.2 million people in the UK alone) and when severe, is associated with substantial functional disability and represents a great burden for the sufferers, their families and society.  Hoarding and compulsive hoarding are some of the more commonly used terms to refer to an excessive and problematic form of 'collecting” this can be linked in some cases to OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)  mental health issues, family bereavement and or being unable to cope due to ill health and old age.    

It is worth noting that whilst some hoarders have good insight into the problems caused by their behaviour, others are completely convinced that their situation is not problematic, despite evidence to the contrary.  These sufferers are often reluctant to seek help for their problems, causing great distress to family members.  Sometimes, when possessions and clutter spill over to communal areas, e.g. front and back gardens, this may also affect neighbours and may cause un-necessary worry and stress.

The Cornwall Hoarding Protocol is a multi-agency framework which helps to facilitate better partnership working, to reduce hoarding and its wider effects on people’s health, safety, social and environmental impacts. The protocol offers clear guidance to staff and managers who work to aid those with hoarding issues on how the needs of those people should be addressed.

If you have any queries regarding hoarding or you have concerns for a family member or neighbour please complete our online free home fire safety check form, call the free 24hr fire safety helpline on 0800 3581 999 or contact us at St. Austell Community Fire station on 01726 72582.