David Brackin is an occasional guest writer on Tamebay and is a Director of Stuff U Sell, the UK’s leading eBay Trading Assistant. He founded the business 6 years ago after trying to declutter his own flat and is well accustomed to seeing all sorts of things which clients keep in their homes and businesses. He is rarely shocked by what he sees.
One of the great things about eBay is the vast array of second-hand goods you can find there. It might have been set up to prove the adage that “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. It’s a real godsend for anyone looking to clear out and earn some money from their old stuff – but do we collect too much of it? The Institute of Psychiatry claims that compulsive hoarding is mental illness that affects upto 5% of the UK population. Is there really such a disease?
Jasmine Harman, presenter of Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun certainly thinks so, and in a BBC 1 documentary tonight, My Hoarder Mum and Me, explores the psychology behind her Mum’s obsessive collection of possessions, a habit which has filled her home and made some aspects of normal living impossible.
When you meet Jasmine’s Mum, Vasoulla, she doesn’t strike you as someone who is mentally ill. She is warm and kind when you speak with her, but her home shows how hard it can be living with so much stuff. Some rooms have turned into no-go zones as they are filled with bits and pieces that “might one day be useful”, or be “worth something to someone”.
They called in Stuff U Sell to use our expertise to assess whether the items would find a market on eBay, or whether they should be sent to charity or recycled. Sadly, sometimes one man’s junk is just junk, but identifying which things should be thrown out was clearly a deeply stressful and emotional time for Vasoulla. It was hard to provide advice in a sensitive manner whilst being aware of the stress which she was under. In many instances, she was looking to us to “grant permission” to dispose of some of the things she had collected, and it led me to create a new house clearance service for Stuff U Sell where we sort through anything a seller wants to give us, selling what we can and donate unsaleable items to charity or recycling them as appropriate.
I was sceptical that hoarding really was a mental illness , but working with Vasoulla really showed the strong psychological hold that our possessions can have on us, and the depth of the problem that they were facing together as mother and daughter. Society’s acceptance of mental health issues and access to support from mental health services is an area which needs much improvement in this country. The programme follows them closely through support groups and therapy, as well as the practical tasks of excavating huge amounts of clutter from the family home. Jasmine has set up a website, helpforhoarders.co.uk to help other people facing the same issues.
My Hoarder Mum and Me is aired on BBC One at 22.35 on Tuesday 16th August 2011.