Woman reveals how 30 YEARS of hoarding made the second floor of her home ‘a no-go area’ – while experts say the mess in her kitchen was a ‘huge fire risk’
A woman has revealed how three decades of hoarding made her upstairs of her home ‘a no-go area’ – while an expert said piles of stuff in her kitchen was a ‘huge fire risk’.
Shirley Neale, from Essex, developed the problem after having a difficult relationship with her late father, and found a comfort in buying ‘bargains’ which ‘couldn’t argue back.’
The woman eventually filled each room in her home floor-to-ceiling with items, and said it meant she could barely use the second floor of the property.
Speaking to the BBC, she explained: ‘If you get a bargain, it doesn’t argue back with you. It just, sort of, sits there and is nice to you.’
Shirley Neale, from Essex, has revealed how three decades of hoarding made her upstairs of her home ‘a no-go area’ – while an expert said piles of stuff in her kitchen was a ‘huge fire risk’
The woman eventually filled each room in her home floor-to-ceiling with items, and said it meant she could barely use the second floor of the property (pictured, one of the rooms crammed full of stuff)
Shirley’s problem developed over 30 years, and it quickly meant areas of her home were completely unusable.
She revealed she was particularly tempted to buy something if she felt she could get a good deal, explaining: ‘Anything that was a bargain.
‘If it was worth 10p and there were 10 of them, I would buy the whole 10 of them.’
Meanwhile she said her relationship with her father had triggered the problem, saying: ‘I knew before I left there’d be an argument.’
Other rooms in Shirley’s home were packed full of items which she said she struggled to resist while out shopping
Diane Boyd, who works for Your Living Room charity, said the kitchen in Shirley’s home was ‘a huge fire risk’ due to the level of items within the room (left and right, another room in Shirley’s house)
Shirley temporarily moved in with her mother, and the Your Living Room charity were able to help her clear many of the items from her home.
Diane Boyd, who works for the charity, explained: ‘When we entered the property it was a struggle to get through the kitchen which, obviously, is a huge risk in terms of fire.’
From feeling anxious about change to becoming secretive about your home: The seven warning signs to look out for
If any of the following applies to you or a loved one, it could be a sign of hoarding disorder…
1 Difficulty stopping accumulating and acquiring things at home.
2 A large number of possessions that prevent normal use of living spaces.
3 Safety dangers caused by faulty equipment.
4 Worries and anxiety about change.
5 Family or friends who have threatened to take matters into their own hands.
6 Indecision about what to do to make things better.
7 Becoming secretive about one’s living situation.
If you’re worried about yourself or a loved one, complete the full test – found on the Rainbow Red website – and take it to your GP, who will refer you to a specialist mental health team.
More details at rainbowred.co.uk.
Diane revealed the pandemic had triggered a rise in hoarding among people and urged others experiencing the problem to seek help.
She suggested ‘going to the GP, phoning member of your family or talking to anybody’ as a way to help with the problem.
She continued: ‘Please, please do not feel ashamed .’
Experts warned last year that lockdown would exacerbate hoarding problems.
Lockdown ‘definitely set people back’, said Jo Cooke, director of the group Hoarding Disorders UK. ‘We’re running online and telephone support and we are getting new people coming to us, over and above what we normally see.’
Hoarding disorder is much more than having a few secretly messy, over-stuffed cupboards.
‘To be diagnosed, it has to be impacting on your day-to-day life quite significantly,’ explained Dr Sophie Holmes, a consultant clinical psychologist at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, and author of the British Psychological Society’s official guidance on the condition.
‘We’re not talking about people who have a lot of books — it’s people who use their bed to store their books on and so can no longer sleep in it,’ she says.
It’s thought that hoarding disorder — which was officially added to the World Health Organisation’s international classification of diseases in 2018 — is for some a coping mechanism, in particular a way of coping with stress, loss and trauma.
People with hoarding difficulties often spend a lot of time outside of their home, at work or socialising, so they don’t have to face up to the problem — something lockdown did not allow.
Hoarding disorder can have physical consequences, too — people who hoard are at increased risk of respiratory problems, such as asthma and emphysema, possibly because of the dust that can accumulate in their homes.
And they can struggle with sleep problems, according to a 2015 study by U.S. researchers, although why is not understood.
The organisation worked to clear the space for Shirley and create a safer environment to live in (pictured, the kitchen after the charity helped to clear it)
Shirley moved out of the property while the organisation helped to clear her home of the mess (pictured, her bedroom)