Compulsive hoarding is officially recognised as a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but ‘A Place in the Sun’ presenter Jasmine Harman is on a mission to have it recognised as the separate and serious disorder that it really is.
Ms Harman knows first hand just how traumatic and debilitating compulsive hoarding can be. She grew up in a house crammed so full of worthless items that it was a struggle to get through the front door. BBC programme ‘My Hoarder Mum & Me’ documented Jasmine’s struggle to help a mother who couldn’t bare to let her clutter go, despite living in increasingly dangerous conditions.
Jasmine said: “For years we all thought mum was just messy, lazy and reckless with money. When my youngest brother (then aged 11) was removed from her home when his school insisted that it was not a suitable environment for a child, instead of motivating her to ‘tidy up’ things got even worse.”
A follow-up programme broadcast this week shows Jasmine and her mother attending a counselling session. The 36-year-old realises that it’s going to take more than a spring-clean to help her mother. In one emotional scene, Jasmine listens to her mother explain how she collects items to fill the gap her father left when he died.
The programme also shows Jasmine visiting couple Alan and Marion Burgess, who are going to face prosecution if they don’t clear out the towering piles of junk Alan keeps in both the front and back gardens. Next, she visits extreme hoarder Richard Pout, a man suffering from back and lung problems as a result of the terrible conditions he endures daily. He has to clamber over towering piles of junk and year-old rotting food just to get from one end of his cramped three-bedroom house to the other. Richard struggles to part with any of his belongings, regardless of their value or use. In one clean-up scene, Richard refuses to part with a rusty tin of Sainsbury’s Basics kidney beans.
Compulsive hoarding is a real problem and it needs to be recognised as such. So many hoarders are ignored or dismissed as eccentric, which means they often don’t get the help and support they really need. Prosecution and eviction will not make compulsive hoarding go away.
If you would like to find out more about this problem, how it is caused and how it can be treated, please visit our Compulsive Hoarding page.
View and comment on Jasmine Harman’s BBC Blog.