For National Hoarding Awareness Week (15 – 19 May 2023), we wanted to raise awareness of hoarding and the support there is available to manage it through Mandi’s story, one of our former clients who attended our Hoarding Peer Support Group and is now on a wonderful journey of acceptance and recovery.
Mandi was struggling with her mental health and over time had to acknowledge that her collection of clothing, shoes, books and bags was starting to take over her life and her home, and affecting those around her – friends, family and former partners. She was no longer in control of her possessions, they were taking over control of her!
The harsh reality check happened when she spoke to her doctor about ‘not feeling very happy’ and she started to speak about anxiety and depression, and as part of the conversation she just happened to mention that she had ‘a lot of stuff’. Luckily her doctor heard this casual remark, and followed up with the question ‘do you think you could have hoarding disorder/behaviour?’ The journey had begun…
“I remember scoffing at the idea [that I might have a hoarding issue] but then realising that the harsh reality of the situation was, that I did have too much ‘stuff’, lovely stuff – mostly clothing and shoes – but it was lots of stuff, much more than the average person. It was taking over garages, wardrobes, staircases, loft space etc. That’s when I started to attend the nearest Hoarding Support Group, suggested by my doctor, and run by Mary Frances Trust at their offices in Leatherhead.
I can remember my first Hoarding Support Group and thinking everyone looks very ‘normal’ whatever ‘normal looking is’. No-one had lots of bags surrounding them or showed any signs of hoarding behaviour. What was I expecting? I didn’t show any visible signs either! We were all there for a reason and had decided we wanted to know more about hoarding behaviour. That was the start of ‘my road to recovery’ – I had to recognise I had a ‘problem’ I wanted to face and change. I realise looking back that it was all about ‘control’ for me – I could control my possessions but I couldn’t really control life experiences, loss etc.
The knowledge shared by Patrick [Wolter, CEO of Mary Frances Trust and trained psychologist] and Anna [Dr Anna Gosling, Clinical Psychologist, SABP] who ran the group, and any guest speakers/members, was really helpful and I started to understand that ‘hoarding behaviour/disorder’ was really ‘a thing’. I accepted that it was my ‘go to/my addiction’. When I was feeling unhappy, I would go shopping in charity shops and attend car boot sales and end up with bags full of ‘stuff’ which I liked or could sell at a vintage fayre, which I loved doing as I loved the whole atmosphere and people who attended, it was a great adrenalin buzz. This is something I had started when I was about 16. As I reflect on my life, I realise that I have come full circle from loving pretty, sparkly, unusual things, from an early age, to filling my house and life. It’s now time to let it go, to let it have new adventures with new owners, to free myself of the overwhelm and start a new life with fewer possessions, more knowledge of the mental health/neurological condition and effect it can have on your life and those around you.
I am very lucky to have created a pop up shop at The Heart Shopping Centre in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey which I could not have opened without the help and support of Rainbow Rising, The Heart Shopping Centre and a lot of help from my lovely, caring friends, who want to help me change my life, sell my collection (aka overwhelming hoard) and raise awareness of hoarding behaviour/disorder. It is also a place to ‘speak up and speak out’ about the mental health aspect of hoarding disorder/behaviour which affects between 2% – 5% of the UK population, possibly more, as often it is quite secretive. Lots of my friends weren’t aware of the extent of the ‘problem’ as they didn’t visit and there were no dinner parties any longer, I just visited them instead.
Photo of Mandi’s gorgeous Pop Up shop in Walton-on-Thames
If you want to find out more and follow my journey. please sign up to National Hoarding Awareness Week and listen to my story. I have recorded 7 videos with Amanda Peet, who has written the books ‘Mind Your Mind‘ and ‘Where Does Time Go’ and has been an amazing support to me to help me clear ‘stuck’ thoughts in the subconscious part of my brain and release them. It is also known as ‘energy clearing’ to help me move forward in my life journey and help me face and share the knowledge I have found along the way, to help and share with others.”
Photo of Mandi’s bedroom taken during the filming of Hoarders: Buried Alive shown on Channel 5 in which Mandi featured
Photo of Mandi’s wardrobe taken during the filming of Hoarders: Buried Alive shown on Channel 5 in which Mandi featured
Mary Frances Trust runs a monthly Online Hoarding programme in partnership with Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SABP) on the second Thursday of every month. It takes place in two parts – a practical course from 7pm-8pm (now fully booked for 2023) and a peer Support Group from 8pm-9pm (places still available). This is designed for people with hoarding difficulties and their families. To book your place, you need to register with MFT first then contact our office at email@example.com or call 01372 375 400 or SMS 07929 024722 to receive the Zoom link.
Others organisations and charities to help support hoarding disorder/behaviour are:
Hoarding Disorder UK
Mental health charity MIND and the NHS website also offer support information to help understand this condition.
Mandi found the book ‘Understanding Hoarding’ by Jo Cooke, to have been great support at the start of her journey of recognition and acceptance.
We will be sharing other blogs from Mandi to follow her progress and journey, so keep checking our website and social media platforms for more.
Want to blog for us?
Did this inspire you to share your story? If you would like to contribute to this blog series, please email Connie, our Communications Lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The blogs can be poems, song or videos – whatever format you feel most comfortable with!