Hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value. 

Recognising signs of hoarding

Signs of hoarding can include:

  • keeping or collecting items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
  • finding it hard to categorise or organise items
  • having difficulties making decisions
  • struggling to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
  • becoming extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
  • having poor relationships with family or friends
  • a lack of personal or professional visitors to the home
  • refusal to open the door fully to callers or to accept deliveries
  • visible clutter in the home
  • window blinds or curtains continually drawn
  • a build-up of waste or other items in the garden or failing to take their bins out for collection
  • very regular deliveries to the home

A diagnosis of Hoarding Disorder can only be made by a specialist medical practitioner.

Fire safety

Hoarding can significantly increase your chances of having a fire and, unfortunately, getting seriously hurt in a fire.

Not only can hoarding make it much harder to escape a fire, with fire exits being blocked by large amounts of clutter, but it can also increase the speed at which fire spreads. This is because the clutter can increase the ‘fire loading’ in a house – where large amounts of flammable items (such as books, newspapers) make it easier for the fire to spread across a property.

Fire risks associated with hoarding

  • Fire can spread quicker
  • Smoke can develop and fill a house much quicker
  • Escape routes can be blocked – making it harder to get out
  • Hoarded materials that are flammable increase the risk of a fire starting
  • It’s much harder for our firefighters to search a property and find people inside.

Please visit the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue website for further information on hoarding and fire safety.

Advice for hoarders
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms and test them regularly
  • If you smoke, please do so outside and never in bed – use proper ashtrays too
  • Don’t place flammable items – such as clothes or newspapers – on heaters, lamps or other electrical equipment
  • Keep your cooking area clean and free from clutter – especially your hob
  • Keep your escape routes free and plan how you would get out in the event of a fire
  • Be extra careful with candles and, preferably, use LED tealights instead
  • Should you have a fire, get out immediately and call 999.
Advice for carers

If you know or care for someone who hoards, you can help them live more safely by:

  • Make sure they have working smoke alarms and test them regularly
  • Encouraging them not to use candles and instead opt for LED tealight versions
  • Ensure they have clear escape routes and a plan in place in case of emergency
  • Ensure they smoke outside, use proper ashtrays and never smoke in bed
  • Speak to them about using heaters safely and keeping them free of flammable items
  • Speak to their local authority to see what support might be available
  • Book them a SYFR home safety check. 
Help and support with hoarding

If you or someone you know is a Berneslai Homes tenant then we can provide support and offer a range of specialist, tailored ways to help you successfully maintain your tenancy and enjoy where you live.

You can contact your housing management officer direct, or contact our specialist tenancy and family support hub by:

Berneslai Homes can carry out a person-centred fire risk assessment in your home, which will identify any risks and provide fire safety and best practice advice to minimise a fire occurring in your home. If you feel you would benefit from this service, please phone our Fire Safety Officer on 07976 532071.  Alternatively you can arrange this with your housing management officer.

If your smoke/ heat alarms are not working, please report this via our repairs hotline: 01226 787878.

Barnsley Council also provide help to you or anyone you know who is experiencing or living with hoarding or has a build-up of rubbish/ household waste at their property. You can contact them by email: safer@barnsley.gov.uk or call 01226 773555. Please note you can report an issue anonymously or provide details so they can put the right support in place. Please visit the Barnsley Council website for further information.

If you’re worried about an adult then please call Adult Social Services on 01226 773300.

Other support and information

Hoarding Support Group - D'Clutter Club

If you’re struggling with too much stuff, finding it hard to cope or it’s affecting your life then come along to the D’Clutter Club its a hoarding support group run by Barnsley Safeguarding Adults Board.

The group is free to attend and open to friends, family and supporters and there’s no need to book.  All meetings are held at Maltas Court Community Centre, Barnsley, S70 4QG from 6 until 8pm each month on Tuesday:

  • 31 May 2022
  • 28 June 2022
  • 26 July 2022
  • 30 August 2022
  • 27 September 2022
  • 25 October 2022
  • 29 November 2022

If you would like to suggest a topic for discussion, please call 07786 525988.