This was an interesting session, which was quite challenging and provocative for those (like myself,) who have strong tendencies to ‘collect’ and ‘hang on’ to ‘stuff’. Jon Grieves spoke very openly about some of his personal challenges in this respect, with supporting contributions from Eddie Fenn, an Occupational Therapist. Jon was very open to answering what were often very personal questions from members of the audience. The input and discussion raised many questions about the boundaries between everyday collecting and retaining possessions, to the point where their sheer volume begins to present problems, in terms of restricting access, or safe movement, within the household. The audience was keen to explore the emotional significance of attachment to possessions and the personal barriers to ‘getting rid of stuff’, which strongly resonated for some of us.

Eddie provided background and an overview of hoarding and current responses to this as an issue which is beginning to receive more attention, beyond that of TV and media coverage. Hoarding has implications for housing and environmental health officers, in that it can affect individual and family quality of life, and impact on neighbours, partners, etc. British Psychological Society Guidance (2015) states that “Hoarding difficulties are a combination of excessive acquisition of items, build-up of clutter and problems with disposal.” It is now recognised as a distinct form of mental health difficulty, which may apply in combination with other mental health problems, and can cause significant distress and problems in everyday living. The session explored some of the co-presenting difficulties which may contribute to hoarding behaviour, such as physical illness, dementia, depression, alcohol or drug dependence, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), trauma, and neurological issues.

There was a lot of interest in discussion about the possible emotional aspects and meaning of hoarding, such as attachment, avoidance, procrastination and dealing with loss and bereavement. Interestingly, the presenters took the view that understanding the possible causes of hoarding (the ‘insight approach’) was now considered to be less useful than using more cognitive and behavioural approaches, which focused more on motivation. Current practice was geared towards multi-disciplinary practice, particularly within the NHS, rather than on individual therapeutic approaches.

The session was fairly fluid, and allowed for a good deal of discussion, contributions and questions from those attending. The flexibility of both presenters, and Jon’s willingness to be very open about his own experience of hoarding, were very evident, and worth acknowledging as making this a really worthwhile and thought-provoking session.

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (2015) (
British Psychological Society/Division of Clinical Psychology (2015) (…/a_psychological_perspective_on_hoarding.pdf).

Dr Randy Frost (2013) Youtube video on hoarding: