Why is hoarding on the rise? We ask an expert

With anxiety, loneliness and the cost of living crisis driving an urge to accumulate, when does clutter become a cause for concern?

Hoarding behaviours are on the rise, with some councils even setting up specialist teams to deal with the issue. But why? And what should you do if you’re worried? I asked Jo Cooke, director of Hoarding Disorders UK and a professional declutterer.

What’s the difference between hoarding, collecting, or having a cluttered space?
It’s about the emotion. Someone who hoards feels genuine distress at the thought of discarding their items. We say they find meaning in the mess; it’s a security blanket. That’s different from a collector who’d proudly swap one vintage car for another, or chronic disorganisation. Generally, if you offer to tidy up someone’s cluttered house they’ll say: “Yes, please!” Whereas someone with hoarding behaviours will say no, because they don’t like the thought of their things being touched. They are emotionally attached.

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